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Is Suboxone Addictive?


ARTICLE SUMMARY: Yes, Suboxone is addictive. It is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a psychoactive opioid that affects the brain and can cause euphoria. While Suboxone has low addictive potential, prescription use needs to be monitored by a professional.


TABLE OF CONTENT


Ingredients

Suboxone is an opioid partial agonist-antagonist which contains the drugs buprenorphine hydrochloride and naloxone hydrochloride. The National Institutes of Health describes this class of medication as an exception; Suboxone isnot the same as straight opiates, but acts in a similar way on the brain. In fact, it is a prescription medication that falls into a relatively strange cateogry of “opioid antagonist”.

Buprenorphine is the active ingredient in Suboxone. This opioid partial agonist-antagonists attaches to the same receptors as other opioids, and recuces their effects by blocking them.

Naloxone belongs in a class of medications called full opioid antagonists. It is added to Suboxone to prevent misuse; if people try to take high doses of Suboxone, naloxone triggers withdrawal effects.

Basically, Suboxone works by occupying the same opiate receptors in the brain as heroin and other strong opiate drugs. In this way, it  is sed to stop drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms as well as block the effects of heroin (if you take it). In this way Suboxone is a medication used in medication-assisted treatment of opiate dependence and/or addiction.

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Addiction Potential

Addiction to opioids is a major concern in the U.S. in 2017. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reported that over 2.5 million Americans deal with substance abuse disorders connected with opioid drugs, both painkillers and heroin. In 2002, as a response to this growing epidemic, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two products for opioid treatment:

  • Subotex, which is buprenorphine
  • Suboxone, a blend of buprenorphine and naloxone

But is Suboxone as addictive as other opioids?

No, Suboxone is much less addictive than other options for treating opiate dependence (methadone). Nevertheless, this medication can still produce euphoric effect, since it acts on the same receptors that release dopamine in the brain. So, there’s possibility that you can become addicted, especially if you start abusing Suboxone. The feeling of ‘getting high’ on Suboxone may be less intense than other opioids, but it also last longer.

Drug abuse = Using Suboxone in a way other than directed by a doctor (in larger amounts, more frequently than normally taken, or chewing, crushing, snorting, or injecting buprenorpine). If you do any of these things, you are abusing Suboxone.

Because Suboxone is addictive, doctors make an effort to carefully monitor each individual’s use. They are required to; the U.S. government highly restricts buprenrophine prescription. Under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000), physicians are required to complete an eight-hour training to qualify to prescribe and dispense buprenorphine. SAMHSA lists all doctors who are certified to dose buprenorphine and you can find a Suboxone prescribing doctor here.

Am I Taking Too Much?

Are you abusing Suboxone by taking it too frequently or in larger than normal doses? If you’re taking Suboxone as directed in your prescription, you probably aren’t addicted. Factors which will make you more likely to develop an addiction include:

  1. Chewing or crushing Suboxone into a powder and snorting.
  2. Crushing Suboxone to dissolve in water and inject.
  3. Taking Suboxone in higher doses than prescribed.
  4. Taking Suboxone more frequently than prescribed.

When you are in medication-assisted treatment, you should always follow doctor’s guidelines on how to use Suboxone. Take this medication ONLY as prescribed by a doctor. If you have doubts that you are using it too much, consult with your prescribing doctor, addictions counselor, or therapist.

How Does Addiction Occur?

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, addiction is a chronic disease characterized by substance seeking and use that is highly compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.  Generally, addiction occurs as a combination of environmental, psychological, and genetic factors that include:

  • A personal or family history of substance abuse.
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders.
  • Individual metabolism and reactions to a drug.
  • Traumatic events.

Substances affect the brain by stimulating receptors to release dopamine, and the person feels pleasure and ‘high’. After a period of time, the brain adjusts to the new substance environment, and starts to control the body by asking for more and more of the drug of choice. So, when a person lowers a dose of their drug-of-choice or stops taking it completely, s/he may experience withdrawal symptoms that are a sign of substance dependence.

Suboxone may be a preferred drug of abuse for people who seek an opioid-like high. It’s considered to be a more safe drug. Moreover, this medication may be abused by those who struggle with opioid drugs such as heroin, by using Suboxone between doses to stop withdrawal symptoms. Also, Suboxone abuse may be common among inmates. This 2011 New York Times expose reported that 12 % of all confiscated contrabands in state prisons in Massachusetts involved Suboxone.

Dependence vs. Addiction

You’re more likely to develop a physical dependence rather than addiction when you use Suboxone. Drug ddependence simply means that you are unable to stop using Suboxone without experiencing withdrawal effects. These effects are much more likely in someone who uses Suboxone long-term. Note here that dependence is an expected outcome! Doctors know that if you take Suboxone for a period of a few weeks or longer, you will become physically dependent.

While addiction to Suboxone is a little less common than dependence, it can involve developing a tolerance to the medication, requiring greater and greater doses to achieve the same level of pain relief. Addicts also experience strong cravings for Suboxone. Despite the negative consequences of their actions, people addicted to a drug just can’t stay quit; they come back to their drug-of-choice again and again. It is this psychological compulsion to use Suboxone in the face of negative outcomes which sets apart a Suboxone addict from a physically dependent person.


This 2011 study on buprenorphine withdrawal using gradual tapering suggests that a 7-day taper can help minimize the intensity, severity, and discomfort of buprenorphine withdrawal.


Do I Have a Problem?

While it can be hard to distinguish addiction from dependence, there are some tell-tale signs which can let you know if you’re addicted to Suboxone. If you feel the need to take Suboxone compulsively, or feel you’re unable to function normally without it, those can be signs of addiction. Other signs of Suboxone addiction include:

  • Continuing to use Suboxone even with negative consequences.
  • Cravings for Suboxone (sometime even after you’ve taken it recently).
  • Seeking Suboxone in order to stimulate the “reward center” of the brain.
  • Wanting to cut down or quit use, but not succeeding.
  • Going through withdrawal when you stop using it.
  • Using it to prevent withdrawal symptoms of happening.
  • Taking it no matter what.
  • Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities due to Suboxone use.

Sometimes, knowing how much Suboxone is in your system can provide you with objective information about dependence levels, However, while it’s possible that Suboxone show up on a drug test, buprenorphine-specific drug screens are costly and not normally used in standard employment drug testing. So, drug testing for addiction has its limitations. Instead, we look to more subjective symptoms.

Some of the most common physical signs that a person addicted to Suboxone is likely to display include:

  • apathetic mood
  • depression
  • drowsiness
  • increased blood pressure
  • poor memory
  • slurred speech
  • small pupils

Getting Help

STEP 1. Admit you have a problem. If you’re worried that you have a problem, chances are that you do. The road to addiction recovery starts with your decision to quit using Suboxone. Only YOU are the one that can turn your life around and start living a drug-free life.  The first thing you can do is to admit that you have a problem

STEP 2. Then, commit to change. If you want to break the habit, find a reason to quit. Find a motivation that will lead you to a normal life. Educate yourself about all harmful effects that addiction can make to your life.

STEP 3. Ask for help. Finally, when you are ready for quit, reach out for help. You can start by talking with your doctor. Or, calling the helpline number listed on this page. The bottom line is: you need to talk to people to find the best treatment options that will work for you. If you stay quiet, nothing will change.

Guidelines for Correct Use

Use Suboxone only as prescribed by a doctor. Before you start using it, read the FDA’s Medication Guide to Suboxone that comes with each package. The most important information that you should know about this medication is that Suboxone can cause serious and life‐threatening breathing problems. Call your doctor or 911 if:

  • you feel dizzy, faint, or confused
  • your breathing gets much slower

Plus, you need to know that Suboxone:

  • Can cause allergic reaction.
  • Can react with other medications.
  • Contains an opioid that can cause physical dependence.
  • Should never be injected.

Finally, be honest with your prescribing doctor. Tell your doctor about your full medical history. Then, do not change your dose unless your doctor tells you to change it. And do not take Suboxone more often than prescribed.


NOTE: The Medication Guide doesn’t take the place of consulting with your doctor. Talk with your doctor is you have questions about Suboxone.


How to Take Suboxone

Since Suboxone comes as sublingual film you need to be careful every time you use it. Each Suboxone sublingual film comes in a sealed child‐resistant foil pouch. Wait to open it until right before you use it. Below are instruction on how to use Suboxone correctly.

1. To open your Suboxone sublingual film foil pouch, fold along the dotted line:

 

2. Tear down at the slit or cut with scissors along the arrow:

 

 

3. Hold the film between two fingers by the outside edges.
4. Place Suboxone sublingual film under your tongue, close to the base either to the left or right of the center.

5. While Suboxone is dissolving, do not chew or swallow the film because the medicine will not work as well.

Your Questions Are Welcomed

Do you still have questions about Suboxone and its addictive potential? Please leave them here. We are happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly. If we do not know the answer to your particular question, we will refer you to someone who does.

Reference Sources: State of New York Department of Health: Methadone or buprenorphine treatment
Medline Plus: Buprenorphine Sublingual
FDA: Subutex and Suboxone Questions
FDA: SUBUTEX AND Suboxone APPROVED TO TREAT OPIATE DEPENDENCE
NIH: Clinical Guidelines for the Use of Buprenorphine in the Treatment of Opioid Addiction.

Leave a Reply

18 Responses to “Is Suboxone Addictive?
Kath
8:32 pm July 30th, 2012

My 25 yr old daughter has been on Suboxone for about 2 years, with intermittent relapses back to heroin in between. After completing an in-house rehab program this spring, she has relapsed over the past few days. She tells me she has taken a very high does of Subs in order to get high. I don’t know if this is true, but if it is, I suspect that she has crushed and snorted the pills, as she’s had a lot of nose blowing, bleeding, and irritation which I’ve noticed over the past week or so (and I see no new tracks on her arms), I read a post here which said that if the Subs are abused by crushing and snorting, shooting or smoking, then the Noloxone will reverse the affects of the high, and medical attention is necessary. I’m very concerned. Can anyone tell me what happens when these pills are crushed which causes it to be dangerous and necessitates medical attention? Any info will be very much appreciated, thanks.

2:21 am July 31st, 2012

Hi Kath. I’m so sorry to hear that your daughter is back “out” again. That must be so difficult! I’d suggest that you report your suspicions to her prescribing doctor…and her probation officer.

Check out this article on snorting Suboxone, and please let us know what we can do to help further! You are in our thoughts.

http://prescription-drug.addictionblog.org/snorting-suboxone/

Bekka
9:42 am August 4th, 2012

I agree with your findings. Nowadays it is teenagers who are heavily addicted to alcohol and drugs. Initially, it seems just as a fun. As time pass on, they are led to a situation in which they can’t live without it. Blogs like this provides a keen knowledge on how dreadful the drug addiction is. Keep posting like this.

jg
9:51 pm September 24th, 2012

I have tried “subs” twice and this time I have been taking them for two years without relapse. The first time I took them I wasnt ready to quit and ended up right back where I started.
Being ready to quit not just the drugs but the lifesyle and the sneaky behavior is ALL important. Otherwise your just wasting time and alot of money.
Now I combine Suboxone with a healthy dose of AA.

Joe
4:41 am December 28th, 2012

A little late to the party here but I will post anyway because I feel I can give good insight. I’ve been in and out of methadone clinics and suboxone programs all to shoot heroin. I finally snapped out of one day when I decided that I wanted to quit. No counselor or program could change my mind, I basically had to decide I was done chasing dope all day with low life people and that was not something I wanted to continue doing. I’m not a doctor but from what I understand it’s actually the bupe in Suboxone that blocks the effects of other drugs getting you high because of it’s high affinity to bind to the brain’s receptors and prevent lesser drugs (heroin, morphine, oxycontin) from binding onto the receptors. Yes, Suboxone is a powerful opiod with a long half-life. The naloxone is there to help prevent addicts from crushing, sniffing, and injecting the drug by throwing them into immediate precipitated withdrawals, Naloxone is also what they give to help revive overdose patients in the hospital. I can only speak from an IV perspective but when I was injecting Suboxone I would stir it in a spoon and let the milky white substance (naloxone) settle at the bottom and suck up everything else through the cotton and I never had a problem with being thrown into withdrawal by the naloxone. I have taken Suboxone too early after doing some other opiate and had severe withdrawals for approximately four hours. I didn’t need to go to hospital or has anyone else I have ever known had to but it’s a very unpleasant experience (hot and cold sweats, diahhrea, restless legs, skin crawling, etc), So yeah if she goes into withdrawal it might be the a good kick in the butt for her. Good Luck!

Claire
3:57 pm March 25th, 2013

Do you think I could be addicted to suboxone? I started it in the hospital & was on 16 mgs/ day for abt. 2 days. Since I’ve been home, I’ve taken 4 mgs 4 times per day. I’ve been home almost 2 days. I’m worried about this. Thank you.

2:37 pm March 26th, 2013

Hi Claire. Physical dependence on Suboxone is different than addiction. Why were you prescribed Suboxone? What medical condition are you treating?

Jessica
3:10 am May 14th, 2013

I was on methadone for 5 years. I tapered down to 3 mg then started taking a low dose of suboxone (2mg, then 1mg) for 7 days. Is 7 days long enough to become physically dependant on suboxone? Or does it usually take longer than 7 days to become physically dependant?

duana
9:43 pm May 6th, 2015

I need to get off subs ..I’ve be taking them (getting from the streets) fir about 2 years .. ( shooting) i started cause i was so so so sick from opiates ..got hooked from neck injuries .. um so afraid if i stop using ill b as sick as opiates made me ..i thought it was the end of the world that’s how sick i got and i never went thro the doc (my stupidity ) i take about half a strip a day sometimes less but not usually

3:49 pm May 21st, 2015

Hello Duana. Although Suboxone withdrawal is milder than opiate drugs withdrawal, you can expect it to be pretty harsh. Ask your doctor’s help before and during Suboxone withdrawal. I do not recommend you do this without medications to soothe symptoms and proper medical assistance.

wisdom
4:56 pm July 14th, 2015

breaking down addiction by specific drug is misleading. if you are addicted to heroin, roxicodone, dilaudid, or on a sub or meth program- you are physically addicted to opiates. any med in the family will feed your monkey so legit rx percoset dependents are physically no different than an iv heroin addict.

wisdom
4:59 pm July 14th, 2015

jessica- 7 days of subs will have u ok for the 7 days, but methadone is a 6 to 8 week withdrawal. so after that week you’re in for a world of misery

Ant
4:56 am August 10th, 2015

The nalaxone is irrelavent. The buprenorphine will block the nalalxone from having any effect even if used iv. Contrary to what other medical professionals say. Ultimately, the nalaxone is put there as a scare tactic by the medical community, and most importantly, the pharmaceutical companies. Nalaxone will, however, rip other opiate drugs right off the receptors. But suboxone has too high an affinity. You should have no worries about your daughter. When she says she is “getting high” from suboxone I suspect you misinterpreted her words, or she simply means she’s reverted to alternative uses other then sublingual because she feels the dosage is too low, or she’s again missing that feeling of getting high and is desperately only able to get suboxone. The only way a person could get high from subs is if they are not a user, or have very low tolerance. If she is a long time heroin addict, subs are likely to give her no feeling of getting high, just making her stabe even if she’s snorting or using iv. I can guarantee she is either snorting or using iv because of the curious side of drug use commonly called “needle fixation” (just like oral fixation with smoking). This is where the person is hooked on the practice (not drug) of snorting or shooting up (the routine of it), along with the substance addiction. You need not worry of hospitalization for this, but more from the damage to her nose. Best regards.

Ant
5:11 am August 10th, 2015

Didn’t realize the post was so old. Sorry. And for the person who said suboxone withdrawal is milder and the one that says it only lasts 7 days; suboxone if taken for more then a few days, can cause a withdrawal equivalent if not worse then other opiates, and can last for up to a month, and in some cases more. Take it from someone who went through the hell of weaning off of it. Even if weaned down to a crumb, when you stop taking that little crumb you can expect full blown withdrawal in most cases. I’m not sure why other medical professionals claim it is non addictive and easy to come off of. I don’t tell any of my clients that. I tell them the truth. That is that it is a strong opiate several times the strength of morphine milligram to milligram in pain killing (but other as well) aspect, and can become addictive if taken long term, AND that it can cause severe withdrawal just as other opiates can. Addicts should try going cold turkey before going to suboxone treatment. It is a powerful drug just like heroin. Most will only seem treatment or detox only if they hit rock bottom. NA/AA can help for some, but I find for myself and most recovering addicts it is all but useless besides a free counseling/venting venue and can sometimes make people crave even worse due to all the talk of drug use and the great deal of members who often keep relapsing . Keep in mind social workers claim AA /NA has a high percentage of successful members (I’ve heard as high as 80% before), but many often lie and the real percentage is around 10-20%. I’m not trying to scare any users away from it, as it can sometimes be a great tool, but I prefer to be solemnly honest to people seeking help, instead of giving false hope. That makes them know it’s a scary and difficult ride, and not just seeing a doctor, going to counsleing, taking meds and boom your all better. It’s a complete life change and investment. Good luck to all!

Tangie
8:10 pm April 20th, 2016

If I use suboxone (once) without being addicted to opiates will I develop a addiction to suboxone.

Molly
9:49 pm March 7th, 2017

Oh have been on suboxone for years. They used it to get me off heavy narcotics that were being prescribed. I have legit pain issues but with laws changing no one wants to write you a script for anything. When I was inpatient suboxone was great. When I was done dosing down I felt worse than withdrawals from other opiates. I was so miserable my shrink put me back on it to help with pain when I was discharged.

I was recently hospitaliced and don’t ask about pain control. I had stopped my suboxone a few days prior so what they gave me would work. In speaking with a nurse and telling her my story she said I had to deal with the reaction of coming off suboxone. Then what’s the point if you have to withdraw from that too. Just curious. I feel like I’m going to be on it forever.

paljr
2:40 pm October 28th, 2017

I am currently on suboxene and find it works if you take it as prescribed. I am in my 10th yr taking it for more reasons than just addiction control. If someone is taking it and still feel the need to get “hi” then counseling and therapy could be the answer. I did therapy for 2 yrs and no longer have an alcohol problem and drug problem once I dealt with what was causing me to drink/use!

Candace
9:01 am February 7th, 2018

I’ve recently detoxes from using subs snorting subs for over 6 years I was clean three weeks and just started snorting again 6 days ago I don’t wanna get addicted or go throw withdraws guess my question is how can I stop taking them or how long does it take to have withdraws after using them

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