Suboxone is prescribed for the treatment of opioid dependence in adults. This combination medication is designed to help prevent abuse of the drug via injection. When Suboxone is used as directed, the naloxone component has little effect; however, if this drug is injected, the naloxone component cancels out the effects of the opioid drug buprenorphine. Possible "off-label" (unapproved) uses include treating pain and depression.
What Is Suboxone Used For?Suboxone® (buprenorphine and naloxone) is a prescription medication approved for the treatment of opioid dependence. It is used to replace other opioid medications, including both legal medications (like morphine) and illegal drugs (like heroin). It can be used for the long-term maintenance of opioid dependence or to help people gradually wean off opioids.
Because it is an opioid, Suboxone can be abused. This medication is particularly susceptible to abuse via injection. To help prevent this problem, Suboxone combines buprenorphine with naloxone. The naloxone component has little effect when it is taken as directed under the tongue.
However, if Suboxone is injected, the naloxone component of the drug cancels out the action of buprenorphine, potentially causing withdrawal symptoms. This helps to prevent abuse.
For this reason, almost everyone who needs long-term treatment for opioid dependence outside of a treatment center should receive Suboxone, rather than a buprenorphine-only medication, such as Subutex® (sublingual buprenorphine).
Usually, people are started on Subutex (the formulation without naloxone), particularly when they are withdrawing from their previous opioid use, but should be switched to Suboxone for outpatient treatment. Only people who do not tolerate Suboxone should stay on Subutex for long-term treatment.