Suboxone is a combination medication, made up of buprenorphine and naloxone, prescribed as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) option for opioid addiction.
Buprenorphine is considered a less potent, semisynthetic opioid. Taking Suboxone as part of a MAT will help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with opioid addiction.
Withdrawal from opioids is intense and painful, and avoiding these symptoms is often why people continue to abuse opioids. Suboxone offers an alternative for those who want or need to stop abusing opioids.
Even though buprenorphine is an opioid, it does not give the same intense high as other opioids, like heroin, hydrocodone, or fentanyl. Buprenorphine also has a cut-off point where it stops, and regardless of how much of the drug is taken after that point, the person will not get any higher.
Suboxone is an important part of the treatment programs being used to combat the opioid epidemic raging across the country. When prescribed as an MAT, the dosage can be tapered down over time so the person can eventually stop taking opioids of any kind.
Suboxone Abuse – The Dangers Of Shooting, Smoking, or Snorting Buprenorphine
Because Suboxone contains an opioid, there is a risk for abuse and addiction. If a person without a tolerance to opioids were to take Suboxone, it is probable that they would get high. The high from buprenorphine could be more intense if snorted, smoked, or injected.
Naloxone was added to buprenorphine, in the form of Suboxone, for that reason. Naloxone blocks opioid receptors in the brain, which renders all opioids in the body useless. Naloxone, on its own, is given to individuals suffering from an opioid overdose, to save lives.
Naloxone is not activated if the medication is taken as prescribed (the pill is to be swallowed). However, if a person chooses to crush, snort, dissolve, or inject Suboxone, the naloxone is activated and the buprenorphine will not work.
If a person who has been addicted to opioids for a long time decides to abuse Suboxone, the moment they snort or inject the medication, they will enter into opioid withdrawal. The naloxone activation will stop all the opioids in their system from working, and withdrawal symptoms will emerge.
Precipitated Opioid Withdrawal From Suboxone Abuse
While opioid withdrawal is not fatal, it does have risk factors that are painful, uncomfortable, and can lead to a variety of health complications.
Some symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:
- goosebumps (piloerection)
- runny nose (rhinorrhea)
- watery eyes (lacrimation)
- dilated pupils (mydriasis)
- repeated yawning
- achy muscles
- cramping/spasming muscles
- restless legs
While none of these symptoms are considered “deadly”, they can cause havoc on a person. It is important to seek assistance from professionals when experiencing severe opioid withdrawal.
Effects Of Suboxone Abuse
Due to the way that Suboxone is manufactured, abusing it by snorting, smoking, or injecting causes the buprenorphine to be rendered useless. Additionally, activating the naloxone in Suboxone can also cause a person with a long-standing opioid addiction to enter withdrawal.
A person abusing Suboxone is also a sign that the current method of treating their opioid addiction is not working and revisiting their treatment plan should be considered.
Perhaps instead of a MAT clinic, the person may want to consider an inpatient or residential treatment facility. Adding in substance abuse treatment counseling may be another option to consider.
Treatment For Suboxone Addiction
Suboxone abuse is considered opioid abuse. If a person is abusing or addicted to Suboxone, an opioid treatment program is recommended. Opioid use disorder has a treatment program that has been created and maintained at the local, state, and federal levels.
Reach out to our addiction treatment specialists today and let us find a program to help you or your loved one find the path to recovery.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- International Journal of Drug Policy - Polysubstance use in rural West Virginia: Associations between latent classes of drug use, overdose, and take-home naloxone
- Pharmacy & Therapeutics - A Review of Abuse-Deterrent Opioids From Chronic Nonmalignant Pain
- Pharmaceutical Dosage Forms and Technology - Abuse Deterrent Opioid Formulations: A Review