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Is Subutex addictive?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on May 26, 2021.

Official answer

by Drugs.com

Subutex can be addictive. Subutex is classified as a schedule III controlled substance because it has the potential to be abused and cause addiction.

Subutex is a brand-name dissolvable tablet for the drug buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is a type of medicine known as a partial opioid agonist. This means it binds to your body's opiate receptors, but the effects it causes (pain relief, euphoria, drowsiness, decreased breathing rate) are weaker than those caused by a full opioid agonist, such as morphine or heroin.

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) categories drugs and substances with the potential to be abused into five groups called schedules. The assigned schedule is determined according to the drug's accepted medical use and its abuse or misuse potential. Each schedule is designated with a capitalized Roman numeral, I to V.

  • Schedule I substances have no accepted medical use and the most potential to be abused.
  • Schedules II to IV have some potential for abuse.
  • Schedule V medicines have the least abuse potential.

Subutex therefore is in the mid-range of abuse potential according to the DEA with a “moderate to low” potential for abuse.

The brand-name product Subutex, which was available as 2 mg or 8 mg sublingual tablets (administered by placing under the tongue), is no longer marketed in the United States. However, Subutex is still marketed in some other countries, and generic versions of buprenorphine sublingual tablets are still available in those same strengths in the United States.

Sublingual buprenorphine is approved for use in the treatment of opioid use disorder. It is mostly used during the early stage of treatment until the person reaches a state of stability. During the next maintenance phase of treatment, the medicine is usually changed to another form of buprenorphine or an alternate medication. Some of the other forms of buprenorphine have another drug added or are manufactured in such a way as to make them more difficult to abuse.

Prescribers may employ various means to decrease the likelihood of abuse of sublingual buprenorphine, such as limiting the number of tablets prescribed, requiring frequent office visits or urine testing.

References
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Highlights of Prescribing Information: Subutex. March 2021. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2021/020732s024lbl.pdf. [Accessed April 22, 2021].
  2. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Drug Scheduling. Available at: https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling. [Accessed April 22, 2021].
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Buprenorphine. March 12, 2021. Available at: https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/buprenorphine. [Accessed April 22, 2021].
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Tip 63: Medications for Opioid Use Disorder. May 2020. Available at: https://store.samhsa.gov/product/TIP-63-Medications-for-Opioid-Use-Disorder-Full-Document/PEP21-02-01-002. [Accessed September 21, 2021].
  5. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Control Division (DEA). Buprenorphine. December 2019. Available at: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/buprenorphine.pdf. [Accessed April 26, 2021].

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