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Buprenorphine, Naloxone, Suboxone: What You Need to Know

August 31, 2021

Often people confuse Buprenorphine, Naloxone, Suboxone and it is important to know the similarities, differences and what each is used for.

What is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is used as a replacement drug used to treat heroin and methadone addiction, and in some cases to treat severe pain. It is an opioid partial agonist. That means that it blocks opiate receptors in the brain which helps to reduce urges and stave off withdrawal symptoms. It produces effects similar to other stronger opioids such as euphoria and respiratory depression. These effects keep a person physically and emotionally stable as they begin the addiction recovery process. It is available by prescription, cheaper than illegal drugs like heroin, and is unlikely to result in a overdose. The long-lasting effects of the medication mean that most people only need to take one dose a day. 

Side effects of buprenorphine include: constipation, headache, sweating, drowsiness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, skin rashes and hives, tooth decay, lower sex drive, weight gain, and changes in menstruation.

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone helps reverse the symptoms of an opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist which means that it attaches to opioid receptors in the brain and then blocks and reverses the effects of opioids on a person’s nervous system. It is given either as an injection or via a nasal spray. The nasal spray system was created to make it easier for non-medical professionals to help someone suffering from an overdose. It works for 30 to 90 minutes, so people may require more than one dose to combat the effects of an overdose. It is important to get immediate medical attention for someone suffering an overdose, even if they’ve been given naloxone. Naloxone is available at pharmacies and in some states you can purchase it without a prescription. 

Side effects are rare, unless someone is allergic to naloxone. It is not a long-term treatment for an opioid addiction and only works on opioids. It does not reverse overdoses from drugs like cocaine or methamphetamines.

What is Suboxone? 

Suboxone one of the most common drugs prescribed to help treat opioid addiction. It is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, and is commonly prescribed at the start of treatment and patients continue to take it until they have fully overcome their addictions. It helps ease the symptoms of withdrawal, particularly the harsh and violent symptoms caused by short-acting opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers. Unlike other opioid replacement drugs which require a prescription from a special treatment center, Suboxone can be prescribed by your doctor.Now perhaps you read buprenorphine and are questioning if it is possible to get addicted to Suboxone. It is a good question, since buprenorphine is an opioid, but worry not. Suboxone adds naloxone to negate the addictive nature of buprenorphine. Unlike other opioids, buprenorphine also has a “ceiling effect.” This means that you will eventually build up a tolerance to the drug, and will be unable to overcome this tolerance by taking it more often or in larger doses. This is great news for your journey to recovery!

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