Buprenorphine (Suboxone)

What is it?
First Aid

What is buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is an opioid medication prescribed for people who are trying to recover from addiction to heroin or prescription pain medication. It is best known by the brand names Suboxone and Subutex.

Buprenorphine is safe if it is used in the right way by the person it was prescribed for.

It can be harmful if:

  • A child gets any amount in their mouth or swallows any piece.
  • You take more than you’re supposed to.
  • You take it to get high.
  • You take someone else’s medication.
  • You take it with alcohol or another drug that makes you sleepy. This can make it hard to breathe or make you choke if you throw up.

What are the symptoms of buprenorphine poisoning or overdose?

If someone takes buprenorphine in the wrong way, or if a child takes any amount, even just a lick or taste, they may:

  • Become very drowsy
  • Have trouble breathing or stop breathing entirely
  • Throw up, and possibly choke
  • Go into a coma, or even die

What should I do if someone has taken buprenorphine in a way that might be harmful?

  • If someone who has taken buprenorphine has passed out, is having trouble breathing or is not breathing, call 911 right away.
  • Call 911 if a child gets even a small amount of buprenorphine, even if the child has no symptoms. Symptoms do not always show up right away.

If you have questions about buprenorphine, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.

How can I prevent buprenorphine poisonings?

Use buprenorphine safely. Buprenorphine can be dangerous if you take it in the wrong way.

  • Only take medication as prescribed by your doctor. Do not share your medication or take someone else’s medication.
  • Always read the label on your medication bottle. It will tell you what the medication is, how much to take and when. Check the label each time you take the medication.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs while taking buprenorphine.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your medication, or contact the poison center—call 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.
  • Let all your health care providers know you are taking buprenorphine, as well as any other medications. Keep track of your medications with a written schedule.

Store buprenorphine safely. This is especially important if you have young children in your house. Even a small amount of buprenorphine is very dangerous for children.

  • Keep buprenorphine out of the reach of children and in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave pills or film strips on a counter or table.
  • Keep buprenorphine in its original container, and throw away the packaging as soon as you have finished with it.

Get rid of any unused or expired burprenorphine safely.

If you think someone you know has a substance abuse problem, get them help.

If you are a buprenorphine prescriber, consider ordering the NNEPC’s emergency medical information card for your patients.

Last Updated: Thursday January 4th 2018