Subutex is prescribed for the treatment of opioid dependence in adults. By affecting certain receptors in the central nervous system, this opioid narcotic drug can help gradually wean people off other narcotic medications, such as morphine or heroine. Subutex can also be used for the long-term maintenance of opioid dependence. Possible off-label uses may include the treatment of pain or depression.
What Is Subutex Used For?Subutex® (sublingual buprenorphine) 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, Subutex can be abused. This medication is particularly susceptible to abuse via injection (it is meant to be dissolved under the tongue, not by injection). To help prevent this problem, another sublingual buprenorphine formulation, Suboxone® (buprenorphine and naloxone), is combined with naloxone. The naloxone component has little effect when taken as directed under the tongue, but cancels out the action of buprenorphine and may even cause withdrawal symptoms if it is injected. This helps to prevent abuse.
For this reason, almost all people who need to use Subutex for long-term opioid dependence treatment outside of a treatment center should be given Suboxone, not Subutex. 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.