Suboxone Addiction—Abuse And Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on May 11, 2020

While Suboxone is typically used to treat addiction to opioids, the medication can result in mild addiction, which can halt recovery progress. Treatment for Suboxone addiction can help individuals stop use, alter behavior to manage recovery, and learn alternative ways to cope with withdrawal symptoms.

Suboxone Addiction And Treatment Options

While Suboxone is typically used to treat opioid dependence, the medication can lead to mild addiction and should be used only as directed.

Abusing Suboxone can hinder a person’s addiction recovery progress, as they may become preoccupied with abusing Suboxone in lieu of abusing more potent opioids.

To combat this pattern, medication-assisted treatment programs work to closely monitor a person’s progress while using Suboxone and eliminate abuse.

Treatment for Suboxone addiction can help individuals quit use of the medication and find alternative ways to treat opioid dependence.

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone (buprenorphine) is an opioid agonist medication used to treat opioid addiction. Though Suboxone is itself an opioid, it does not produce the immediate euphoria that comes with abuse of other opioids. It is available as a tablet and as a sublingual.

Because of this, individuals can’t experience a “high” from abusing Suboxone. For this reason, the medication is often incredibly useful in treating opioid dependence. With it, individuals can get opioid-like effects to manage withdrawal symptoms without the desired high.

This means they can eventually taper use of the medication until they no longer need it, but can use it during treatment to remain comfortable.

Unfortunately, individuals in recovery are vulnerable to strong psychological cravings. Without necessarily meaning to, they may abuse their Suboxone medication in an attempt to replace the desired effects they once had with more potent opioids.

How People Become Addicted To Suboxone

Addiction is a psychological reliance on a substance or activity. It occurs when a person forms a habit, comes to rely on that habit for happiness, and becomes preoccupied with seeking the source of the desired effects.

Individuals who abuse their Suboxone may rely on it to produce the effects which are similar to that of other opioids: relaxation and calm. They may buy Suboxone from others, sell it on the street, or use it in a way other than directed in an attempt to get high.

These are signals of an addiction. Because Suboxone does not produce euphoria, it does not have the same addictive effects as other opioids. Yet, Suboxone can lead to physical dependence if a person continually abuses it, meaning their body can come to rely on the drug to function.

Signs And Symptoms Of A Suboxone Addiction

Suboxone addiction may appear mild in comparison to addiction to other opioids. Most people with Suboxone readily available were already in treatment for opioid addiction, which can make identifying a separate addiction difficult.

The following signs and symptoms may point to a Suboxone addiction:

  • lying about medication use or being secretive
  • packages or unidentified tablets or medications at a person’s home or work
  • uncharacteristic behavior
  • withdrawal symptoms, such as headache, nausea, or muscle pain
  • changing methods of use of Suboxone
  • changing dosage methods without direction from a doctor

Side Effects Of Suboxone Abuse

When taken as directed Suboxone does not produce euphoria (surge of feelings of happiness). However, some people may crush and snort the tablets to produce instant effects which may be similar to a high.

The most common effects of Suboxone are calm, relaxation, and central nervous system depression.

Side effects of Suboxone abuse may include:

  • euphoria
  • feelings similar to intoxication from alcohol
  • tolerance
  • reduced sensation to feelings of pain
  • lessened cravings for other opioids

Risks Of Suboxone Abuse

Addiction to Suboxone may be milder than addiction to other opioids. But Suboxone is used to treat opioid addiction, which means abuse of it can greatly affect a person’s recovery progress.

Therefore, Suboxone addiction is one of the greatest risks of abusing this medication. Addiction can have various effects in all areas of a person’s life. Some of these include financial struggles, strained relationships, and long-term effects on health.

Physical dependence is another large risk of Suboxone abuse. Most people using Suboxone are seeking relief from opioid dependence, so developing dependence on Suboxone while using it is a step backward.

Abusing Suboxone can make a person endlessly drowsy, confused, and or distracted. It also slows breathing and heart rates, which can be dangerous if enough Suboxone is consumed.

Can You Overdose On Suboxone?

Suboxone contains naloxone, the main chemical component used in the overdose reversal drug, Narcan. This means it is very difficult to overdose on Suboxone—yet it is still possible.

Individuals often abuse Suboxone with another drug to enhance the effects, including other opioids or alcohol. This increases the risk of overdose due to severely lowered breathing, heart rates, and blood pressure.

Signs and symptoms of a Suboxone overdose may include:

  • extreme drowsiness
  • loss of coordination
  • trouble with speech or vision
  • reduced reflexes
  • slowed or stopped breathing

Suboxone And Polysubstance Abuse

Taking Suboxone with other drugs is known as polysubstance abuse. Taking multiple drugs can worsen the side effects of each and lead to dangerous consequences.

Common Suboxone drug combinations include:

Treatment For Suboxone Abuse And Addiction

Treating Suboxone addiction involves treating any withdrawal symptoms as well as teaching individuals coping strategies to manage in recovery.

Many forms of treatment exist for opioid addiction, but some of the most effective rehab programs are residential treatment programs.

These allow individuals to receive medical help when necessary, medication if needed, and to access multiple types of therapy and counseling for a well-rounded recovery.

For more information on these and other types of treatment for Suboxone addiction, please contact one of our addiction treatment specialists today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on May 11, 2020
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