Subuxone, subbies, Temgesic, temmies

Buprenorphine is an opioid analgesic or painkiller used in the treatment of moderate to severe pain. It is also licensed for use as a substitute for heroin or morphine and is prescribed to people wanting to come off these drugs. It is different from other opioids in that it is a partial opioid agonist. This means that there is less euphoria and physical dependence and a relatively mild withdrawal syndrome.

Trade names for buprenorphine include, Subutex, Suboxone and Temgesic. Burenorphine can come in tablet form, usually taken orally – dissolved under the tongue, in patches to put on the skin or can be injected (usually only given in hospital).


The aim of buprenorphine treatment is to:

  • Suppress symptoms of opioid withdrawal
  • Decrease cravings for opioids and hence illicit opioid use
  • Block some of the effects of other opioids
  • Change risky behaviour such as injecting and sharing needles
  • Stop the need to commit crimes to fund the heroin habit
  • Help patients stay in treatment

The Research report from National Institute on Drug Abuse (2021) found that Buprenorphine has been found effective for the treatment of opioid use disorders but it has sometimes been prescribed ineffectively causing a failure in treatment. Some studies have shown high relapse rates when patients were tapered off buprenorphine rather than continuing to take the drug for a longer period of time, and buprenorphine must also be given at a sufficiently high dose to be effective. Some treatment providers wary of using opioids have prescribed lower doses for short treatment durations, and so the treatment was ineffective.

Common side effects are:

  • Constipation
  • nausea or vomiting
  • feeling sleepy or tired
  • feeling dizzy 
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • stomach pain
  • itching or skin rashes

It is possible to become addicted to Buprenorphine.

See also the DrugSearch page on methadone which is another substitute drug that may be prescribed to help people come off heroin.

Updated May 2022

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