Thousands of people in the United States take Suboxone for opioid use disorder each year as part of an addiction treatment plan.
For some, however, it can become a drug of abuse. Suboxone is safe and effective when taken as prescribed. But chronic abuse of it can lead to or worsen drug addiction.
Treatment for Suboxone addiction can offer alternative treatment options for opioid addiction and address why Suboxone became a drug of abuse for you or a loved one.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a prescription medication for opioid use disorder that contains buprenorphine (an opioid agonist) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist).
What Suboxone can do:
- reduce opioid cravings
- treat heroin addiction
- treat opiate dependence and protracted withdrawal
- help maintain abstinence from opioids of abuse
- reduce risk for opioid overdose
Suboxone is prescribed as a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that’s FDA-approved for treating opioid use disorder, similar to methadone, naltrexone (Vivitrol), and Subutex.
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What Is Suboxone Abuse?
Suboxone abuse is any use of Suboxone that is not prescribed by a doctor. This can also describe a pattern of Suboxone misuse.
Examples Of Suboxone Abuse
Suboxone is a brand name medication that comes in the form of a sublingual tablet or film strip. This medication, like other opioids of abuse, may be misused in several ways.
Examples of Suboxone abuse include:
- taking higher doses than prescribed
- taking doses more often than prescribed
- combining Suboxone with other drugs to get high
- snorting Suboxone (by crushing tablets into powder form)
- plugging Suboxone (i.e. rectal administration)
- injecting Suboxone
- smoking Suboxone
- taking Suboxone from someone else’s prescription
Suboxone does not cause effects known to be addictive when taken alone. In most cases, Suboxone is abused by people with a history of abusing other opioid drugs.
For some, Suboxone abuse may be an attempt to replicate the effects of opioids, for those still struggling with opioid dependence or a psychological reliance.
Suboxone And Polysubstance Abuse
One of the more common ways that Suboxone is abused is by mixing it with other drugs in order to get high or stave off withdrawal symptoms from opioids like heroin.
This behavior, known as polysubstance abuse, can worsen drug side effects and can lead to dangerous consequences.
Common Suboxone drug combinations include:
Side Effects Of Suboxone Abuse
When taken as directed, Suboxone does not produce euphoria (surge of feelings of happiness). This may not apply, however, if it’s used in ways other than directed.
Suboxone can cause drowsiness, pain relief, and relaxation. When abused, additional physical, mental, and psychological side effects may occur.
Side effects of Suboxone abuse may include:
- feelings of sickness after taking Suboxone
- increased tolerance
- increased sensitivity to pain
- nausea and vomiting
- changes in mood
- sexual side effects of Suboxone
- precipitated withdrawal from Suboxone
There may be additional dangers from snorting, smoking, or injecting Suboxone.
How People Become Addicted To Suboxone
Addiction is a chronic disease that’s marked by a loss of control over a behavior.
With Suboxone, this can refer to an inability to stop misusing Suboxone, due to a physical and psychological reliance on Suboxone in order to feel happy or “normal”.
Risk factors for Suboxone addiction include:
- chronic misuse of Suboxone
- history of opioid abuse
- current opioid use (e.g. using heroin)
- stopping treatment for opioid addiction early
- co-occurring substance use or mental health disorders
Signs And Symptoms Of A Suboxone Addiction
Suboxone addiction is not common. This most commonly develops in people with a history of addiction to other opioids or opioid dependence.
Addiction is not always easy to spot. An addiction to Suboxone may be identified by certain signs and symptoms of drug abuse.
The following signs may point to a Suboxone addiction:
- lying or being secretive about medication use
- changing dosage without direction from a prescribing doctor
- running out of Suboxone prescriptions early
- snorting, injecting, or plugging Suboxone
- missing doctor visits or counseling sessions
- withdrawal symptoms after missing a dose of Suboxone
Suboxone Overdose: 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.
Signs and symptoms of a Suboxone overdose may include:
- extreme drowsiness
- slowed or stopped breathing
- loss of coordination
- severe confusion
- weak or no pulse
- low blood pressure
- trouble with speech or vision
- limp muscles
- inability to respond or wake up
- loss of consciousness
Overdose is unlikely to occur from taking Suboxone alone. If overdose symptoms do occur, call 911 for emergency assistance right away. This can be life-threatening.
What Is A Lethal Dose Of Suboxone?
Overdosing on Suboxone alone is very unlikely. Fatal overdose may occur if Suboxone is taken with excessive amounts of other drugs, such as fentanyl or benzodiazepines.
Abusing Suboxone with large amounts of other depressants could result in respiratory depression, coma, and death without quick medical treatment.
Treatment For Suboxone Abuse And Addiction
Addiction treatment for Suboxone may require a comprehensive treatment plan that can treat withdrawal, as well as provide tools and skills for a successful future in recovery.
Treatment programs for Suboxone addiction include:
- inpatient drug rehab (also known as residential treatment)
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- outpatient treatment programs
- aftercare support programs
Overcoming Suboxone abuse is possible with the right treatment program. What this looks like will depend on your personal needs, or that of a loved one.
Treatment at multiple levels of care—i.e. inpatient, day treatment, and outpatient—may be recommended for people with a severe or chronic addiction.
Switching from Suboxone to Vivitrol or another addiction medicine, like methadone, may also be recommended if Suboxone is unable to meet your needs adequately.
Your needs can be assessed by a licensed healthcare provider who can direct you towards resources for assessment.
Do You Need To Detox From Suboxone?
Detoxing from Suboxone may be necessary if you’re dependent on Suboxone or other opioids of abuse, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone, or heroin.
Detoxification programs can offer treatment for opioid withdrawal symptoms, as well as medical supervision as you begin to stabilize physically after stopping Suboxone.
Signs of Suboxone withdrawal include:
- muscle pain
- hot or cold flashes
- runny nose
How Long Does Suboxone Stay In Your System?
Suboxone can remain detectable in your system for several days after use. It may show up in a drug test depending on how long it has been since your last drug use.
Suboxone use may be detected by:
- urine drug testing
- blood drug testing
- hair drug testing
- saliva drug testing
Factors such as dosage, drug tolerance, and frequency of Suboxone use may affect how long traces of it remain detectable in your system.
Suboxone Abuse And Addiction FAQs
Find answers to frequently asked questions about Suboxone abuse and addiction.
❓ Can You Get High Off Suboxone?
✔️ Suboxone can cause mild euphoric effects in some people, especially if you do not have opioid tolerance. However, it is unlikely to cause euphoria when taken as prescribed.
❓ Is Suboxone The Same As Methadone?
✔️ No. Methadone is a full opioid agonist. Like Suboxone, methadone is a leading treatment for opioid use disorder as a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) option.
Suboxone, on the other hand, is a partial opioid agonist/antagonist. It contains buprenorphine (like Subutex) and naloxone, which blocks opioids’ euphoric effects.
❓ What Are Common Slang Terms For Suboxone?
✔️ People who illicitly buy, sell, or use Suboxone may refer to it by a slang term. Common street names for Suboxone/buprenorphine include subs, sobos, strips, and bups among others.
❓ How Much Does Suboxone Cost?
✔️ Suboxone prescriptions can cost between $30 to $900 for a 30-day supply with or without insurance.
The cost of Suboxone sold on the street can range from $1 to $60 per dose, depending on the formulation, dosage, and where you live in the U.S. among other factors.
Find Suboxone Addiction Treatment Today
If you or a loved one are addicted to Suboxone, don’t wait to get help. Let us help you find a treatment program that can meet your needs.
Call us today to find a Suboxone addiction treatment program that’s right for you.
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- Alcohol and Drug Foundation — Buprenorphine
- National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment — Is buprenorphine addictive?, What exactly is Buprenorphine?
- Redwood Toxicology Laboratory — Laboratory Reference Guide
- Street Rx — USA Latest Street Prices for Prescription Drugs
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Buprenorphine
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — Buprenorphine
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) — SUBOXONE (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual film