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Understanding Opioid Dependence

More and more, opioid dependence is being accepted as a chronic disease, much like high blood pressure or diabetes.

Yet unlike these other diseases, opioid dependence carries a very powerful stigma. (To illustrate: Imagine that you are interviewing for a new job. Would you think twice before asking whether the company's health plan covers costs related to your insulin dependence? Would you also not hesitate to ask about coverage of costs related to your opioid dependence?)

This stigma is rooted in the centuries-old belief that opioid dependence is a moral failure. It was only within the last 20 years that researchers began to realize opioid dependence was a medical condition caused by changes in the brain—changes that didn't go away, sometimes for months, after patients stopped using opioids.

Today, opioid dependence in the United States is growing at unprecedented rates. Sadly, fear of the stigma associated with treatment keeps many people from seeking help.

Removing the stigma of opioid dependence is critical to helping patients receive proper care. A key part of achieving this goal is wider recognition that opioid dependence is a medical—not a moral—issue.

The information here is offered to help promote better understanding of opioid dependence as a medical condition by exploring the prevalence, biological origins, impact on behavior, and symptoms of this disease.


SUBOXONE is the first opioid medication approved under DATA 2000 for the treatment of opioid dependence in an office-based setting. SUBOXONE also can be dispensed for take-home use, just as any other medicine for other medical conditions.

The primary active ingredient in SUBOXONE is buprenorphine.

Because buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, its opioid effects are limited compared with those produced by full opioid agonists, such as oxycodone or heroin. SUBOXONE also contains naloxone, an opioid antagonist.

The naloxone in SUBOXONE is there to discourage people from dissolving the tablet and injecting it. When SUBOXONE is placed under the tongue, as directed, very little naloxone reaches the bloodstream, so what the patient feels are the effects of the buprenorphine. However, if naloxone is injected, it can cause a person dependent on a full opioid agonist to quickly go into withdrawal.

SUBOXONE at the appropriate dose may be used to:
  • Reduce illicit opioid use
  • Help patients stay in treatment


  • Suppressing symptoms of opioid withdrawal
  • Decreasing cravings for opioids

Why Choose SUBOXONE?

SUBOXONE is a narcotic medication indicated for the treatment of opioid dependence, available only by prescription, and must be taken under a doctor's care as prescribed. It is illegal to sell or give away your SUBOXONE.

Opioid dependence isn't just physical. It also affects the way you feel and how you act. That's why successful treatment takes more than medication alone.*

Get the support you need to reach your treatment goals:

  • Only SUBOXONE offers the Here to Help® Program, shown to help patients stay committed to their medication-assisted treatment. When you stay in treatment, you are less likely to misuse opioids—and may also increase your opportunity for treatment success
  • Only SUBOXONE comes with free one-on-one support
  • Only SUBOXONE is specially formulated to be taken at home

You can do this... But you don't have to do it alone. With SUBOXONE plus counseling and Here to Help, you have support—support that's there to help you every day.

Fudala PJ, Bridge TP, Herbert S, et al, for the Buprenorphine/Naloxone Collaborative Study Group. Office-based treatment of opiate addiction with a sublingual-tablet formulation of buprenorphine and naloxone. N Engl J Med. 2003;349:949-958.
Data on file, Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc., Richmond, VA.
SUBOXONE® [package insert]. Richmond, VA: Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc.; 2006.