How to Treat Suboxone Addiction

Think you’re addicted to Suboxone? Find out if you are really addicted to Suboxone and how to seek treatment for Suboxone addiction here.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

OVERVIEW: The main ingredient in Suboxone – buprenorphine – has a relatively low addictive potential. Still, a significant number of people develop a habit that makes it hard to quit Suboxone. Effective treatments exist that work and can help you live a drug-free life.


Not Another Drug of Abuse

It can be tricky to know if you have a problem with Suboxone, or not. In fact, Suboxone was purposely made so that users do not experiment or use Suboxone to get high. This SAMHSA patient guideline for using buprenorphine states that a person who takes buprenorphine feels normal, not high. The guide states:

Buprenorphine helps you think and function normally. It is legal and taken under a doctor’s care. It is NOT just another drug to abuse.

Suboxone works because the brain thinks it is receiving an opioid so that withdrawal symptoms do not occur. Buprenorphine also reduces cravings. In truth, Suboxone addictive properties are minimal, especially when compared to stronger opiates or opioids.

Suboxone has been specifically designed to have low addictive potential. Suboxone contains buprenorphine plus another medication called naloxone. The naloxone is added to prevent abuse. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that competes with and blocks the effect of other opioids if given by injection. Naloxone is poorly absorbed when taken by mouth and it is added to decrease the risk that people will misuse the medication by injection. Misuse by injection or in the nose, however, still occurs.

At lower doses, using Suboxone results in the usual opioid effects; however, high doses beyond a certain level do not result in greater effects. This is believed to result in a lower risk of overdose than some other opioids. Plus, the medicine works by triggering withdrawal in people who try to inject Suboxone.

So how do you recognize signs of a problem?

Signs of a Problem

To evaluate a possible problem, the most important thing you need to do is be honest about your intent. If you are taking Suboxone to get high, you are abusing Suboxone, which could lead to addiction. Other signs of a problem include using Suboxone other than prescribed. This includes:

  • Buying Suboxone that is not prescribed to you.
  • Grinding the tablets and snorting them.
  • Lowering opioid tolerance and then trying to get high on Suboxone.

While industry specialists note that the addiction potential for Suboxone is low, they are also realistic. You can abuse and misuse it. In this DOJ archive on Suboxone diversion, officials note the it is more likely to be abused by individuals who are addicted to low doses of opiates since it can precipitate withdrawal symptoms in high doses.

How to Diagnose a Problem

Medically, the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) outlines symptoms of addiction as a list of over a dozen possible behaviors. This SAMHSA summary of signs of addiction summarizes symptoms of opioid use disorders more concisely. The main symptoms of Suboxone addiction or signs of a drug problem can include:

  • A strong desire for buprenorphine.
  • Continued use despite consequences to obligations or social life.
  • Development of tolerance.
  • Spending a great deal of time to obtain and using buprenorphine.
  • The inability to control or reduce use.
  • Use of larger amounts over time.
  • Withdrawal symptoms that occur after stopping or reducing use.

As addiction is a two-pronged disease, it is also important to take note of the way you feel physically. Physical dependence is shown by a tolerance to buprenorphine and naloxone. If you are taking more and more of the drug to acquire the same desired affect, your body has a tolerance, and therefore may be dependent on Suboxone. Some other symptoms of physical dependence include withdrawal when doses decrease significantly and persistent desire and unsuccessful attempts to control use.

How Did I Get Addicted?

Addiction can creep up on you.

While there is a decreased risk of abuse, addiction, and side effects on Suboxone compared with other opioids, you can get addicted. Addiction happens mainly when you’re using bupe to get high. Only you can self-report the euphoria.

Many people begin using medicines with a prescription. This is especially true of buprenorphine. Prescriptions are highly regulated. In fact, doctors who prescribe Suboxone require special training and licensing. This FDA Suboxone Guide for Pharmacists outlines the recent laws and regulations and reasons why Suboxone is a Schedule III Controlled Substance:

…treatment drugs under Schedule II are confined to use in the clinic setting. Less tightly controlled drugs (Schedules III-V) may be prescribed for opiate  addiction treatment by specially qualified doctors who treat patients in their private offices.

But, the truth is: Buprenorphine is a mind-altering drug.

Mental dependence develops when you feel that you cannot live without Suboxone. And this is an inner boundary. No one but you knows when you cross over from regular use to misuse.

Am I the Only One?

Absolutely not.

The National Survey of Drug Use and Health reported that in 2016, an estimated 712,000 people misused buprenorphine over the period of 12 months. That’s 0.3 percent of people aged 12 or older. Plus, this 201o DAWN Report shows that people are both using the medicine recreationally, having negative side effects, and seeking detox for buprenorphine.

So, you are not alone.

The question is: Are you ready to seek help?

Are you really ready to quit?

Main Treatments

If you are experiencing any one of the signs and symptoms of Suboxone addiction, it is important to reach out and seek help. NIDA, the National Institutes of Drug Abuse, believe that like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment helps people to address powerful effects on the brain and change their behavior and to regain control of their lives.

Thankfully, there are many different options for treating Suboxone addiction. These options include:

Detox. Detox from Suboxone is safest under medical supervision. While you many not need to detox from Suboxone in a clinic, consult with a doctor to help you with your decision. It may be important to taper down from doses, and you’ll need medical guidance during this process.

Psychotherapy. Behavioral treatments for Suboxone addiction are essential for a full recovery. It is important to address the root cause for why you take Suboxone and make behavioral adjustments in order to change your mindset from drug use. Individualized drug counseling and group counseling help you deal with past trauma or reasons while compel use. Family therapy can also be helpful.

Outpatient Treatment. This is the most cost-effective type of addiction treatment and is more suitable for people who have a job or a strong support system and a safe environment to live in already. The programs vary from low-intensity drug education to intensive day treatment.

Short Term Residential Treatment. Typically called “rehab”, residential treatment includes 24-7 supervision. Staff will work with you and ensure a safe detox, and begin behavioral changes to change your lifestyle and ensure sober living. These programs run between 3 and 6 weeks in length and employ a modified 12-step approach to treating addiction. Longer outpatient programs typically follow, if needed.

Long Term Residential Treatment. When choosing this option, you elect to stay in a supervised treatment center for a specified amount of time, usually between 6 months and 12 months. During long term rehab, you will be in a facility under care and supervision 24 hours a day. These facilities typically employ therapeutic communities, which allows for a social context with other residents and staff as an active component of treatment.

How to Ask for Help

Treating addiction begins with asking for help. This step makes us feel vulnerable and weak. We know. We’ve been there.

But, the best way to ask for help is to…simply do it.

Where can you find help? These are some experts that provide help for Suboxone addiction:

Find a Suboxone addiction treatment center. Contact 1-800-662-HELP for a 24/7 treatment locator or use the SAMHSA online treatment finder to locate a treatment center near you.

Find a clinical psychologist specializing in opioid addiction. When seeking a psychologist, make sure you find one that you can trust and be honest with. It is important to be able to tell your psychologist everything, as they will work with you to deal with the psychological aspects of addiction. You can consult the American Psychologist Association’s Psychologist locator for a directory of licenced and qualified mental health professionals near you.

Find a Suboxone addiction support group. Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, work 12-step programs and rely on members of the program to teach each other about a drug-free life. You might also be interested in more secular non-12 step approaches such as SMART Recovery or Rational Recovery to help you.

Talk with your physician. Your general physician or family can help you find the right treatment method and can refer you to a detox facility if necessary. Your prescribing doctor can also refer you to addiction and mental health services in your area.

Any Questions?

There is a solution to Suboxone addiction. You are not alone!

Do you have more questions regarding Suboxone addiction? Have advice or expertise that you want to share? Please comment with your questions and we will answer quickly and personally.

Reference Sources: NIDA: Principles of drug addiction treatment
U.S. Federal Courts: Table 1: DSMIV-TR Criteria for Substance Abuse for Dependency
NIDA: Treatment approaches to drug addiction
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the Texas Healt...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.

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