Suboxone is a medication that contains the partial opioid agonist buprenorphine that’s used to treat opioid use disorders. It’s usually used in a type of treatment called medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT uses opioid medications to help replace more harmful opioids like heroin in people who are chemically dependent. This can help people go through addiction treatment without experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms or drug cravings.

Suboxone also contains a drug called naloxone, which is an opioid antagonist that acts as a fail-safe against certain types of abuse. Naloxone binds to opioid receptors without activating them, kicking off any other opioids.

On its own, it can be used to stop and reverse an overdose. As a partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine only partially activates opioid receptors, allowing it to stave off opioid cravings without causing significant intoxicating effects. Unlike other opioids, it also has what’s called an effects ceiling, which means that it does not have increasingly potent effects with higher and higher doses. Instead, its effects stop escalating after a certain dose size.

Because Suboxone includes a weak opioid and an opioid antagonist, it doesn’t have the highest abuse potential among opioids. However, it’s important to know the potential risks of this medication.

What Are the Signs of Suboxone Dependence?

Since Suboxone is used in MAT for people with opioid dependencies, it’s important to note that people who take the medication will continue to be opioid-dependent. If you stop taking Suboxone, you’ll start to experience uncomfortable flu-like withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. It’s very difficult to abuse Suboxone because it’s closely regulated. People in MAT will receive a dose each day from a treatment professional, which is placed under the tongue.

This method of administration allows the buprenorphine to get into your bloodstream, but the naloxone can’t become active. To achieve any intoxicating effects, you’d have to take multiple doses. If you do, you might experience sedation, euphoria, and side effects like itching and constipation. A single buprenorphine dose might be more intense if it’s snorted or injected. However, taking Suboxone in this way allows the naloxone to become active, which will kick the buprenorphine and any other opioid off their receptors leading to immediate withdrawal.

Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased body temperature
  • Sweating
  • Body aches
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dehydration

What Is Involved in Suboxone Addiction Treatment?

If you have been taking Suboxone as a part of a MAT program, becoming completely free of opioid dependence usually involves a tapering process. Tapering often begins once you’ve completed other forms of addiction treatment. If you have high-level medical needs that need to be treated or monitored during the tapering process, you may go through an inpatient program. If you’re able to live at home, but you still need clinical support, you will go through an outpatient program.

How Dangerous Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is designed to be as safe as possible, with the potential for substance abuse in mind. It’s intended to deliver buprenorphine to people who need it to treat substance use disorders while lowering the risk of abuse. That being said, it is a prescription opioid, and it should be taken with care. Taking the drug with alcohol, sleeping pills, or other depressants could be life-threatening. Combining depressants can lead to an overdose that causes respiratory depression, coma, or death.

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