Precipitated Withdrawal From Suboxone

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 14, 2021

Precipitated withdrawal is the worsening of opioid withdrawal symptoms. This happens when a person uses Suboxone too early before the body has reached mild to moderate opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Suboxone Precipitated Withdrawal

When a person is detoxing from powerful opioids like heroin or methadone, Suboxone (a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone) eases the symptoms of withdrawal.

However, if a person takes Suboxone too early, the medication can worsen the symptoms of withdrawal instead of helping them. This is called precipitated withdrawal.

Learn more about the side effects of Suboxone

How Does Precipitated Withdrawal Happen?

Precipitated withdrawal occurs because of the effect Suboxone has on opioid receptors.

If a person has been using an opioid drug, which acts as a full opioid agonist, buprenorphine (a partial opioid agonist) will enter in and replace the heroin molecules.

This results in a significantly reduced opioid reaction, which will cause the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.

This will send the body into a state of withdrawal. In order for Suboxone to be most effective, it should be taken only when the stages of opioid withdrawal have begun.

Symptoms Of Precipitated Withdrawal

There is a range of mild to severe symptoms of precipitated withdrawal. While most of the symptoms are not life-threatening, there are some that can present further complications.

The most common symptoms of precipitated withdrawal include:

  • worsened anxiety
  • nausea and vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • headache
  • muscle pains
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • low blood pressure
  • confusion

A person experiencing precipitated withdrawal will usually require further medical assistance, and in some cases, emergency room visits and hospitalization, though those are less common.

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How Quickly Does Precipitated Withdrawal Set In?

Precipitated withdrawal symptoms begin within 30 minutes of administering Suboxone.

For some, this time frame might look shorter or longer depending on how much Suboxone was used.

How Long Do Symptoms Last?

For most people, symptoms of precipitated withdrawal last for a few hours or up to a full day.

The symptoms are usually mild and tolerable for most patients, but symptoms vary depending on the person and might require more medical attention.

Read more about how long Suboxone precipitated withdrawal symptoms last

How Can I Avoid Precipitated Withdrawal?

Avoiding precipitated withdrawal comes down to timing.

According to the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, precipitated withdrawal can be avoided by reducing the dose of the opioid of abuse before starting Suboxone treatment.

It’s best to get assessed by a qualified physician so they can determine whether evidence of opioid withdrawal is there.

If a person is in mild to moderate stages of opioid withdrawal, they can begin Suboxone treatment, starting with low doses to avoid precipitated withdrawal.

How Common Is Precipitated Withdrawal?

Precipitated withdrawal does happen, but it does not happen to everyone who begins Suboxone treatment.

A 2007 study from the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal found that precipitated withdrawal is not an inevitable outcome for those with physical dependence on opioids.

Some people may receive repeated small doses of Suboxone and not experience significant precipitated withdrawal, while others will.

The study’s findings suggest that some patients might have a higher tolerance to opioids, making them less susceptible to precipitated withdrawal.

Get Suboxone Treatment For Opioid Abuse

If you or someone you love are struggling with an opioid use disorder, Suboxone treatment might be the right option.

This treatment method can help the body detox safely and treat the painful and uncomfortable symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

To learn more, call our helpline and speak with a representative today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 14, 2021

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Plymouth, Massachusetts

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