Suboxone is a medication that is commonly prescribed for treating individuals suffering from opioid addiction. The medication is actually comprised of a combination of two separate drugs, buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine works by activating opioid receptors, thereby satisfying the needs of individuals who are physically dependent on opioid drugs.
However, buprenorphine is unique in that it activates opioid receptors without offering the same high as other recreational opioids. Naloxone is a component of Suboxone because it makes the drug more difficult to abuse; injecting buprenorphine alone can indeed result in a high, but the presence of naloxone prevents this by sending would-be abusers into immediate opioid withdrawal. Suboxone treatment along with methadone treatment are the two most common methods of opioid replacement therapy.
Suboxone prescriptions are usually written in the context of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program and require significant supervision. While Suboxone can be used as an effective tool for treating opioid use disorder, it is also a powerful opioid with potentially significant side effects that can be dangerous when the drug is misused.
Short-Term Suboxone Side Effects
Physicians generally recommend that individuals begin a course of Suboxone treatment shortly after they stop taking their recreational opioid of choice. The drug is designed to mitigate the severe withdrawal symptoms that generally accompany the cessation of opioid use. While Suboxone does reduce physical symptoms, mood swings, and even cravings, during the initial phase of Suboxone treatment it is likely that individuals will experience some degree of opioid withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:
- Sleep problems, including insomnia
- Mood swings
- Dilated pupils
- Teary eyes
- Uncontrollable leg movements
- Muscle and bone pain
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Cold flashes and goosebumps
- Severe cravings
Once symptoms of withdrawal stabilize, physicians generally recommend that individuals in recovery stay on a steady and regular dose of Suboxone while they pursue addiction treatment. This phase, known as the maintenance phase, is designed to help individuals stabilize themselves so that they can treat their addictions using a variety of other treatment modalities.
Long Term Suboxone Side Effects
By staying on a steady dose of Suboxone, individuals are able to pursue psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and engage in support groups without being distracted by extreme cravings of the physical anguish of full withdrawal. By building their skills and developing a strong program of sobriety, they become better prepared to deal with Suboxone withdrawal down the line. Nonetheless, during this maintenance phase, Suboxone does have a number of short-term side effects. These include:
- Gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, vomiting, and constipation
- Muscle Aches
- Slowed breathing
The maintenance phase can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, depending on the needs and circumstances of the individual. When a physician deems it appropriate to do so, however, they will initiate a tapering phase. Tapering, sometimes known as weaning, involves gradually lowering the dosage of Suboxone. The process is done slowly and under careful supervision to limit the symptoms of withdrawal.
Nonetheless, it is inevitable that an individual tapering their dosage of Suboxone will experience some degree of the withdrawal symptoms listed above. However, if they have actively engaged in an addiction treatment program and are continuing to manage their substance use disorder, they are generally well-prepared to handle this ordeal.
Effects of Suboxone Abuse
While Suboxone is designed to have a limited abuse potential, the drug, like any opioid, is possible to misuse and abuse. Misuse refers to people who take prescribed Suboxone incorrectly and fail to follow the guidelines of their physician. Abuse, on the other hand, involves deliberate off-label usage of Suboxone. Individuals who abuse Suboxone often obtain it illicitly over the black market.
While most people who abuse Suboxone do so not to get high, but to obtain relief from the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, they expose themselves to a number of risks by doing so. Suboxone is a potent opioid that is best taken in the context of a formal addiction treatment program. When it is used incorrectly, this normally helpful medication can actually make substance use disorders more severe.
Buprenorphine can be injected and can therefore be abused to get users high. Suboxone contains buprenorphine, but does Suboxone get you high? Individuals who inject Suboxone without an understanding of naloxone are often in for a nasty surprise. The presence of naloxone sends individuals into immediate opioid withdrawal when the drug is injected.
Abrupt, unexpected, and unsupervised opioid withdrawal can be extremely dangerous, especially for individuals with underlying medical conditions.
Some people also take Suboxone along with other recreational drugs in order to strengthen the effects of Suboxone. While Suboxone cannot provide the same euphoria as a heroin high, when it is abused with other drugs recreational users can sometimes approximate this effect.
Unfortunately, taking Suboxone with other drugs results in dangerous drug interactions that can be dangerous. Suboxone and alcohol, Suboxone and benzodiazepines, and Suboxone and other opioids are all combinations that increase the likelihood of an overdose. According to the World Health Organization, an opioid overdose can be recognized by a triad of three main symptoms:
- Pinpoint pupils
- Respiratory depression.
Individuals generally begin Suboxone treatment in the context of an outpatient drug treatment program. Doing so allows them to mitigate withdrawal symptoms sufficiently so that they can be responsive to other treatment modalities, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. If you or a loved one is suffering from an opioid use disorder, enrolling in an outpatient program that offers medication-assisted therapy (MAT) is highly recommended.
For individuals who are abusing Suboxone, either to get high or as a way of managing the deleterious effects of withdrawal, enrolling in an outpatient program is also essential. While Suboxone can indeed be an effective tool for managing withdrawal, trying to do this on ones own is likely to exacerbate the substance use disorder. Detoxing in the context of a supportive outpatient treatment program offers people the highest chances of avoiding relapse and remaining sober over the long-term. Start your journey towards sobriety. Get in touch with us today!