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What is the Difference Between Buprenorphine and Suboxone?

Opioid addiction is a serious problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Over 75% of the nearly 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved an opioid.”[1] 

When you suffer from an opioid use disorder, recovering can be extremely difficult. However, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs can support you, provide you with coping skills, and offer medications that make the recovery process easier and more comfortable. To explain, MAT centers use FDA-approved medications that prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings to allow you to focus on more important aspects of treatment. 

Two of the medications used in MAT programs are buprenorphine and Suboxone. Knowing the differences between these substances can help you determine what medication is right for you. 

What is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is one of the FDA-approved medications used during MAT programs to treat opioid addiction. As a partial opioid agonist, it relaxes the central nervous system and produces euphoria at a weaker rate than full opioid agonists like methadone and heroin.[2] The effects buprenorphine produces are just enough to trick the brain into thinking it’s gotten the opioids it craves, preventing withdrawal symptoms and cravings during early recovery. 

The common side effects of buprenorphine include:[2]

  • Headaches
  • Constipation or diarrhea 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Dizziness and drowsiness 
  • Sweating 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Muscle aches and cramps 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Fever and tremors 
  • Blurry vision or enlarged pupils
  • Palpitations
  • Attention issues 

Buprenorphine treatment begins 12 to 24 hours after a patient stops taking other opioids. Patients must wait until this time frame to take it to avoid acute withdrawal. Once a patient is on buprenorphine and no longer experiencing withdrawal symptoms, the dose they are given will be lowered.

Eventually, patients are tapered off of buprenorphine completely when the withdrawal stage of opioid recovery is completed.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is another FDA-approved medication commonly used during MAT programs. While Suboxone contains buprenorphine, an opioid agonist, it also contains an opioid antagonist called naloxone. The buprenorphine in Suboxone works to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings by attaching to the opioid receptors, while naloxone prevents other opioids from producing a high. 

The side effects of Suboxone may include:[3]

  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Mouth numbness or redness
  • Tongue pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Muscle or back pain

Patients must wait between 12 to 72 hours to begin Suboxone treatment to prevent experiencing precipitated withdrawal caused by the naloxone. The specific time frame for when Suboxone treatment can begin depends on the type of opioids you took, your personal health, and the severity of your withdrawal symptoms.

The Main Difference Between Buprenorphine and Suboxone 

The main difference between Suboxone and buprenorphine is that Suboxone also contains naloxone. 

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that is often used to reverse opioid overdoses. As a result, Suboxone can prevent people from relapsing or experiencing overdoses in early recovery, while buprenorphine is only intended to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. 

The only downside to Suboxone is that it cannot be taken while opioids are in a person’s system, as this will lead to precipitated withdrawal. 

While buprenorphine was created first, Suboxone is often preferred because of its ability to prevent people from getting high on opioids during treatment. Both buprenorphine and Suboxone are better alternatives to methadone, a full opioid agonist that is often abused.

Determining if Medication-Assisted Treatment is Right for You

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an effective opioid addiction treatment method that can make it easier for individuals to maintain sobriety during the early stages of treatment. If you or a loved one struggles with an opioid addiction, you might be wondering whether MAT is right for you. 

Signs that medication-assisted treatment is right for you include:

  • Having an opioid use disorder
  • Past experiences with traditional addiction treatment 
  • Experiencing relapses in the past 
  • Dealing with moderate to severe addiction issues
  • Wanting to get sober but having a hard time maintaining long-term sobriety

Medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction can benefit just about anyone. However, if you have a history of abusing medications used during MAT like methadone, you might want to consult with an addiction treatment specialist to ensure this type of treatment is right for you. 

Get Connected to a Medication-Assisted Treatment Center Today

If you or a loved one suffers from an opioid use disorder, it’s time to seek help. Recovering from opioid addiction can be a daunting process, however, MAT programs can make you safe and comfortable by providing you with medications to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms. As a result, you will have the energy and motivation needed to engage in therapy and learn the coping skills necessary for lifelong recovery.

To learn more about our medication-assisted treatment program for opioid addiction, contact Mandala Healing Center today. 


  1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Understanding the Opioid Overdose Epidemic, Retrieved October 2023 From
  2. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): What is Buprenorphine, Retrieved October 2023 From
  3. Medline Plus: Buprenorphine Sublingual and Buccal, Retrieved October 2023 From