Suboxone is used to treat opioid addiction. It contains a combination of two medications: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is an opioid medication, and naloxone is included to discourage abuse of the medication. It is used to help people addicted to heroin and other opioids by reducing withdrawal symptoms and decrease cravings. Suboxone was approved by the FDA in 2002 for the treatment of opiate dependence such as heroin addiction by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings while preventing misuse.
Experts say it works well because it is a “sticky” drug, meaning it binds well with the same receptors as opiates helping to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Should an individual diagnosed with opioid use disorder attempt to take other opioids while using Suboxone, these opioids will be blocked from the brain’s receptors by Suboxone, preventing the normal high that comes from full opioids.
Suboxone has become widely used as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program and replacement for methadone because it can be prescribed in a doctor’s office, while methadone is only offered at specialized addiction centers. Suboxone was, in fact, one of the first narcotics to be made available under the Drug Abuse Treatment Act of 2000 to help solve the shortage of addiction treatment centers.
Overall, the benefits of Suboxone are:
- Lower potential for misuse and abuse
- Greater accessibility
- Higher chance for success in the treatment of opioid use disorder
Dangers and Effects of Suboxone
When used and taken as directed, Suboxone can reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings and has potential to prevent relapse and misuse. As a partial opioid agonist, it still allows some opioid dependence in users. As a result, when individuals decide to get off of Suboxone, they should gradually taper their dosage under clinical supervision.
Common Suboxone side effects are:
- abdominal/stomach pain
- difficulty sleeping
Other side effects of Suboxone can include:
- a cough
- fever or chills
- flushing of the skin
- lower back pain
- difficulty urinating
While Suboxone can be beneficial for individuals, there is the potential for misuse. The misuse of Suboxone can lead to serious health risks and concerns. Suboxone can be habit-forming, even if taken as prescribed by the provider. Misuse of Suboxone can cause addiction, overdose, and even death. Individuals who have suffered from opioid use disorder and addiction for a long period are often those who may choose to abuse Suboxone.
Suboxone abusers may try to reduce withdrawal symptoms while using their opioid drug of choice or in an attempt to get high. Some possible side effects of Suboxone abuse include: nausea or vomiting, muscle and abdominal pain, diarrhea, sleeplessness, sweating, fever, depression, drowsiness, slurred speech and tiny pupils (pin eyes). Some side effects of Suboxone overdose can include: lethargy, blurred vision, slurred speech, weakness, unconsciousness, and shallow breathing. It is important that alcohol be avoided while taking Suboxone, dangerous side effects and even death can occur if Suboxone is combined with alcohol.