Belbuca vs Suboxone: Highlighting the Similarities and Differences

Belbuca vs Suboxone

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that is primarily used to treat opioid use disorder under the names Suboxone, Subutex, Zubsolv, and Sublocade.[1] By attaching to opioid receptors in the brain, buprenorphine can cause relief from opioid withdrawal and cravings during early recovery. However, buprenorphine is also used as a pain medication.

When used as a pain medication, buprenorphine can be found under the brand name Belbuca. Chronic pain patients may take it instead of more potent opioid pain relievers. With that being said, Belbuca can still be habit-forming and addictive.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a medication approved by the FDA to treat opioid use disorder. It combines buprenorphine and naloxone to keep patients from experiencing severe withdrawal and prevent relapse during early recovery.[2] Suboxone is considered a partial opioid agonist.

The buprenorphine in Suboxone attaches to opioid receptors to trick the brain into thinking it’s received the opioid it’s addicted to. On the other hand, naloxone blocks other opioids from affecting the receptors, preventing people from being able to get high.

The naloxone in Suboxone is not effective unless a person tries to abuse their prescription. Suboxone is either taken sublingually or buccally and naloxone cannot be absorbed through the mouth. However, if a person were to attempt to inject Suboxone, the naloxone would kick in and prevent them from getting high.

What is Belbuca?

Belbuca is a pain medication that contains buprenorphine and is taken buccally. It is only prescribed to treat chronic pain and is not intended to treat opioid addiction. Because it does not contain naloxone, Belbuca has a higher risk of being habit-forming or addictive.

Additionally, Belbuca only has small amounts of buprenorphine in it, as it is not intended for people who already have a tolerance for opioids. While this makes it less likely to become a drug of abuse, people can misuse large doses to experience a high. However, buprenorphine has a ceiling effect, which means at some point even taking higher doses will not cause more potent effects.

The common side effects of Belbuca include:[3]

  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Headaches

If you or a loved one abuse Belbuca, a professional drug rehab center can provide you with the tools and support you need to achieve long-term recovery.

The Main Differences Between Suboxone and Belbuca

While Suboxone and Belbuca both contain buprenorphine, that is about the only similarity between them. These medications are intended for different purposes, come in different doses, and pose varying risks.

Suboxone is meant to treat opioid use disorder, while Belbuca is prescribed to treat chronic pain. Even further, Suboxone contains naloxone, which is not found in Belbuca. Belbuca does not have naloxone in it, so it has a higher potential for misuse.

Since Suboxone treats opioid use disorder, it has higher doses of buprenorphine in it than Belbuca does. For example, Suboxone can have up to 12 milligrams of buprenorphine while Belbuca only has up to 900 micrograms. Belbuca is not being given to patients with a high tolerance for opioids, so it takes less buprenorphine to be effective.

Is Belbuca Addictive?

Belbuca contains the partial opioid agonist buprenorphine which can be addictive. While Suboxone prevents the abuse of buprenorphine by combining it with naloxone, Belbuca does not. If someone taking Belbuca to treat their pain begins taking higher doses than they are prescribed, they could become addicted to it.

The signs of Belbuca addiction include:

  • Taking larger doses than you are prescribed
  • Running out of prescriptions early
  • Going to multiple doctors to receive more than one prescription
  • Having a hard time controlling how much Belbuca you take
  • Wanting to stop Belbuca use but being unsuccessful
  • Combining Belbuca with other substances to increase its effects
  • Using Belbuca in risky situations like while driving a car
  • Failing to meet obligations at home, school, or work because of your Belbuca use
  • Continuing to use Belbuca despite facing adverse mental or physical health effects
  • Using Belbuca even though it is causing interpersonal relationship issues
  • Needing a higher dose of Belbuca to experience the desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you cannot use Belbuca

If you or a loved one relate to the above-mentioned symptoms of Belbuca addiction, it’s time to seek help.

Find Help Today

While Belbuca can be effective in managing chronic pain, misusing it can lead to addiction. If you or a loved one are addicted to Belbuca, professional drug rehab can help. These programs use a combination of medical detox, individual therapy, group counseling, and relapse prevention planning to provide you with a strong foundation of recovery to rely on.

To find an addiction treatment center near you, contact PAX Memphis today.


  1. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): What is Buprenorphine, Retrieved October 2023
  2. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Suboxone Label, Retrieved October 2023 From
  3. Medline Plus: Buprenorphine Buccal (chronic pain), Retrieved October 2023 From

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.