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Suboxone Pills vs. Strips: In-Depth Review of Each Form 

Suboxone pills and strips contain buprenorphine and naloxone. They are U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment programs. 

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Technically, they work in a very similar manner. In reality, you may prefer one format over the other. 

The best OUD treatment is the one you’ll use as directed as long as you need it. Your doctor can help you choose a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) format, but if you’re unhappy with it, don’t be afraid to make a switch. Your openness and honesty will allow your doctor to help you effectively. 

Comparing Suboxone Pills & Strips 

This chart can help you see the similarities and differences between Suboxone pills and strips at a glance:[1-4]

Dissolve time 7-12.4 minutes 5-6.6 minutes
Taste Lemon-limeOrange or mint 
Buprenorphine Dosages 2 mg to 8 mg2 mg to 12 mg
Bioavailability Lower than filmsHigher than tablets 
Cost $65-$85$57-$183
Insurance Typically coveredTypically covered 
Popularity Fewer patients preferMost patients prefer 

How Do These Forms of Suboxone Work? 

Among the main differences between Suboxone pills vs. strips is regarding how they’re taken. You may find that one is preferable to the other and easier for you to take. Here’s what you need to know. 

How to Take Suboxone Strips 

Suboxone strips are designed to sit underneath your tongue and dissolve. Researchers say it can take up to 6.6 minutes for the strip to melt away completely.[5]

Here’s how to take your strips:[5]

  • Open the package, and place the strip under your tongue. 
  • Keep the strip in place until it’s completely dissolved. 
  • Don’t eat or drink anything until the film is dissolved. 

How to Take Suboxone Pills 

Suboxone tablets also dissolve inside your mouth. Researchers say these tablets can take up to 12.4 minutes to melt away.[5]

Follow these directions to take Suboxone tablets:[2]

  • Open the bottle, and place the tablet under your tongue. 
  • Don’t chew or swallow the tablet, as it needs to dissolve to work. 
  • Don’t eat or drink anything until the entire tablet is dissolved. 

What Are the Main Differences Between These Formulations?

Personal preference can dictate which form of treatment you choose. In general, people tend to decide due to one of the following four factors: 

1. Time to Dissolve 

Researchers say the films tend to dissolve much quicker than the tablets do.[1] While you’re waiting for the products to melt away, you can’t do anything like drink, eat, or talk. 

You have to take your medication every day, and it must become part of your routine. If you can’t imagine setting aside up to 13 minutes every morning to work on your addiction, strips may be a better option as they dissolve faster. 

2. Ability to Make Mistakes 

Suboxone strips are sticky, and they’re very hard to remove from your mouth once they’re attached. Suboxone pills don’t adhere in the same manner, and some people spit out their dose before it’s been absorbed.[1] If you’re worried that you won’t wait for your medication to take hold, strips may be smarter. 

3. Flavors

Buprenorphine and naloxone are bitter-tasting, and manufacturers use flavorings to mask that and make the medication more pleasant. Both types of products have different flavor profiles. Some people simply prefer one over the other. 

4. Abuse Potential 

Strips are much harder to abuse than tablets, as they can’t be crushed and inhaled. While both products contain naloxone to keep them from getting people high when the drug is injected, some people still try to misuse them.

In a study published in 2023 in the Canadian Journal of Health Technologies, researchers examined literature about buprenorphine published since January of 2018. They found that films were associated with lower abuse rates than tablets. They concluded the study by suggesting doctors should choose films in settings where the potential for substance abuse is high.[6]

Other studies suggest that the abuse rate of any form of buprenorphine is low. In 2019, researchers examined 17 published studies about people who abused buprenorphine medications. They found that the majority of people used buprenorphine illicitly to manage withdrawal symptoms or maintain abstinence.[8] 

In other words, they used the medication outside of a treatment program to get or stay sober. Technically, they’re abusing the drug. In reality, they’re not doing so to get high.

If you’re concerned about the risk of Suboxone abuse, talk to your doctor. Together, you can decide if this type of therapy is right for you and your addiction.

Are They Both Effective for OUD Treatment? 

Researchers say that strips have a slightly higher bioavailability than tablets.[1] If you swap one product for another, you may need a subtle dose adjustment. However, both products are very effective in helping people to deal with OUD.

In 2016, researchers examined 287 people who switched from Suboxone tablets to films during the course of their addiction treatment. They found that more than 90% of people stayed in treatment, had lower withdrawal symptoms, and fewer cravings when they were switched at day 15.[7] Studies like this suggest that both types of medications can help people to get sober.

In 2021, researchers writing for the journal Primary Health Care: Open Access said this about buprenorphine therapy for addiction: “Buprenorphine, a highly effective yet underutilized medication for opioid dependence, is crucial to tackling the current opioid epidemic.”[9] They wrote the article in the hopes of convincing more doctors to use it to help their patients.

Suboxone Pills vs. Strips: Cost & Insurance

Both forms of Suboxone are prescription-grade, meaning you must get them from pharmacies. Prices are relatively comparable, as 8 mg/2 mg formulations cost nearly the same for a 30-day supply.[3]

Insurance companies usually cover MAT for opioid use disorder. However, your insurance company may require you to choose one formulation over another. Your plan may also restrict your ability to choose a brand-name version when a generic one is available.

Which One Is Right for Me? 

Only you will know which formulation of Suboxone is right for you, and it’s fine to experiment until you find the perfect fit. Work with your doctor to narrow down your choices, and speak up if you think you made a mistake. Together, you can find the right option for your recovery. 

Frequently Asked Questions

These are the questions we often hear about Suboxone pills vs. strips:

Can I switch forms if necessary?

Always talk to your doctor before changing anything about your MAT program, including the type of Suboxone you use. Your doctor may want to adjust your dose or monitor your recovery closely when you switch from one format to another. Never make the change without talking to your doctor first.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you missed a dose, contact your treatment team and ask what to do next. The answer will depend on factors such as how much you use, how often you take your dose, and how long it’s been since you took your last dose.

Updated May 8, 2024
  1. Graham R. Buprenorphine for opioid dependence: Are there differences between the formulations? Mental Health Clinician. 2014;4(1):17-21.
  2. Suboxone tablet prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published October 2019. Accessed March 1, 2024.
  3. Buprenorphine/naloxone prices, coupons, and patient assistance programs. Accessed March 1, 2024.
  4. Suboxone film prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published November 2013. Accessed March 1, 2024.
  5. Buprenorphine with naloxone (Suboxone sublingual film) for opiate dependence. NPS Medicinewise. Published September 1, 2011. Accessed March 1, 2024.
  6. Tingley K, Mierzwinski-Urban M. Buprenorphine-naloxone film vs. tablets for opioid use disorder. Canadian Journal of Health Technologies. 2023;3(11).
  7. Gunderson E, Sumner M. Efficacy of buprenorphine/naloxone rapidly dissolving sublingual tablets (BNX-RDT) after switching from BNX sublingual film. Journal of Addiction Medicine. 2016;10(2):124-130.
  8. Chilcoat H, Amick H, Sherwood M, et al. Buprenorphine in the United States: Motives for abuse, misuse, and diversion. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2019;104:148-157.
  9. Walton M, Bruce D. Clinical pearls for buprenorphine treatment. Primary Health Care: Open Access. 2021;11(1):1-10.
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