Buprenorphine has been available for many years, but a major shift happened in 2002 when the trade formulations known as Subutex and Suboxone became approved in the US, and began being marketed for the treatment of narcotic addiction.2 Subutex (now discontinued) contained buprenorphine only, while Suboxone contains both buprenorphine and naloxone, also known as Narcan. From this point forward, doctors were permitted to prescribe the substance to individuals that were struggling with opiate addiction.
In a similar way to methadone, Suboxone can decrease cravings and withdrawal symptoms will limit withdrawal symptoms and decrease the frequency and intensity of cravings. Buprenorphine is not a full opioid agonist like heroin or methadone and is considered to have a low overdose potential.
Suboxone typically comes as a sublingual strip rather than a pill. This means it can be dissolved under the tongue discreetly without water to wash it down.
Suboxone is considered a long-acting opioid because the effects can last for up to 3 days. Because of this, the risks of negative effects are lower since they are more dispersed and less intense. For example, at higher doses Suboxone is shown to have a lower risk of related breathing problems than some other drugs used for opiate addiction management, including methadone.
Though the risk may be smaller, it can increase dramatically if Suboxone is taken with other depressant drugs like benzodiazepines or alcohol.
These substances in combination can lead to:
- Breathing problems.
The short-term, desirable effects of Suboxone include pain relief, a mild euphoria, and and a reduction in opioid cravings. However, as with any other substance, there are dangers. Taking too much/abusing it can lead to:1,
- Respiratory depression.