Subutex vs Suboxone: Understanding the Difference for Opioid Addiction Treatment
Subutex and Suboxone are two FDA-approved pharmaceuticals designed to treat opioid addiction. They contain the substance buprenorphine, which was sanctioned for use in addiction treatment following the Drug Addiction Treatment Act in 2000. This marked a shift from the primary use of the Schedule II substance methadone to the Schedule III substance buprenorphine, which has a lower potential for abuse, making it a safer alternative for opioid treatment. This guide will delve into the specifics of these medications, their differences, usage, and effectiveness in treating opioid addiction.
Buprenorphine: A Closer Look
Buprenorphine, a central component of both Subutex and Suboxone, is a partial opioid agonist. Previously used as a pain reliever, buprenorphine binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, reducing pain sensations and inducing feelings of wellbeing. Unlike a full opioid, buprenorphine only moderately activates receptor sites and does not trigger a euphoric state when taken as directed. It effectively suppresses withdrawal symptoms and curbs cravings for opioid drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers.
Subutex vs. Suboxone: What Sets Them Apart?
The primary distinction between Subutex and Suboxone lies in their composition. Subutex contains only buprenorphine, while Suboxone combines buprenorphine with naloxone. Developed around the same period, Subutex came first, proving relatively effective in treating opioid addiction. However, its potential for abuse led to the development of Suboxone, which incorporated naloxone to discourage misuse. As an opioid antagonist, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids at receptor sites, inducing immediate withdrawal symptoms if injected.
Potential Side Effects: A Comparative Overview
Like any medication, both Subutex and Suboxone could present potential side effects, such as:
Comparatively, there is no strong evidence suggesting that either medication is more effective in treating opioid addiction. If properly administered under medical supervision, the buprenorphine in both drugs should work effectively, suppressing withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings. The main difference lies in their potential for abuse—Suboxone, due to the presence of naloxone, may be less likely to be abused, making it a potentially better choice for individuals with severe addictions or those who have relapsed after treatment.
The Role of Buprenorphine in Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
For individuals beginning treatment for opioid use disorder, buprenorphine plays a critical role. Patients must abstain from opioids for at least 12 to 24 hours and be in the early stages of withdrawal before starting treatment. The buprenorphine dose may be adjusted once the patient has significantly reduced their opioid use, no longer craves opioids, and experiences minimal side effects. The treatment period varies, tailored to each patient’s needs, and can be indefinite in some cases to prevent relapse.
How to Use Buprenorphine: A Step-by-Step Guide
Before starting treatment with buprenorphine, it’s crucial to understand the medication and its potential side effects. The medication is usually used daily, placed under the tongue for 5 to 10 minutes until it completely dissolves. Swish a large sip of water around the mouth and swallow it to avoid dental issues. It’s recommended not to brush the teeth for at least an hour after taking the medication.
Buprenorphine is typically used for the first two days after discontinuing all other opioids, often administered in a doctor’s office. The patient is then transitioned to a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone for maintenance treatment. This combination works similarly to buprenorphine alone to prevent withdrawal symptoms but includes naloxone to deter misuse.
Following the Correct Dosage: An Essential Precaution
The dosage of these medications is based on the patient’s medical condition and response to treatment. It’s crucial not to increase the dose, frequency, or duration without medical advice. Sudden discontinuation of medication can trigger withdrawal symptoms, so a gradual reduction is often recommended. Regular use of the medication at the same time each day can offer maximum benefits.
Recognizing and Managing Potential Side Effects
Patients and practitioners must remain vigilant for potential side effects. If any side effects become bothersome or persist, they should be reported to a healthcare professional immediately. Side effects may include restlessness, anxiety, sleep troubles, mood changes, watery eyes, runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, muscle aches, or sudden behavioral changes.
The Importance of Comprehensive Addiction Treatment
Suboxone and Subutex should not be seen as standalone treatment options for addiction. They should be part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program that addresses the root causes leading to substance abuse. It’s not enough to treat the physical aspect of opioid addiction, as these medications do. The psychological aspects of addiction must also be addressed through therapy to ensure sustained recovery.
Subutex and Suboxone, both containing buprenorphine, are effective in treating opioid addiction. While they have similar benefits, their potential for abuse differs due to the presence of naloxone in Suboxone. It’s essential to understand the specifics of these medications, their usage, and potential side effects before starting treatment. Always remember, these medications should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan, not a standalone solution.