Subutex : What Is It | Has Subutex Been Discontinued?

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What Is Subutex



Subutex is the brand name for buprenorphine, which is a medication used for treating opioid dependence.  It is used similarly to methadone for the treatment of heroin addicts and those with addiction to other narcotics including painkillers.  Many people confuse Subutex with Suboxone.  There are a few differences, but mainly similarities.

Both Subutex and Suboxone contain the active ingredient buprenorphine.  Buprenorphine is an opioid that is called an opioid agonist-antagonist. This means that it will give a person some of the effects of regular opioids (some pain relief, it will stop withdrawals, it may give a slight “buzz”) , the the antagonist portion of the medication puts a “ceiling” on the effects this medication can give.

For example, if a person overdoses on methadone, they can die. Methadone is a pure opioid agonist and in high enough doses it will stop a person from breathing.  On the other hand, subutex (buprenorphine) will not usually cause a person to stop breathing if taken in an overdose, but the person may become sedated. The same if for the pain effects of buprenorphine.  It does relieve some pain, but not as much a methadone.

Since Subutex is an opioid, it carries all the risks of narcotics.  If taken long enough in a high enough dose, one will become physically addicted to it.  If Subutex is stopped suddenly, one will experience opioid withdrawals and other side effects of opoioids just like methadone.

What is The Difference Between Subutex and Suboxone?

The only difference is that Suboxone contains naloxone as part of the pill. Both contain buprenorphine.  Naloxone was added to the buprenorphine pill to help prevent abuse of the medication.  Naloxone basically blocks buprenorphine from working when the medication is injected.  This discourages IV use of Suboxone because it won’t give a “high.”

I’ve only had one patient needing Subutex.  The reason for trying subutex for this person was they has a documented allergic reaction to some part of the formulation of the Subxone tablet-they broke out in hives in front of me.  Otherwise, I avoid using this medication because of the abuse potential.  The last several years there have been more reports of abuse of Subutex, so I avoid prescribing it.

Has Subutex Been Discontinued?

Within the last several weeks, I received a “dear doctor” letter from Reckitt Benckiser.  This letter indicated that the Brand Subutex was being discontinued because of the abuse potential of this medication.  Somehow, I think the wildly profitable newer forms of Suboxone (such as the strips) had something to do with it…but the above was their official statement.  The letter also noted that generic subutex (buprenorphine) would still be available from the generic companies.

For very selected patients, subutex may be a better choice than Suboxone.  My off-the-cuff estimate it 1 in 100 or less. It is nice to have available in generic form, but I will still be avoiding it.  I do tell my patients they will need weekly drug testing if they are on on buprenorphine alone; at least until I get a good feel of how they are doing.

Subutex Summary

Subutex is simply Suboxone without the naloxone component.  It is more addictive and dangerous than Suboxone.  Although the Brand name Subutex has been discontinued, doctors will still be able to prescribe buprenorphine generic for their patients if needed.


Find Professional Help With Opioid Addiction

Use our FREE services to find help. We have three directories: a Suboxone Doctor Directory, Methadone Treatment Clinics Directory, and A Drug Treatment Directory. These list will help you find drug addiction treatment in your area. Dr. Rich has more articles on drug addiction including: The Real Suboxone Cost and and Understanding What Is Methadone?

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