What is the Difference Between Belbuca and Suboxone?

What is the Difference Between Belbuca and Suboxone

The opioid epidemic is devastating and far-reaching, but in its wake has been extensive research into opioid addiction treatment medications and alternatives to pain management, resulting in a number of prescription medications being approved by the FDA. Belbuca and Suboxone are two such medications that have been approved for use in the last two decades.

Both Belbuca and Suboxone contain buprenorphine, but the medications have different indications.

Understanding Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine is a generic medication that acts on the same opioid receptors in the brain as other opioids, such as heroin and prescription painkillers. However, buprenorphine is considered a partial opioid agonist. This means it activates these receptors to a lesser degree, providing pain relief and reducing cravings for stronger opioids without producing the intense euphoria that full agonists like heroin or oxycodone can cause.

Buprenorphine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2002. It has two primary uses: to treat opioid addiction and as a safer alternative to opioids to help manage chronic pain. There are many brand-name drugs that contain buprenorphine, including Suboxone and Belbuca.

Side effects of buprenorphine include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Weakness
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Back pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Redness, pain, or swelling at the injection site (for injectable forms)

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a combination medication that contains buprenorphine and naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of opioids. Suboxone is primarily used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction. People who are detoxing from opioids may start taking Suboxone 12-24 hours after their last dose of opioids.

The buprenorphine in Suboxone helps reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for individuals to abstain from full agonist opioids. Meanwhile, the addition of naloxone discourages misuse. If someone tries to inject Suboxone, the naloxone component can induce withdrawal symptoms, deterring misuse.

Like buprenorphine, Suboxone was also approved by the FDA in 2002. Suboxone is available as a sublingual film or tablet, which dissolves under the tongue. The medication is usually administered in a controlled clinical setting, ensuring that the treatment is closely monitored.

Common side effects of Suboxone are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Back pain
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain or redness in the mouth or tongue

new suboxone infographic

What is Belbuca?

Belbuca is a brand-name medication that contains buprenorphine. It was approved by the FDA in October 2015, over ten years after buprenorphine was approved for the treatment of opioid addiction.

Unlike Suboxone, which is commonly used in opioid addiction treatment, Belbuca is primarily prescribed for chronic pain management, especially for conditions that require around-the-clock treatment and extended pain relief. Belbuca comes in the form of a buccal film, which is a small, thin strip that is placed inside the cheek and allowed to dissolve.

Potential side effects of Belbuca are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Swelling in the mouth or throat
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Difficulty in speaking or swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Dental problems
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Increased cough
  • Changes in taste

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid, so it doesn’t cause the same euphoric effects that opioids can. As a result, it is less addictive, and a safer option for pain management.


Belbuca Buprenorphine


What is the Difference Between Suboxone and Belbuca?

Suboxone and Belbuca both contain buprenorphine and have similar side effects, but there are some differences. Firstly, Suboxone contains naloxone, and Belbuca does not.

Another major difference is in their designated usage. Belbuca is an effective option for individuals with chronic pain, including conditions like neuropathic pain, osteoarthritis, and cancer-related pain. It is not typically used in opioid addiction treatment but may be considered in some cases where pain management and addiction treatment overlap. Suboxone, on the other hand, is designed to treat opioid addiction. However, it may indirectly help manage pain for individuals with chronic pain who are also struggling with opioid addiction.

The Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Addiction

Suboxone is a commonly used medication in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT is an evidence-based approach to treating opioid addiction that combines the use of medication with counseling and behavioral therapy. MAT has several benefits in the management of opioid addiction:

  • Reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Increases retention in treatment
  • Lowers the risk of fatal opioid overdoses
  • Reduces illicit opioid use
  • Improves social functioning
  • Lowers the risk of infectious diseases
  • Reduces stigma around addiction
  • Supports long-term recovery

Suboxone isn’t the only medication used in MAT. Other MAT medications for opioid addiction include Subutex (buprenorphine) and methadone.

Find out if Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is Right For You

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may not be suitable for everyone, but at Moving Mountains Recovery, our team can assess your needs and help you choose the right path to recovery for you. To learn about your opioid rehab options or to find help for a loved one, please contact us today.


  1. National Institutes of Health: Buprenorphine, Retrieved October 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459126/
  2. National Institutes of Health: Suboxone, Retrieved October 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5855417/
  3. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Belbuca, Retrieved October 2023 from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/207932s002lbl.pdf
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