Suboxone Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment Resources

Last Medical Reviewer On: March 30, 2024
Updated On: Nov 1, 2023
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Written by:

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Medical Review by:

Dr. Po Chang Hsu MD, MS

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    Suboxone is a combination of two drugs called buprenorphine and naloxone. Suboxone’s main purpose is to help people stop abusing opioids. However, what many people don’t know is that it is also possible to get addicted to Suboxone. But what is Suboxone addiction, and what are its risks?


    What is Suboxone?

    Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist-antagonist, which means it partially stimulates opioid receptors in the brain to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings without producing the full euphoric effect that opioids do. It contains buprenorphine (a partial opioid agonist) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist). This also reduces the severe cravings and pain that often occur when a person is going through opioid withdrawal. Suboxone binds to these receptors instead but does not produce a high as opioids do. However, some people misuse this drug so that it does produce a high.

    Side Effects of Suboxone

    In 2014 alone, 1.9 million people in the United States had an opioid use disorder related to prescription pain relievers.[1] Those with opioid use disorders are often prescribed Suboxone to help them deal with their withdrawal symptoms.

    While Suboxone can be helpful when used properly, it can also cause some unpleasant side effects. Some of the most common side effects include nausea, vomiting, numb mouth, excessive sweating, and dizziness. Some people may faint and experience problems concentrating or remembering things.

    Suboxone is a Schedule III drug, meaning it has medical use but also a significant potential for abuse. It is important only to take this drug as prescribed. Common names for this drug include Boxes, Oranges, Sobos, Stops, and Bupes.

    How is Suboxone Taken?

    Suboxone is available in the form of sublingual tablets and films. The drug goes under your tongue, slowly dissolving through the thin lingual membranes and entering your blood. Only once it travels to your brain will it start working. When you misuse Suboxone by taking it in other ways, an addiction may be more likely to form.

    Misusing the drug involves melting and injecting it or snorting it.

    Suboxone Quick Reference

    Commercial & Street Names DEA Schedule Administration
    Suboxone Buprenorphine, naloxone, Boxes, Oranges, Stops, Bupes Schedule III Sublingual tablets/films

    Statistics on Suboxone Use, Misuse, and Addiction

    Buprenorphine misuse decreased between 2015 and 2019, but that doesn’t mean that Suboxone addiction has disappeared altogether.[2] Many people with severe substance use disorders still get addicted to this substance, even though its main purpose is to help people overcome their addiction problems.

    There is not much Suboxone addiction potential when you take the drug as prescribed. It is more likely when people misuse it. This is one of the reasons why Suboxone treatment centers are great for helping people avoid drug misuse.


    Effects of Suboxone Abuse

    Those who are abusing Suboxone may become apathetic and sluggish. They may experience nausea, vomiting, constipation, stomach pain, and slowed thinking. During the first few moments of Suboxone abuse, a euphoric feeling will occur, followed by an unpleasant crash. This crash may cause people to abuse more Suboxone so they can continue feeling good.

    Can You Overdose on Suboxone?

    It is possible to overdose on this drug if you misuse it. An overdose is also more likely if you mix this substance with other drugs, like opioids or alcohol. However, taking the drug as prescribed has little to no overdose risks.

    Signs and Symptoms of Suboxone Overdose

    Common signs of Suboxone overdose include shallow breathing, a slow heart rate, clammy skin, and abdominal pain. Some may experience nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and even coma, seizures, or death.

    What to do if you suspect someone is overdosing on Suboxone?

    Overdosing on Suboxone can be fatal, which is why you need to act fast to make sure that the person gets the medical treatment they need. Call 911 and stay with the person until the paramedics arrive. If they aren’t breathing, try to stimulate their heart by performing CPR.

    Dangers of Long-Term Suboxone Use

    The longer a person uses this drug, the more likely they will be to develop a dependence on it. This could eventually turn into an addiction. After taking Suboxone for more than six months, you may notice an increased sensitivity to pain as well as feelings of depression or anxiety. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, fatigue, and difficulty maintaining relationships with people.

    Mixing Suboxone with Other Drugs

    It is not a good idea to mix Suboxone with other drugs, especially illicit drugs. Mixing it with alcohol could also cause problems. Abusing other drugs in addition to Suboxone could lead to seizures, coma, and death.


    Suboxone Addiction and Abuse

    Out of everyone who takes buprenorphine for opioid addiction management, the vast majority (more than 340,000) use Suboxone in contrast to any other form of the drug in the USA in a 2008 study.[3] Some people may find themselves unintentionally dependent and addicted to this drug after taking it for many months. While Suboxone is designed to minimize euphoria to deter abuse, its partial opioid agonist component, buprenorphine, can still produce mild euphoric effects, especially in individuals without a tolerance to opioids. The presence of naloxone in Suboxone serves to counteract misuse primarily through injection, as it can precipitate withdrawal symptoms when abused in this manner.

    Signs of Addiction to Suboxone

    Those who are addicted to Suboxone may have a runny nose, watery eyes, clammy skin, and mood changes. They may be more irritable or secretive. They may try to get Suboxone prescriptions from several different doctors so they don’t run out. They may have drug paraphernalia around their home, such as syringes or crushed tablets.


    Suboxone Addiction and Mental Health

    When using Suboxone for many months, it can cause anxiety and depression. Some people may feel panicked or paranoid for no good reason. Others may become more irritable and even aggressive, especially if they haven’t had Suboxone for some time.

    Cutting Agents Used for Suboxone

    It is important to distinguish between Suboxone obtained through legitimate medical channels, which is unlikely to be adulterated, and illicit drugs, which may be cut with various substances. Suboxone, when prescribed and dispensed in regulated healthcare settings, is typically not cut with other drugs.

    Suboxone Addiction Treatment

    • The length of Suboxone addiction treatment will depend on the severity of your addiction, but most people stay more than 90 days
    • Detox and therapy are the main components of treatment
    • The cost will vary depending on your program, but it will most likely be around a thousand dollars or more
    • The most effective treatment options include outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment along with detox and partial hospitalization programs

    Therapies Used in Suboxone Addiction Treatment

    • Cognitive behavioral therapy
    • Holistic therapy
    • Group therapy
    • Mindfulness
    • Art therapy

    Suboxone Withdrawal Management Treatment

    The first week of withdrawal will be the hardest. The next couple of weeks will become easier until the drug is out of your system. You can then focus more on therapy and other treatments to get back on your feet.

    Drugs Used in Suboxone Withdrawal Management

    Clonidine is one of the first medications that doctors might use to ease a person’s withdrawal symptoms. OTC medications like Tylenol or Advil are also useful for easing body pains and headaches.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Who Uses Suboxone?
    Does Everyone Become Addicted to Suboxone?
    What Is the Suboxone Withdrawal Process?
    How Long Do People Use Suboxone?

    Are your or a loved one struggling with Suboxone use?

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