Risks With Mixing Suboxone And Alcohol
Opioid replacement therapy is an effective treatment approach for individuals who suffer from opioid use disorder. Suboxone, a prescription medication commonly used for opioid replacement therapy, is generally prescribed after a person has stopped taking the opiate to which they are addicted. Suboxone helps individuals handle the process of detoxing and quitting opiates by mitigating the cravings and severe symptoms that normally accompany opioid withdrawal.
While Suboxone is more difficult to abuse than other opioid replacement therapy drugs, such as methadone and buprenorphine, it does come with some risks. When individuals do not follow a treatment plan and continue to abuse other substances while taking Suboxone, they can put their health in significant danger. In particular, mixing Suboxone and alcohol can be life-threatening.
Can You Get High on Suboxone?
Suboxone, which is available in a number of formulations ranging from the Suboxone pill to Suboxone strips, is actually a combination medication consisting of two different opiates: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine, the active ingredient of Suboxone, is sometimes prescribed on its own. Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist, which means it activates opioid receptors only partially and does not release the same quantities of dopamine (the brain’s feel-good chemical) as recreational opiates do.
As such, buprenorphine satisfies the cravings that opioid-dependent individuals experience, but it does so without resulting in a notable high. Buprenorphine is effective on its own, but it can be abused. Merely taking higher doses of buprenorphine is unlikely to increase the high.
Buprenorphine is notable for having a “ceiling effect,” meaning that increasing the dosage after a certain point does not result in stronger effects. Nonetheless, people can abuse buprenorphine by crushing and injecting it. Suboxone includes a second drug, naloxone, which prevents this; when naloxone is injected, this opioid antagonist actually sends people into immediate opioid withdrawal. This makes it difficult to get high off of Suboxone alone.
Combining Alcohol and Suboxone
Nonetheless, Suboxone is a powerful prescription medication. While it may be more difficult to abuse it, individuals who continue to engage in substance abuse while taking Suboxone put themselves at considerable risk. As an opioid medication, Suboxone is a central nervous system depressant. Taking the medically recommended doses of a Suboxone prescription is safe, but when a person combines Suboxone with another central nervous system depressant, it can be too much for the body to handle.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Individuals taking Suboxone who continue to abuse alcohol can exacerbate the negative side effects of Suboxone while exposing themselves to new risks. Some of the effects of mixing Suboxone and alcohol include:
- Dizziness, headache, blurred vision, and fainting spells
- Stomach issues, including nausea, constipation, and vomiting
- Impaired motor control
- Erratic behavior
- Heart palpitations, blood pressure issues, and an increased potential for heart attacks
- Cognitive and memory problems
- Slowed or difficulty breathing
- Increased risk of overdose
Using alcohol alongside Suboxone can potentially be fatal. The most common cause of overdose is respiratory depression, which both substances contribute to. Respiratory depression can cause slow and ineffective breathing, which can prevent organs, body tissue, and the brain from getting enough blood. The respiratory system can also stop entirely during an overdose. Decreased blood flow and respiratory depression can cause life-threatening damage to the body’s organs and its brain.
Even individuals who do not overdose, however, are likely to suffer considerably from the side effects of this drug combination. Erratic behavior and cognitive impairment makes people more likely to get involved in accidents or put themselves into unsafe circumstances. They are also more likely to develop dangerous physical and mental health disorders, including stroke, heart attacks, live failure, cancer, depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
However, the most important immediate result of abusing alcohol during Suboxone treatment is that a person will exacerbate their opioid use disorder. Suboxone treatment can be effective when it is taken in the context of an addiction treatment program. These programs usually necessitate remaining clean and sober. They also involve participating in other treatment modalities, such as cognitive-behavior therapy, group therapy, and support groups. Individuals who abuse alcohol while taking Suboxone are by definition not sober, and they are unlikely to gain any benefits from these other treatment modalities, if they even participate in them at all.
Outpatient Treatment Center For Opioid Use Disorder in Los Angeles
If you or a loved one suffers from an opioid use disorder, Suboxone treatment can be a useful aid for detoxing. An outpatient treatment center can help develop a medication-assisted treatment program (MAT) that meets your needs. Medication-assisted treatment plans utilize a combination of opioid replacement therapy and behavioral counseling, providing individuals in recovery with a comprehensive patient-centered approach to addiction treatment. It should be emphasized that Suboxone is not a cure of addiction, but a tool that supports people while they pursue other treatment methods simultaneously.
It is also not recommended for everyone, especially people who suffer from Suboxone addiction or continue to engage with substance abuse with alcohol or other drugs. An outpatient treatment center can evaluate a person’s needs on a case-by-case basis to design an individualized treatment plan. This plan might or might not involve Suboxone medication.
However, by reaching out for help and working with an outpatient treatment center, a person can achieve sobriety, no matter how severe their opioid use disorder is. Get in touch with us today!