(CNN)Suboxone is a medication approved by the FDA for the treatment of opiate dependence such as heroin addiction. Experts say it works well because it’s a very “sticky” drug, meaning it binds well with the same receptors as opiates.
“So if you were a heroin addict on Suboxone and you took heroin, it would have nowhere to bind because Supoxone sort of fills everything up,” explained CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “It essentially prevents those drugs from working.”
“It also stimulates the receptors, but not as strongly as heroin,” added Dr. Adam Bisaga, professor of psychiatry at CUMC and researcher at New York State Psychiatric Institute. Bisaga works closely with heroin addicts and has testified before Congress on combating the opioid-abuse epidemic.
“If addicts take it properly, they have no cravings, they have no withdrawal, and they feel ‘normal,'” said Bisaga. “And that’s why the medication is so effective.”
Suboxone has become widely used as a replacement for methadone because it can be prescribed by doctors in their offices, while methadone can only be provided at specialized addiction centers, of which there are a limited number In fact Suboxone was one of the first two narcotics to be made available under the Drug Abuse Treatment Act of 2000 to help solve the growing shortage of addiction treatment centers.
The generic name is buprenorphine; it goes by “bupe” for short. According to the FDA, Suboxone is “less tightly controlled than methadone” because it has a “lower potential for abuse” and is “less dangerous in an overdose.”