Mental Health Home > What Is Sublingual Buprenorphine Used For?
Sublingual buprenorphine tablets are prescribed for the treatment of opioid dependence. This opioid narcotic medication is only approved for use in adults and may help people who are dependent on legal or illegal opioid drugs. There are also off-label, or unapproved, uses for sublingual buprenorphine, such as the treatment of pain or depression.
An Introduction to Uses for Sublingual BuprenorphineSublingual buprenorphine (Subutex®) 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, sublingual buprenorphine can be abused. This medication is particularly susceptible to abuse via injection (it is meant to be dissolved under the tongue, not taken by injection). To help prevent this problem, there is another sublingual buprenorphine formulation, Suboxone® (buprenorphine and naloxone), that 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 sublingual buprenorphine for long-term opioid dependence treatment outside of a treatment center should be given Suboxone, not sublingual buprenorphine. Usually, people are started on sublingual buprenorphine (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 sublingual buprenorphine for long-term treatment.