Can you get high on Suboxone?
Suboxone is actually designed to be used in the maintenance stage of opiate treatment. In other words, Suboxone is a drug used to treat drug addiction. So how and why are people getting high on Suboxone?
What is Suboxone used for?
Doctors prescribe Suboxone to treat opiate addiction. Suboxone contains both buprenorphine (an opioid) and naloxone (blocks the effects of opiates). When taken as prescribed, buprenorphine can help people addicted to opiates by eliminating the feeling of being high.
Buprenorphine blocks the euphoric effects of drugs like heroin by binding to the same opiate receptors in the brain used by heroin. Thus, people who use buprenorphine are not able to get a high from their original drug of choice (heroin, morphine, OxyContin, etc.). Furthermore, although buprenorphine and depression are not clinically related, brain chemicals affect mood. So buprenorphine can make you feel better as you detox from opiate addiction.
Suboxone = low abuse potential when taken as prescribed
The idea behind adding naloxone to Suboxone is to create a drug that is less likely to be abused. In fact, the 4:1 ratio of buprenorphine to naloxone in Suboxone helps create a “ceiling effect” without producing significant signs of withdrawal after long periods of taking the drug. To explain this another way, at moderate doses, the euphoric effects of buprenorphine reach a plateau and no longer continue to increase with higher doses, known as the “ceiling effect.” Plus, high doses of Suboxone can cause withdrawal symptoms. Thus, buprenorphine carries a lower risk of abuse, addiction, and side effects compared to full opioid agonists. Therefore, the DEA currently rates Suboxone as a Schedule III drug, having relatively low abuse and addiction potential.
How do people get high on Suboxone?
Because one of the main ingredients in Suboxone (buprenorphine) is an opioid, it can produce side effects such as euphoria. Even though the maximum effects of buprenorphine are less than those of full agonists like heroin and methadone, drug abusers have learned to get high on Suboxone. How? By crushing the sublingual tablets and either snorting or injecting the extract, which gives an effect similar to equivalent doses of morphine or heroin. And if buprenorphine and methadone are abused together, the effects of both drugs are enhanced. This is another reason the buprenorphine contained in Suboxone may be attractive to people currently using methadone, inhibiting methadone maintenance effectiveness.
Is Suboxone addictive?
When taken other than prescribed (crushed, snorted or injected), you may become addicted to Suboxone. However, the naloxone contained in Suboxone guards against abuse. But be warned, if you crush and inject or snort a Suboxone tablet, the naloxone in it will trigger withdrawal symptoms and reverse the effects of the high, requiring medical help.
Am I addicted to Suboxone?
If you are crushing, snorting or injecting Suboxone and want to stop, talk with your prescribing doctor. Drug addiction is no longer a moral issue, but can be treated medically. In fact, Suboxone is the most commonly abused version of buprenorphine. So there is nothing to be ashamed of if you are ready for help. Please leave your questions and comments about Suboxone here. We are happy to help refer you to treatment services or answer your questions personally.
Reference sources: CSAT buprenorphine information center
Diversion and Abuse of Buprenorphine: A Brief Assessment of Emerging Indicators
Daily Med drug information on Suboxone
Misuse of Buprenorphine-Related Products from Justice.gov
Intelligence Bulletin: Buprenorphine: Potential for Abuse
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