Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist often prescribed to treat withdrawal and addiction to full opioid agonists like heroin or morphine. It is considered safer than methadone, which is used to treat opioid withdrawals but is prone to abuse, addiction, and overdose.
People that suffer from opioid addiction may be prescribed Suboxone, which contains naloxone and buprenorphine. Although it typically comes in pill form or strips for sublingual injection, it may be abused through the method of dissolving strips and injecting or plugging, or by snorting pills.
Medications like Suboxone are important for people who are physically dependent on opioids, because the medications bind to opioid receptors in the brain, helping the brain release dopamine and keeping people feeling “normal.” This FDA-approved treatment, when not abused, is a true lifesaver for people at risk of overdose or who may experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms from other drugs.
Why Do People Plug Suboxone?
People plug Suboxone because it increases the bioavailability of the buprenorphine, which may produce a high. For people who are new to opioid drug use, Suboxone is seen as a safe drug to try. However, plugging the drug may lead to higher instances of addiction, withdrawals, and negative experiences.
People may seek a more prolonged, mellow “high” feeling from the drug through dopamine release. When it is injected or snorted, the naloxone will work to block opioid receptors and cause negative withdrawal-like effects because the opioid is made ineffective. Many people abuse Subutex instead, as it doesn’t contain naloxone.
Perceptions Of Suboxone As A Safe Opioid
In addition to the prolonged, “safe” feeling high for newer opioid use cases, Suboxone is abused by people with opioid use disorder. Plugging is a common method of drug abuse with this drug.
Plugging leads to more effective buprenorphine release for people that normally use heavier drugs like hydrocodone or fentanyl. In these cases, the feelings of euphoria, well-being, and general opioid-related effects are milder (but may feel more intense for people without a history of substance use disorder).
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Suboxone, like methadone and buprenorphine, reduces cravings for heroin or opioid prescription painkillers like oxycodone (Oxycontin). It also eases both physical and psychological symptoms that people struggle with during withdrawal and detox.
Side Effects Of Plugging Suboxone
Plugging Suboxone, and Suboxone abuse, generally carries negative side effects. These effects may be exacerbated when the drug is taken rectally by plugging.
In the short-term, people may experience the following side effects of plugging Suboxone:
- drowsiness and fatigue
- nausea and vomiting
- dry mouth
- muscle aches and cramps
- blurred vision
- dilated pupils
Dangers Of Plugging Suboxone
Plugging drugs like Suboxone is effective because it delivers the drug more directly to the bloodstream through the rectal blood vessels. The increased bioavailability of the drug from lack of breakdown and the direct administration means that effects are typically felt more quickly.
With other opioids or benzodiazepines, this dosing method creates very strong but short highs prone to overdose. And beyond the potential for overdose and negative side effects, the use of drugs like Suboxone rectally can have unpleasant physical effects.
Without proper sterile applicators and lubrication, continuous rectal drug use can cause rectal bleeding, damage to the rectum or anus, internal bleeding, and general discomfort.
Long-Term Risks Of Plugging Suboxone
Prolonged Suboxone use at high doses of Suboxone use alongside other opioids, alcohol, or benzodiazepines may create dangerous health circumstances.
Because of the opioid’s central nervous system depressant properties, the risk of respiratory depression, coma, and death are always possible results of overdose. Although Suboxone is seen as a safe drug to use, the risk of opioid overdose death is very real.
Whenever Suboxone is taken in excess, or alongside other central nervous depressants like alcohol or benzos, there is a risk of an opioid overdose.
By plugging an opioid drug, the perceived effects may wear off faster than the drug can be processed by the body — resulting in an overdose.
Symptoms of opioid overdose include:
- stopped or disrupted breathing (apnea)
- nausea and vomiting
- high blood pressure
Buprenorphine Addiction And Withdrawal Symptoms
Although buprenorphine-based medications are prescribed by healthcare professionals for legitimate, helpful opioid treatment, the medication may still be addictive. This addiction medicine, when abused and misused as a gateway opioid or substitute for stronger drugs, can cause dependence and withdrawals.
Opioid withdrawals may be psychological, like cravings, or physical dependence, which is the body’s reaction to the absence of a drug. The physical withdrawal symptoms may require medical management for safe detox.
Some opioid withdrawals symptoms that people may experience with Suboxone include:
- mood swings
- feelings of sadness and nervousness
- gastrointestinal issues
- flu symptoms (headache, fever, sweating)
- tingly or hot skin
- aches and pains
- rapid heartbeat
- intense cravings
Getting Help With Suboxone Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid drug addiction, help is available. Our substance abuse treatment specialists are equipped to put you on the path to recovery. Treatment options range from outpatient behavioral therapy to supervised inpatient detox treatment.
Treatment for opioid abuse is attainable and sober living is possible. Give us a call today to get started.
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.
- ScienceDirect — Rectal Administration
- Medscape — Buprenorphine/Naloxone
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Buprenorphine