What is Buprenorphine/Naloxone?

Opioid addiction is a serious problem in the United States. In fact, 130 people die every day from opioid overdoses.

The good news, though, is that there are medications that can help a person to get off opioids and enjoy a higher quality of life. One such drug is the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, commonly referred to as Suboxone®.

Read on to learn about buprenorphine and naloxone and why they work so well together.

What is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine works by helping a person wean off of illegal and prescription opioids.  It minimizes their withdrawal symptoms and cravings.  Buprenorphine partially works at opioid receptors in the brain which makes it is less addictive than methadone.  Methadone is a different medication used to treat opioid addiction.

For a more in depth look at buprenorphine alone, you can read my post about it here.

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is a medication that blocks the effects of opioids and helps to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

It binds to opioid receptors in your brain in order to block the effects of any other opioid drugs that you may have consumed.

So Why Combine Them?

This combination drug offers a lot of benefits that neither buprenorphine nor naloxone can provide on their own. Listed below are some of the main reasons why someone might want to use this medicine combo in place of buprenorphine or naloxone alone:

Lower potential for abuse – Taking buprenorphine and naloxone together gives some relief from opioid withdrawals, but it does not give a full opioid effect on the brain the way other drugs can.

Greater accessibility – Any physician with the appropriate training can write prescriptions for Suboxone® or other drugs that combine buprenorphine and naloxone.  Other prescriptions must be written by physicians who work in addiction clinics.

High success rate – A combination of buprenorphine and naloxone works well for many opioid addicts.  In many cases it works better than using drugs like buprenorphine by themselves.

Who Should Use These Medications?

Many people can benefit from taking naloxone and buprenorphine. Some people are better candidates for this type of treatment than others, though.

The following individuals are most likely to benefit from it:

● Anyone who is committed to opioid addiction treatment and recovery

● Someone who can and will follow through with the treatment schedule laid out by their physician (they will have to see a doctor on a regular basis in order to receive their prescriptions)

● Anyone who is aware of the potential side effects of these drugs (respiratory issues, adrenal insufficiency, risk of abuse, etc.)

Drugs that contain buprenorphine and naxolone are not recommended for individuals who have an allergy to either medication.

In What Forms Can You Take Them?

Buprenorphine/naloxone is available as a tablet that goes under the tongue. It comes in two strengths – buprenorphine 2 mg/naloxone 0.5 mg and buprenorphine 8 mg/naloxone 2 mg.  This tablet is sold under the brand Zubsolv®.

The drug also comes in several film formats. This film that goes under the tongue is better known by its brand name, Suboxone®.  Another film is used by placing it inside of the cheek. These films are sold under the name, Bunavail®.

There are now generic forms of both the film and the tablets.  Generic drugs make treatment much more affordable to those without insurance.

Man at the pharmacy

Now you know more about the benefits of buprenorphine and naloxone.  You can make a more informed decision about whether this combination medication may be right for you.  These drugs offer much needed help for people struggling with opioid addiction.

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.