Long-term use of Suboxone can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Suboxone dependence can cause drug-craving and drug-seeking behavior, which may lead to misuse or abuse.
Abuse can cause overdose and dangerous side effects, including death. This is especially true if Suboxone is used along with other opioids, alcohol, benzodiazepines (such as Ativan, Valium, or Xanax), or other drugs.
Taking too much of this medication can increase your risk of severe side effects.
Symptoms of an overdose of Suboxone can include:
- stomach pain or upset
- weakness or fatigue
- decreased touch sensation
- burning tongue
- trouble breathing
If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or seek guidance from the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or through their online tool. But if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.
Alternatives to Suboxone
There are a few other drugs in addition to Suboxone that are used to treat opioid dependence. Examples of these drugs include:
- methadone (Dolophine)
- naltrexone (Vivitrol)
There are also other medications that contain buprenorphine plus naloxone, the ingredients in Suboxone. The brand names for these other medications are Bunavail and Zubsolv.
Suboxone vs. other drugs
You may wonder how Suboxone compares to other drugs used to treat opioid dependence. Below are comparisons between Suboxone and several medications.
Suboxone vs. Subutex
Suboxone is a brand-name medication that contains two drugs: buprenorphine and naloxone.
Subutex was a brand-name drug that contained buprenorphine, one of the ingredients in Suboxone. Brand-name Subutex is no longer available. There are no brand-name forms of buprenorphine currently available for treating opioid dependence. (The ones that are available are used to treat pain.)
Suboxone and buprenorphine, the generic form of Subutex, are both FDA-approved for treating opioid dependence. This includes both the induction and maintenance phases of treatment.
During the induction phase, the drug decreases withdrawal symptoms while you stop or reduce opioid use. During the maintenance phase, the drug keeps withdrawal symptoms and cravings in check as you complete your drug abuse or addiction treatment program.
Forms and administration
Suboxone comes as an oral film that can be used under your tongue (sublingual) or in your cheek (buccal). Buprenorphine forms used for treating opioid dependence include an oral film, a sublingual tablet, and an implant for under the skin.
In one study, Suboxone and buprenorphine were equally effective for reducing withdrawal symptoms during the induction phase (the first phase) of opioid dependence treatment.
In another study, starting induction treatment on day 1 with Suboxone was just as effective as starting with buprenorphine and then switching to Suboxone on day 3.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration generally recommends Suboxone rather than buprenorphine for both the induction and maintenance phases of opioid dependence treatment.
However, Suboxone is only appropriate for induction in people who are dependent on short-acting opioids such as heroin, codeine, morphine, or oxycodone (Roxicodone, RoxyBond).
Buprenorphine, on the other hand, is recommended for people who are dependent on long-acting opioids such as methadone.
Side effects and risks
Suboxone and buprenorphine are very similar drugs and cause similar common and serious side effects.
More common side effects
Examples of the more common side effects of Suboxone and buprenorphine include:
- opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as body aches, abdominal cramps, and rapid heart rate
- stomach pain or upset
- insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- weakness or fatigue
- runny nose
- sore throat
- back pain
Serious side effects
Examples of serious side effects shared by Suboxone and buprenorphine include:
- severe allergic reaction
- abuse and dependence
- breathing problems and coma
- hormone problems (adrenal insufficiency)
- liver damage
- severe withdrawal symptoms
Suboxone is a brand-name drug. It’s also available in a generic version. Generics are often less expensive than brand-name drugs.
The Subutex brand-name product is no longer available. It’s only available in its generic version, buprenorphine. There are no brand-name forms of buprenorphine available that are used to treat opioid dependence.
Buprenorphine and Suboxone cost about the same amount. However, the actual amount you pay will depend on your insurance.