Addiction treatment specialists are beginning to shift their focus from the traditional use of methadone to a newer drug known as buprenorphine. This medication is a semi-synthetic opioid that has proven to be effective in treating opiate withdrawal and managing symptoms of addiction to heroin or prescription opiates.
Buprenorphine is beneficial to people who are detoxing because it strongly binds to opioid receptors in the brain. This means that if there are opioids in the body such as heroin, morphine or oxycodone then the medication will block them from binding to receptors and the user will not experience the usual effects of the drug.
There are two common types of prescription medications containing buprenorphine known as Subutex and Suboxone.
Medication Burprenorphine and Naloxene
While the two medications are very similar and are both subscribed for similar issues of opioid addiction, there are some differences between Subutex and Suboxone. The biggest difference between these two drugs is that while both contain buprenorphine as an active ingredient, only Subutex also contains Naloxone as a second active ingredient.
Because both drugs use buprenorphine they each prevent an individual from experiencing withdrawal effects as the ingredient works to activate opioid receptors in the brain. Suboxone works through this process alone while Subutex uses another medication with different effects on the user.
The ingredient known as Naloxone used in Subutex is an opiate antagonist which fills opiate receptors in the brain and won't let other drugs activate the receptors does not activate them itself unlike buprenorphine. A normal does of Subutex allows the user to be free from opiate withdrawal symptoms because of the effects of the buprenorphine.
However, if they were to take a larger dose of the medication and were attempting to abuse it then the Naloxone would cause them to experience immediate and intense withdrawal symptoms.
How Buprenorphine Works
Each version of buprenorphine has been proven effective at treating opiate withdrawal and helping addicts in recovery deal with cravings. Someone with a heroin or prescription opiate addiction needs a medication like buprenorphine because the opioid receptors in their brain are normally saturated by their substance abuse creating a sense of euphoria.
Heroin actually changes the physical structure of the brain and increases the amount of opiate receptors which leads to developing a tolerance. When the receptors are not fully activated addicts begin to experience pain, sickness and many of the other symptoms of withdrawal.
Buprenorphine works to fill and activate some of the receptors so they are not left vacant causing pain and discomfort when a person abstains from any opioid abuse. It can fill up enough receptors to prevent withdrawal but not enough to create any sense of euphoria.
The medication can also prevent users from experiencing the high of using heroin again because their receptors are blocked. Subutex has the added benefit of preventing any kind of abuse of the medication because it can activate withdrawal symptoms when too large of a dose is taken.
Both Subutex and Suboxone are medications that can be useful in treating heroin withdrawal. They are effective and non-addictive medications that are considered safe because they do not slow breathing to a dangerous level making them much harder to cause overdose than heroin or methadone.
While Subuxone is less likely to be abused than drugs like methadone because it does not create a sense of euphoria, a medication like Subutex is nearly impossible to abuse. Addicts receiving treatment are often prescribed Subutex for the first few doses and then given Suboxone for continuing use and take-home prescription.
Only more severe cases of addiction may require continued use of Subutex to prevent them from abusing their withdrawal medication during treatment.