Subutex is a partial agonist for opioid receptors and serves as a treatment for the addiction of opiates, such as heroin and painkillers. Physicians prescribe this drug as part of a treatment plan for addiction. Treatment should also include psychotherapy and other support from experienced medical professionals.

Unfortunately, because the nature of this drug is to bind to opioid receptors in the brain, it still holds the potential for abuse.

What is Subutex?

Subutex contains half the active ingredients of Suboxone. It shares the same opioid ingredient, buprenorphine, but does not contain naloxone. Because of this, it has a higher rate of abuse. Naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist that typically reduces the effects of buprenorphine and negates the effects of other opiates. However, buprenorphine is the partial agonist, and when the drug is abused, it can result in the same euphoria as heroin or morphine. People who misuse Subutex do so by crushing it, snorting it, or condensing it into a liquid and injecting it, which can speed the effects of this typically long-acting drug.

Effects of Subutex Abuse

In the short term, Subutex can provide the euphoria, sedation, and pain-killing effects that an individual desires. However, the effects can soon become unpleasant. Withdrawal includes body aches, constipation, mood swings, sweating, dizziness, and vomiting. Subutex can also have serious effects on the liver, leading to yellowed skin, dark urine, severe stomach pain, light-colored bowels, and even yellowing of the eyes.

When Subutex is used long-term, the side effects are less intense than those of buprenorphine’s opiate counterparts, but the drug still presents a concern for respiratory and cardiovascular issues. The manner in which someone abuses the drug can provide further risks associated with the administration of the drug. For instance, if Subutex is being injected, the concern for blood borne illness like HIV and Hepatitis C increases. Mixing buprenorphine with other depressants such as alcohol raises the risk of respiratory failure. Taking the drug with stimulants such as cocaine or benzodiazepines may make the body less able to recognize stimulant overdose, leading to unintended overdose and even death.   

Treatment for Subutex Addiction

Treatment through medically supervised detoxification is the most effective approach for long-term treatment of opioid addiction, including to buprenorphine. Because withdrawal symptoms can be painful and unpleasant, a supervised environment leads to a greater likelihood that clients will complete treatment, while also learning the coping mechanisms and life skills needed to manage the challenges of day-to-day life after treatment.  

After a medically assisted detox to safely reduce buprenorphine use and manage physical withdrawal, the next phase of treatment would be to do a version of inpatient, residential, or outpatient therapy. Inpatient and/or residential therapy provides the controlled setting necessary for someone to remove distractions and focus solely on recovery and personal health.  

Behavioral, group, and family therapy are also important components of treatment. Each serves its own significant purpose to recovery: 

Individual Therapy

Individual treatment will include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a core treatment modality at Sprout. During CBT, a person in treatment will learn how to handle the stressors of everyday life, how to challenge their underlying belief systems, and how to better understand the triggers that have encouraged their drug use.

Group Therapy

Group therapy combines the sense of community with others who also face addiction and recovery. Clients can bond over their experiences, develop accountability for their progress and share experiences and coping mechanisms from with others can learn.

Family-Involved Therapy

Family-involved therapy is often helpful because it can provide tools for a healthier support system, while teaching the family members how to effectively support their loved one when he or she returns home. For adolescents or teens who struggle with opioid addiction, family therapy, which is separate from family-involved therapy, may also be beneficial. In this form of therapy, the family is viewed as a unified group of which the person suffering from addiction is a part. Therapy therefore focuses on how addiction affects the family as a whole, and every member participates in treatment.  


The last step to recovery will be to provide the individual with the tools to transition safely back to their day-to-day life. This includes ongoing counseling, access to resources such as a 12-step program, and possibly additional transition programs. We place a great deal of importance on this transitional phase between treatment and life in recovery at Sprout, with particular emphasis on identifying the right approach for each client. Because every addiction story is unique, personalization is an important part of effective treatment.

Call us to speak with a supportive wellness professional about the best first step for you or a loved one struggling with opioid addiction.