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

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On November 13, 2023

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When you mix buprenorphine and naloxone, you get Suboxone. Both buprenorphine and naloxone on their own are useful for treating opioid withdrawal symptoms. Mixing them creates a very efficient product for this purpose, but it also has addiction potential.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone has been used for a long time to treat opioid substance abuse. It is technically an opioid medication, but it works differently than the opioid painkillers many people get addicted to. Opioid painkillers are called opioid agonists, which can cause euphoria based on the way the drug’s molecules bind to the brain. Subuxone is an opioid antagonist, which blocks the same opioid receptors and prevents a person from experiencing euphoria.

Since it targets the same receptors, it can reduce the cravings people might have for opioids. While Suboxone has a low risk of addiction, it is still possible to get addicted to it, especially when it is misused. It is also a very commonly prescribed drug. Out of the 4.3 million people who misused opioids in 2014, many of them used Suboxone to help with their cravings.[1]

Street names for this drug include Boxes, Oranges, Sobos, Stops, and Bupes.

Side Effects of Suboxone

Suboxone is a Schedule III drug, and it goes by many names when sold on the street, including stops, bupes, sobos, and oranges. Its most common side effects include numbness, tingling, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and headaches. Some may experience tongue pain, back pain, drowsiness, and blurred vision.

How is Suboxone Taken?

Suboxone is almost always taken sublingually in the form of a tablet or film. You need to put the film over your tongue and hold it there until it dissolves through your lingual membranes and enters the blood. Sublingual administration is faster than the oral route, but slower than injecting it. It should take around 20 minutes for the drug to start working.

Some people misuse the drug by melting and injecting it. This causes instant effects and can lead to addiction.

What is a Suboxone Treatment Center?

Suboxone treatment centers are specialized facilities that offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for people who are struggling with opioid addiction. In addition to administering Suboxone to reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms, these treatment centers often provide counseling, behavioral therapies, and support groups. 

Treatment plans are typically tailored to each individual’s needs, and the duration of treatment can vary depending on the severity of the addiction and the patient’s progress. The goal of a Suboxone treatment center isn’t just to reduce physical dependence on opioids, but also to address the underlying psychological aspects of opioid addiction. In the context of a treatment center, suboxone can be a useful tool to combat opioid addiction. However, there is potential for misuse of suboxone outside of a clinical setting. 

Statistics on Suboxone Use, Misuse, and Addiction

In 2019, three quarters of people who used buprenorphine did not misuse it.[2] However, just because the percentage that does misuse it is small doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem. Many people start misusing Suboxone because they can’t stand the feeling of not using real opioids. They may try anything to scratch that itch, including melting Suboxone sublingual films and injecting them or crushing the tablets and snorting them.

Effects of Suboxone Abuse

While Suboxone can’t cause the same euphoria as regular opioids, it can still cause dependence and addiction. The effects of Suboxone abuse often involve secretiveness. Some may want to hide all the Suboxone they’re taking or how they’re misusing it. They may try getting prescriptions from different doctors so they don’t run out.

Those who abuse this drug may lose weight and experience financial problems due to their excessive buying of Suboxone. Some may have drug paraphernalia around the house, such as syringes or pill powder.

Can You Overdose on Suboxone?

Overdosing on Suboxone is difficult because one of its main ingredients, naloxone, is meant to prevent misuse and overdoses. However, it is still possible to overdose on this medication if you take massive amounts or if you mix it with other substances. Some may mix it with opioid agonists, like painkillers, which may lead to an overdose more than the Suboxone itself.

Signs and Symptoms of Suboxone Overdose

Suboxone overdoses are very similar to opioid overdoses. They include abdominal pain, nausea, seizures, slowed heartbeat, coma, and sometimes death. Many people who overdose end up unresponsive, even if you make loud noises or inflict pain to try and wake them up.

Since overdosing on Suboxone is potentially fatal, you should call 911 as soon as you can. Once the paramedics arrive, they can try to reverse the overdose and treat the person’s symptoms so they have the best chance of survival.

Dangers of Long-Term Suboxone Use

Suboxone is rarely used for more than a year. If a person uses it longer than that, they may experience symptoms such as anxiety, depression, increased pain sensitivity, confusion, nausea, and fatigue. If taken in very high doses, the medication may eventually damage your liver and kidneys.

Mixing Suboxone with Other Drugs

Some people will mix Suboxone with alcohol, opioid painkillers, or other drugs. Mixing Suboxone with anything will increase the risk of overdose and other adverse symptoms. It may also make it more likely for an addiction to form.

Suboxone Addiction and Abuse Potential

In 2009, 340,000 people with opioid use disorders were prescribed Suboxone, while a much smaller percentage preferred to use generic buprenorphine.[3] Suboxone addictions can form without people even realizing it. After taking Suboxone for a long time, you may develop a dependence and feel that it is difficult or impossible to stop taking the substance. This can lead to severe addiction as well as misuse. Suboxone treatment centers can stop this problem in its tracks.

Signs of Addiction to Suboxone

Many people who become addicted to Suboxone may experience financial problems because they are purchasing the medication from several places. They may get several prescriptions from different doctors, or they may buy the substance off the street. They may also experience social isolation. Instead of benefiting from Suboxone uses, they start to reap the disadvantages.

They may block themselves off from others and spend much of their time alone abusing Suboxone.

Cutting Agents Used for Suboxone

Prescription Suboxone is not cut with anything. Suboxone sold on the street may include dangerous ingredients, such as opioid painkillers, stimulants, or fillers such as cat litter and rat poison.

Suboxone Addiction Treatment

Regular outpatient treatment works well for most people suffering from a Suboxone addiction. If you feel you need some extra support, you can always try an intensive outpatient or trauma informed care program. Choosing the right program for your needs is essential for your recovery.

Therapies Used in Suboxone Addiction Treatment

DBT, ACT, and CBT are all very useful types of therapy that will help you get beyond your addiction. They will teach you how to solve problems in your life without turning to drug use as a crutch. Hypnotherapy, yoga therapy, and art therapy are also great options if you want to try a more holistic approach.

Dual Diagnosis for Co-Occurring Disorders

Those who get addicted to Suboxone may have an opioid use disorder. They may also have depression or anxiety and not know how to deal with those feelings other than by abusing various substances.  Both the addiction and any underlying conditions that may have contributed to the addiction must be addressed at the same time for the best chance at recovery.

Suboxone Withdrawal Management Treatment

Detoxing is a major step in putting your addiction behind you. This process is difficult for many people because the brain has to relearn how to function without the presence of Suboxone. Once the drug is out of your system, your recovery will be much smoother from there.

Drugs Used in Suboxone Withdrawal Management

Clonidine may be used to minimize the severity of a person’s withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings. OTC pain medications may also be useful for treating headaches and body aches.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Addictive Is Suboxone?

Because this substance is an opioid antagonist rather than an agonist, the Suboxone addiction potential isn’t naturally very powerful, especially when taken as prescribed. However, when it is misused or taken with other substances, it becomes far more addictive. This can also lead to dangerous consequences, such as overdose or organ damage. 

Why Do People Abuse Suboxone?

Many people abuse this drug because they can’t get their hands on opioid painkillers. While Suboxone has a very different effect than ordinary opioids, it can still scratch the itch a person with an opioid addiction might feel. However, those who misuse Suboxone may soon stop when they find that Suboxone does not produce the same euphoria as opioids. Others may develop a dependence. 

What Are The Symptoms of Suboxone Withdrawal?

Common withdrawal symptoms include excessive sweating, fever, tremors, anxiety, depression, nausea, and abdominal cramps. In more severe cases, some may have seizures or go into a coma. Severe withdrawal symptoms are more common in those who have used Suboxone for a long time. They are also more common in those who stop using Suboxone suddenly, also known as going cold turkey. 

 

To avoid these side effects, it is best to go through a professional detox. This allows you to slowly wean off the substance so that the process is as safe as possible.

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Sources

[1]  Velander J. R. (2018). Suboxone: Rationale, Science, Misconceptions. The Ochsner journal, 18(1), 23–29. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5855417/ on May 26, 2023.

[2] NIDA. 2021, October 15. Buprenorphine misuse decreased among U.S. adults with opioid use disorder from 2015-2019. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/2021/10/buprenorphine-misuse-decreased-among-us-adults-with-opioid-use-disorder-from-2015-2019 on 2023, May 26.

[3] Ling W. (2012). Buprenorphine implant for opioid addiction. Pain management, 2(4), 345–350. https://doi.org/10.2217/pmt.12.26. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4283787/ on May 26, 2023.