Signs of Suboxone Abuse

How Do I Know If Someone is On Suboxone?

Suboxone, a medication prescribed to treat the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, is frequently prescribed by outpatient addiction treatment centers. Suboxone treatment is an important component of medication-assisted treatment, a treatment approach that emphasizes medicine as well as behavioral interventions. 

Suboxone is a form of opioid replacement therapy. It helps individuals by alleviating the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that normally occur during opioid withdrawal. By mitigating their suffering, a Suboxone prescription can help people gain more from other treatment approaches, such as counseling and group therapy.

When Suboxone is used as prescribed, it can make the addiction treatment process safer and more effective. However, it is crucial to understand that Suboxone is a potent opioid medication with a number of side effects. When people misuse their prescriptions or purchase illicit Suboxone off the streets, they expose themselves to a variety of risks. The end result is that their addictions become worse, mental and physical health complications multiply, and they may even suffer a life-threatening overdose.

Is Suboxone Addiction Possible?

Suboxone is designed to be as non-addictive as possible. Compared to other medications commonly used in opioid replacement therapy, such as methadone, Suboxone has significantly lower rates of abuse. How does Suboxone work?

Suboxone is a combination medication that contains two separate opiates. The active component of Suboxone, buprenorphine, is a partial opioid agonist. Like all opioids, buprenorphine activates opioid receptors. What distinguishes the drug from recreational opioid agonists is that buprenorphine only partially activates opioid receptors. 

When people take Suboxone, they do not get the same surge of dopamine that normally accompanies recreational opioid use. The drug was designed to offer the beneficial effects of opioids, such as pain relief, without providing users with a euphoric high. Even when people take higher doses, the drug’s ceiling effect limits people’s ability to strengthen the euphoric effects. For this reason, most buprenorphine has limited appeal compared to other opiates.

Snorting Suboxone or Using a Suboxone Injection

Would-be drug abusers can obtain a high from buprenorphine by altering the medication and using alternative routes of administration. Doing this with Suboxone is a bit more difficult, since the second component of the medication is Naloxone, an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids and sends people into immediate opioid withdrawal. 

Naloxone does not have much of an effect when Suboxone is taken as prescribed, but when the medication is crushed and dissolved in water to be taken by Suboxone injection the presence of Naloxone prevents people from getting high. Snorting Suboxone also activates the Naloxone and sends people into immediate withdrawal. While the effects of Suboxone when snorted or injected make it an unappealing recreational drug, this does not stop some desperate individuals from trying.

Signs of Suboxone Abuse

Even individuals with legitimate Suboxone prescriptions sometimes misuse or abuse their medications. People may also obtain Suboxone on the street or online. The quality of these illicit medications is often unpredictably, and they are often cut with other substances. Given Suboxone’s limited potential for getting people high, it is most frequently abused by people who are trying to manage the side effects of their opioid addictions. 

These individuals are not necessarily trying to get sober or recover from a substance use disorder. Rather, people who abuse Suboxone do so because it helps them suffer less during the periods when they are unable to obtain drugs. Withdrawal, which for opioid addicts is a particularly excruciating experience, is par for the course for anyone who abuses opioids. Suboxone can help manage these symptoms, and when it is abused the drug functions as an enabler that allows people to continue to engage in their patterns of substance abuse.

Common signs of Suboxone abuse include:

  • Stealing prescriptions from friends, family, or even drug stores
  • Pretending to “lose” prescriptions to obtain greater quantities from a physician
  • Insomnia
  • Being more secretive than usual
  • Headaches
  • Taking higher quantities of Suboxone than prescribed
  • Appearing unusually sedated or drowsy
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Cognitive problems
  • Seeming suddenly “better” despite continuing to abuse other opioids
  • Mixing the drug with other substances, from other opioids to alcohol, in order to get a stronger effect

Individuals who abuse Suboxone alongside other substances are at particular risk. Even people who take medically prescribed doses of Suboxone can increase their risk of overdose when they take Suboxone while continuing to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Alcohol intoxication while on Suboxone has a high rate of mortality

This is because alcohol and Suboxone are both central nervous system depressants. When a Suboxone overdose occurs, a person’s breath can slow or shut down entirely, depriving their brain and vital organs of necessary oxygen. The results can include coma, permanent brain damage, and even death.

Treatment for Suboxone Abuse

While Suboxone can be a beneficial medication for individuals who are following a treatment plan at an outpatient addiction treatment center, it is not right for everyone. Some people are unable to take any kind of opioid without being tempted to engage in substance abuse. 

There are also many people who take illicitly obtained Suboxone in an attempt to manage or control their addictions on their own. It is crucial to understand that without outside help, any attempt to manage or control an addiction is only likely to result in further problems. Suboxone is not a cure for an opioid use disorder. Rather, it is a tool that helps people gain more from the other treatment modalities that treatment centers offer.

If you or a loved one suffers from an opioid use disorder or has problems with Suboxone, it is essential to seek the aid of an outpatient treatment center. They begin by evaluating each person’s needs on a case-by-case basis. 

Outpatient centers devise individualized treatment plans that help individuals withdraw from opioids, develop new coping tools, repair their lives, and move forward into a future that is happy, joyous and free. Addiction, like any medical problem, can be treated. It’s just a matter of reaching out for help.

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