Suboxone is an addictive drug that doctors and health caregivers often prescribe to patients struggling with opioid addiction as part of a complete treatment program. It contains the active ingredients buprenorphine and naloxone. The drug is effective in helping opioid addicts gradually taper off the addictive drugs and eventually stay clean.
Unfortunately, Suboxone also has a high propensity for abuse and addiction that opens up a whole new can of worms for addicts. It is categorized as a controlled substance (CIII) because it can be targeted by persons who abuse prescription medications or street drugs.
Suboxone poses risks, side effects, and withdrawal symptoms just like other opioids such as heroin and others. Abusing Suboxone is literally jumping from the fire into the frying pan, and its effects/side effects can be chronic, sometimes even fatal.
How Suboxone Works
As mentioned earlier, Suboxone is a combination of active ingredients buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine reduces the effects of opioids by blocking them from attaching to the brain receptors that cause addiction. It does that by attaching itself to those very receptors. Naloxone, an opioid antagonist, blocks opioid receptors, which inhibits the body from experiencing the opioid effects.
This combination is designed to prevent users from abusing Suboxone, as they cannot get a high similar to the one abusers get from other opioids.
However, Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist, hence, it produces the same albeit milder effects delivered by opioids by attaching to the same brain opioid receptors, which produces a high.
Suboxone Is Not For You If
Suboxone is not for everyone. Some people with certain conditions could be adversely affected if they used the drug without clearance. Before prescribing Suboxone to you, your healthcare giver will want to know if you have one or more the following:
- Lung problems or trouble breathing
- Problems urinating
- Mental problems such as hallucinations.
- Hypothyroidism - low thyroid hormone levels
- Liver or kidney issues
- Gallbladder issues
- An enlarged prostate gland (men)
- Adrenal gland issues
- Addison’s disease
- A history of alcoholism
- A head or brain injury problem
- Scoliosis - a curve in your spine that affects your breathing
- Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant
- Are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed
- If you are on medication, including prescription drugs, over‑the‑counter medicines, vitamins or herbal supplements.
Suboxone Side Effects
The active ingredients in Suboxone have both minor and major side effects. Do not take Suboxone if you are allergic to any of them, as they can cause severe negative side effects, including anaphylactic shock. They can also cause serious and sometimes fatal breathing problems.
Minor side effects include:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Slowed breathing than is normal for you
- Painful urination
- Fever or chills
- Back pain
Major side effects include:
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty thinking well or clearly
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Drowsiness and unusual fatigue
- Feeling sleepy and uncoordinated
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Slowed reflexes and breathing
Withdrawal Caused by Suboxone
In addition to the above side effects, buprenorphine also causes withdrawal. If a person has been taking Suboxone for a prolonged period of time and abruptly stops taking it, they suffer withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced when taking other forms of opiates. The severity of symptoms depends on the duration, method, and quantity used.
Call your healthcare giver right away or get emergency help if you experience any these withdrawal symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive sweating
- Mood swings
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
If you have any underlying issues like depression or anxiety, they can be made worse by these withdrawal symptoms. This can easily cause a patient to spiral out of control leading to dependency and eventually abuse of Suboxone. It is worth mentioning at this point that physical dependence is not the same as drug addiction. With early intervention, physical dependence can be repressed. Talk to your healthcare giver to learn more about the differences between physical dependence on Suboxone and addiction.
Safety and Precautionary Information on Suboxone
- Keep Suboxone in a secure place away from the reach of children. If your child accidentally takes Suboxone, treat that as a medical emergency and get emergency help right away, as it can lead to death.
- If you are pregnant and take Suboxone, your baby may develop symptoms of opioid withdrawal at birth; a condition known as Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS). Luckily, NOWS can be treated.
- Suboxone is not recommended for occasional use or for use as needed.
- Do not take Suboxone before the effects of other opioids you may have taken wear off, as you may experience withdrawal symptoms.
- Do not switch from Suboxone to other medications that contain buprenorphine as the amount differs with different drugs. Talk to your healthcare provider first.
- Do not stop taking prescribed Suboxone without talking to your healthcare provider as you may develop withdrawal symptoms.
- Taking Suboxone with sedatives, antidepressants, benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, or alcohol is a recipe for disaster that can lead to death.
- Do not 'shoot‐up' aka inject Suboxone as you may overdose, develop life‐threatening breathing problems, get an infection, or develop other serious health problems. In extreme cases, it may cause death.Injecting Suboxone may also trigger severe withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, pain, cramps, sleep problems, cravings, and anxiety.
- Never share your prescribed Suboxone with anyone else even if you share the exact, same symptoms; it can cause considerable harm or even death. Death has actually been reported among opioid users who are not opioid dependent.
- You risk being prosecuted if found selling Suboxone.
There’s a big debate surrounding the use of Suboxone as addiction treatment. While it has helped thousands of people overcome their addictions, Suboxone is also responsible for many dependence and addiction cases. The recovery hurdles alone causes many people to remain apprehensive about starting on them in the first place.
Talk to your healthcare giver before you begin treatment with Suboxone or any other treatment for that matter.