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Subutex vs Suboxone: An Honest Comparison

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What's the difference between Suboxone and Subutex? Both are medications used during medical detox to help rid the body of alcohol and toxic substances. Learn about the differences and which one might be right for you or your loved one given your specific situation.

What Are Subutex and Suboxone Used For?

Subutex and Suboxone are medications that are used to treat opiate (and opioid) addiction. Opiates are drugs derived from opium.

The term "opioid" once referred to synthetic opiates only, but now it is used to describe the entire family of opiates: natural, synthetic, and semi-synthetic. In practice, both opiate and opioid are used interchangeably.

Natural opiates include morphine, codeine, and thebaine.

Semi-synthetic opioids include hydromorphone, hydrocodone, and oxyodone (often known by the prescription drug name OxyContin), and heroin.

Heroin is the most widely used type of illegal opiate.

Both Subutex and Suboxone block the opiates' effects on the brain, and both are used to help minimize and/or eliminate physical withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.

Subutex vs. Suboxone: What’s the Difference?

suboxone-vs-subutex-differenceBoth Subutex and Suboxone are FDA-approved medications containing buprenorphine (pronounced BYOO-pre-NOR-feen).

Both Subutex and Suboxone are brand-name medications that help individuals with severe drug addictions taper their drug use.

Simply put, the difference is that Suboxone contains both buprenorphine and naloxone, whereas Subutex contains only buprenorphine

Subutex = 100% buprenorphine

Suboxone = 80% buprenorphine + 20% Naloxone

Buprenorphine is the working ingredient in both.

Buprenorphine can fill and activate the opioid "receptors" in the brain. Once attached, opioids send signals to the brain to block pain, slow breathing, and create a general calming and anti-depressing effect.

If you're taking buprenorphine, you stop feeling opiate withdrawal once you activate these receptors sufficiently. When opioid receptors are not activated, you will feel discomfort and physical withdrawal symptoms.

This is the reason buprenorphine is used to treat opioid addiction. Individuals can lead more functional lives without experiencing the physical cravings that would occur upon ceasing opiate use.

Buprenorphine is a partial agonist, which is defined as a substance that activates the same receptor sites in the brain as other opioids, but doesn’t produce the same high. "Full" agonist opiates include heroin or methadone.

Why is Naloxone Added to Buprenorphine?

Even though buprenorphine doesn't produce the same high as the other opiates, it can still be abused. Just as a desperate person can take large doses of cough medicine to get a codeine high, people can take too much buprenorphine.

If users inject or snort significant quantities of Subutex (100% buprenorphine), they may feel extremely dizzy and confused, struggle to breathe, lose consciousness, or die. The drug can be abused, and can have dire effects.

That's why naloxone is added to Suboxone: to keep people from abusing buprenorphine.

Naloxone works as an what's known as an "opiate antagonist." This means it fills opiate receptors in the brain but doesn't activate them.

Subutex (100% buprenorphine), on the other hand, fills and activates the opiate receptors in the brain.

Due to this decreased risk of abuse and diversion, doctors tend to prescribe Suboxone for continuing use and take-home prescriptions.

Subutex or Suboxone: Which is Right For You?

Both Subutex and Suboxone can significantly decrease cravings, mitigate physical symptoms of withdrawal, and help you to stay the course in addiction treatment. They’re both used in supervised medical detox, and they can help remove toxic substances from the body in a safe, effective manner.





100% Buprenorphine

80% Buprenorphine
20% Naloxone

Risk of Abuse

Nothing added in order to prevent abuse of buprenorphine

Naloxone added in order to prevent abuse of buprenorphine


May be more difficult to obtain for outpatient treatment

Often easier to obtain for outpatient treatment

Form / vehicle

Sublingual pill

Sublingual film or tablets

Potential Side Effects

 Constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches

Constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, lightheadedness, nausea, sweating, vomiting.

Price / Cost

About $300 - $450 / mo.

About $500 - $600 / mo.



How Much Does Subutex Cost?

How-much-does-Subutex-costPatients who do not have health insurance can expect to pay around $300 - $450 per month for Subutex. This does not include fees for doctor office visits. Often, coupons or other discounts are available for the initial prescription, which can offer savings of $200 or more.

These estimates are based on an average dose of 16mg/day.

A recent price survey revealed the following range of Subutex prices for 60 8-mg tablets (month):

Pharmacy Price with Coupon Price without Coupon
Kroger $107 Not provided
Safeway $109 $307
Walmart $158 Not provided
Rite-Aid $185 $428
CVS $194 $323
Kmart $208 Not provided

Source: GoodRX, pricing as of February 15, 2017.

How Much Does Suboxone Cost?

how-much-does-suboxone-costPatients who do not have health insurance can expect to pay around $500 - $600 per month for Suboxone. This does not include fees for doctor office visits. Often, coupons or other discounts are available for the initial prescription, which can offer savings of $50 or more.

These estimates are based on an average dose of 16mg/day.

A recent price survey revealed the following range of Suboxone prices for 60 8-mg films (month):
Pharmacy Price with Coupon Price without Coupon
Kroger $484 $532
Safeway $490 $608
Walmart $505 Not provided
Rite-Aid $496 $585
CVS $497 $578

Source: GoodRX, pricing as of February 15, 2017. 

The Importance of Holistic Addiction Treatment

While detox drugs like Subutex and Suboxone have a part to play in treatment, it’s vital to remember that physical healing is just one part of the larger addiction recovery program.

Once you’ve cleared your body of opiates or other drugs, it’s time to start healing the deeper mental and emotional issues that led you to use in the first place.

We believe that you can prevent relapse with a holistic drug rehab model.

  • If a person only focuses on changing a given behavior (such as substance abuse), they may ignore the mental and emotional issues that underlay the addiction.
  • As a result, the various levels of an individual’s psyche will go out of balance.
  • If this imbalance isn’t handled properly, the risk of relapse is high.

In other words, you can go through all the hard work of medical detox on the physical level, but if you don’t address the mental and emotional level issues that drive your drug use, your chances of maintaining sobriety go way down.

Don’t put yourself in that position! Commit to finding a holistic addiction treatment program (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) that will support you as you do the work of recovery.

If you’re serious about getting sober, we strongly advocate for medically supervised detox with qualified professionals.

Why? Because adjusting the body's chemical balance is a challenging process. If you try to go it alone, you could inadvertently harm your health, or worse. 

Check out our list of Top 19 Medical Detox Centers options for recommended facilities.

To help you in your research of residential addiction recovery programs, we created this helpful free eBook:


Gregg Makuch

This post was written by Gregg Makuch

Gregg helps get the word out about The Clearing. When he’s not riding his bike and enjoying the beauty of the San Juan Islands, Gregg loves to cook and spend time with his family.

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