Suboxone Addiction: The Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Explained

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a combination brand-name medication drug that contains a mixture of buprenorphine (a partial opioid agonist) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist). Suboxone is a brand-name prescription drug that treats heroin and opioid dependence. Suboxone will usually be prescribed in the form of a tablet or a strip that dissolves when inserted under the tongue.

Buprenorphine and Naloxone

Buprenorphine is a form of opioid medication that is used to treat opioid addiction, while the addition of naloxone is present for the purpose of preventing the more positive effects of buprenorphine treatment, such as pain relief or a heightened sense of well-being that could potentially become addictive and therefore, could lead to opioid addiction.

Therefore, buprenorphine and naloxone work in tandem with each other for the purpose of treating opioid use disorder. Naloxone suppresses the effects of buprenorphine and is only active if Suboxone abuse occurs, whereby it works to block the effects of opioids.

Buprenorphine is prescribed to act as a replacement for the opioid drugs that the user is addicted to, and is essentially used to wean opioid users off of the drug, or to keep their drug addiction at bay, at least temporarily. Moreover, buprenorphine works to reduce cravings and suppress withdrawal symptoms.

How Is Suboxone Taken?

Suboxone is consumed orally. It dissolves in the mouth and travels directly to the brain. Moreover, it affects the same regions within the brain (the opioid receptors) as other types of opioids (e.g., heroin and methadone), and instead of eliciting positive feelings within the opioid receptors, it instead works to suppress the potential withdrawal symptoms that may occur as a result of taking the opioids.

Suboxone is typically prescribed as a form of medication treatment to patients with opioid dependence for a period of 24 weeks. It works to keep the addiction to opioids at bay, while slowly and gradually weaning them off of the drug (which is a process known as gradually tapering).

It may not necessarily take the full 24 weeks for this treatment to be successful, but it serves as a period that enables the doctor to observe the treatment process and advise future courses of action based on the progress achieved.

Misusing Suboxone

When users of Suboxone misuse the drug, they may insert several dissolvable Suboxone strips under their tongue instead of the recommended dosage, or they may instead remove the liquid contained within the prescribed tablets, and then proceed to inject this liquid directly into their bloodstream via their muscles or a vein.

Alternative Drugs To Suboxone

In addition to prescribed Suboxone, there is a range of other drugs that can be used to treat opioid use disorder. Some of the alternative drugs include:

  • Lofexidine
  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone

Is Suboxone Addictive? Can You Get Addicted to Suboxone?

Yes, Suboxone can be potentially addictive and people can become addicted to it if they are not properly addressing the root causes of their addiction.

Suboxone is designed to counteract the withdrawal symptoms of opiate addiction, and the physician prescribing the medication will attempt to eliminate the opioid dependence by gradually tapering the doses that the user receives throughout the addiction treatment.

This process effectively allows the user to gradually stop using opioids; however, it can potentially have an adverse effect, resulting in Suboxone addiction. Therefore, therapy should be considered as a treatment option in terms of addressing why and how the individual has become addicted, as it may be due to other personal factors (e.g., an addictive personality, the user also experiencing depression or other mental health issues, etc.) and not just a result of the medication.

How Addictive Is Suboxone?

Buprenorphine is considered to be milder in terms of its effects and its tendency to create addiction in comparison with other opiates and drugs, such as morphine and heroin. It is reportedly slower in terms of how it works, and its effects are said to last longer, which in turn should alleviate or keep any opioid withdrawal symptoms at bay.

NAABT (The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment) has stated that Suboxone addiction is a risk, but it is actually quite a low risk for users. Moreover, NAABT has also stated that tapering doses typically will successfully address opioid dependence during treatment plans.

However, as mentioned previously, a tendency or compulsion to become addicted to substances is difficult to avoid if the patient typically becomes addicted to any medication they are prescribed.

Moreover, if substance abuse for the purpose of pleasure-seeking is common in the patient’s life, it is likely that Suboxone abuse and addiction will occur as a result. Some individuals may misuse Suboxone in a bid to keep an existing addiction to other drugs such as heroin at bay, at least until they are in a position to return to using the harder drugs.

How Long Does It Take To Get Addicted to Suboxone?

In order to assess how long it might take for a Suboxone addiction to occur, the following factors must be considered: the user’s tolerance to drugs, the extent of their drug usage in the past, their age, and their weight.

With those factors in mind, it is clear that addiction to Suboxone may occur quicker if a user is already hooked on other opioids or drugs, if they are physically or mentally in poor condition, and if they are older and their body takes longer to recover.

Behavioral Symptoms of Suboxone Addiction

There are several known behavioral symptoms associated with Suboxone addiction that may occur with Suboxone use over an extended period. For instance, users may experience severe itching, difficulty speaking, slurred speech, coordination problems, brain fog, or a loss of the ability to think clearly. They may opt to lie frequently in a bid to get more Suboxone, and they may even resort to switching between doctors frequently, in order to keep their Suboxone addiction at bay.

Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms

Abusing Suboxone can lead the user to experience withdrawal symptoms that include severe headaches, sweats, insomnia, lethargy, feelings of nausea, problems with digestion and indigestion, a fever, pains in various parts of the body and muscle aches, vomiting, extreme drug cravings, anxiety, depression, and more.

Other Physical Withdrawal Symptoms Associated With Suboxone Addiction

In addition to the withdrawal symptoms outlined above, Suboxone abuse may also lead to other physical symptoms including blurred vision, changes in body temperature (super hot or super cold), severe drowsiness, slurred speech, a lack of coordination or extreme weakness, the shakes, an irregular or dangerously hard heartbeat, and more.

Psychological Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms

Suboxone abuse may also lead to psychological withdrawal symptoms that may include insomnia, severe depression, frequent mood shifts, difficulty recalling events or generally poor memory, and unusual or erratic behavior.

How Long Do Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

It is expected that Suboxone withdrawal symptoms can last up to a month, but will begin to subside afterward. However, psychological dependence on the drug can subsist if medication-assisted treatment is not given, or if it is not addressed or acknowledged.

Users will reportedly experience the worst withdrawal symptoms approximately 72 hours after the Suboxone has been taken. At this stage, the majority of the physical symptoms are felt.

One week after the user has refrained from Suboxone usage, the symptoms will begin to ease, and the user will feel light aches and pains within the body. They may also experience bouts of insomnia, as well as fluctuating mood swings.

Once the first month has passed, many of the symptoms will have disappeared, and the user may be left with strong cravings for the drug, as well as feelings of depression.

During this period, it is suggested that this is when a relapse is most likely to occur, as the individual is vulnerable and may feel that taking Suboxone may be the only option for them to avoid the intense cravings and eradicate the depressed feelings they are experiencing.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Suboxone Overdose?

The early warning signs of a Suboxone overdose are reportedly similar to those that occur with other opioids. It is important to note that in general, most people who die from a drug overdose will typically pass away within the first three hours of the drugs having been taken. Therefore, time is of the essence in terms of potentially saving a person’s life.

In order to avoid a life-threatening situation and potentially prevent a Suboxone overdose, it is essential to look out for these early warning symptoms: poor coordination and slurred speech, poor eyesight or blurred vision, signs of fatigue or severe drowsiness, unusually small pupils, and fingernails and lips that appear to be blue in color.

It is also important to note that Suboxone is a form of opioid, and opioids are a form of depressant that affects the central nervous system. As a result, respiratory depression may occur during a Suboxone overdose, as the user may not be able to generate enough oxygen within their bloodstream.

Once this occurs, the user will stop breathing after a while, and this is usually when they become unresponsive or fall unconscious, after which they may die.

What To Do in the Event of a Suboxone Overdose

It is essential for the user to not be left alone, as the initial moments after the person is discovered could be the difference between death and survival. The first call of action should be to dial 9-1-1 and whoever is with the user should immediately request medical treatment for the patient.

Once the emergency personnel arrive, it may be possible for them to reverse the effects of the overdose, provided that they have reached the patient in time. From there onwards, the doctors may prescribe the patient a form of narcotic antagonist or other drugs that serve to absorb or remove the toxins contained in the body as a result of the overdose.

Moreover, once the patient arrives at the hospital, they will likely be given various fluids that will seek to prevent dehydration from occurring. Once stabilization has occurred and the patient is no longer at immediate risk, probably the doctor will begin to recommend that the patient attends a treatment facility for substance misuse in order to begin the detoxification process.

Given that this process will take a long time, the patient and their family will need to think carefully about which treatment facility might be right for the patient.

For example, they might decide that further hospitalization might be the best course of action, or they may in fact believe that the patient should seek treatment from a rehab facility.

Suboxone Rehab Treatment & Detox

For people who have developed a Suboxone addiction or an opioid addiction and are seeking addiction treatment, there are many options available. Given that Suboxone treatment can inadvertently lead to addiction in some cases, it might be more beneficial for users to consider checking themselves into treatment centers that could help them with Suboxone withdrawal symptoms or perhaps even avoid Suboxone addiction entirely.

Detoxification will be the first call for action for the patient, after which they will need to decide whether or not to transition to an inpatient form of rehab treatment or an outpatient form of rehab treatment.

In any case, seeking treatment will enable the user to gain access to counseling and therapy. This will help the user to better understand why they developed an addiction to Suboxone, what they can do to control their triggers and prevent relapse, what the causal factors of the addiction were, and what they can do in their life to not only avoid relapse but also to avoid falling into behaviors that may lead them into the path of addiction again.

People who seek help and support from rehab treatment centers such as NP Addiction Clinic can get access to medication-assisted treatment, access to prescription medication when needed, access to support groups, counseling, and family therapy, and continued access to physicians who can monitor the treatment process.

Elsewhere, people can also sign up for partial hospitalization, which offers many of the same features of rehab treatment centers, such as the ability to reside at the location during treatment, together with being monitored 24/7 by healthcare professionals.

If you’re looking for help and support to overcome Suboxone misuse and addiction, join NP Addiction Clinic and begin your journey.

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Samantha Kelly​

Director of National Business Development & Admissions Coordinator

I am a dedicated and passionate professional with extensive experience in business development Admissions and marketing. I have an incredible passion for showing others that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel if someone truly wants it.
Being in recovery myself I understand the struggles of addiction and alcoholism. I Started this Career path in 2009. With multiple years of experience, I bring a multi-faceted approach and am always seeking new ways to make a difference in the lives of those I work with.

Kim L. Buckner

Facilitator

As a Substance Abuse Motivational Speaker, Pastor, Peer Advocate, and Facilitator. Kim helps clients avoid relapse by understanding their triggers. Those people, places and things that can cause craving, as well as internal triggers like feelings, thoughts, or emotions. Kim also clients with identifying and building healthy relationships now that they’re clean and sober.

Kim’s background includes extensive experience as a motivational speaker and work in faith-based organizations helping youth and adults alike. He says he is motivated by giving back to the community, understanding, and not judging who she comes into contact with. Kim’s favorite quote is by Dr. Raymond Johnson: “The respect given to others rebounds to the giver to deny the scared in the Other is to deny it in oneself.”

Caty Burns

Clinician

Caty graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and minors in Counseling and History. Throughout her undergrad, she worked at the local CASA program, supporting volunteers advocating for children who had experienced abuse and neglect. Caty worked for seven years at a community mental health center (CMHC), partnering with children, adults, and families.

During those seven years, she taught life and coping skills as well as behavior management, provided case management and peer recovery services, and facilitated treatment teams that included the client, family, providers, and community members. I have also worked at an IOP providing group therapy services. She is currently working towards my Master of Social Work.

In her free time, Caty enjoys reading, especially historical fiction, spending time outdoors and having movie nights with her family. Disney World is her happy place, and she dreams of living among the elephants.

Madison Knowles

Mental Health Therapist

My name is Madison Knowles, I am a Mental health therapist at NPAC. I am a single-mother of two and I have a daughter who is globally delayed and has been diagnosed with autism. I have been in this industry since I was 16 years old, as I was fascinated with human behavior. I obtained my masters in applied behavioral analysis and started off working with people with disabilities. I then found my love for counseling when I worked with juveniles who had mental health and substance use issues. I then decided to go back for my mental health therapy license after that and working in a forensic treatment center. I went on to obtain my therapy credentials and since 2017, I have also been working on my PhD in forensic psychology in which I am currently working on my dissertation. I am inspired by change and how resilient people can be. My favorite inspirational quote is “Some will, Some won’t, So what, NEXT!!!” This quote has inspired me to try, try, and try again no matter how hard life gets, someone will give you a chance eventually. As a therapist at NPAC, I have been given the opportunity to work with diverse populations such as in substance use and mental health and I am known for my work with people on the schizophrenic spectrum as well as with other clients with other severe conditions including personality disorders.

Megan Carmona, LMHC

Lead Therapist

Our Lead Therapist, Megan, is a bilingual Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in working with adults who struggle with addiction, anxiety, depression, and trauma. As Lead Therapist, she provides individual, family, and group therapy sessions to our clients.  Megan says “I am very passionate about therapy, especially about supporting my clients in exploring their strengths and identity. My goal is to provide individuals with the tools that can help them achieve independence in coping with their challenges and facilitating personal development.” In her free time, Megan enjoys watching docu-series and playing video games with her family. Her dream is to own acres of land so she can care for vulnerable animals, especially old dogs, cats, and horses. 

Kristen Bensley

Primary Clinician

As Primary Clinician, Kristen works with all aspects of our clinical team, from case management to primary therapy.  She has broad experience working in the mental health field. Prior to joining our team at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic, Kristen was part of the team awarded the Evernorth Behavioral Health Center of Excellence Designation by Cigna. She says her motivation is to help people rediscover who they are and become excited about the future and all the possibilities life offers. Kristen’s favorite quote is: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Ronn Daigle, MSW

Therapist, Utilization Review Clinician

Ronn Daigle services as a Therapist and Utilization Review Clinician at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has been working in the field of substance use disorder treatment since 2011, with experience in all facility-based levels of care. Ronn earned, both an Associate of Arts in Psychology (2013) and Bachelor of Science in Human Services, with an Addiction Studies Concentration (2015) from Indian River State College. 

Ronn additionally earned a Master of Social Work degree in 2021 and is a current Registered Clinical Social Work Intern working toward licensure (LCSW). He describes himself as detail oriented, and solution focused.

Ronn says: “There is nothing more fulfilling than working with someone who doesn’t believe in himself or herself, and being there in the moment with them when the belief begins. We work with individuals who come to us at a point and time in their respective lives where they do not believe that change for others is possible; let alone for themselves…throughout the process they eventually come to a point where they realize that change is not only possible, but achievable.”

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI

Assistant Clinical Director

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI is the Assistant Clinical Director at Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic who specializes in the treatment of LGBTQ, addiction, as well as mental health disorders ranging from depression and anxiety, to Bipolar Disorder, trauma, personality disorders, psychotic disorders, and eating disorders. Erika utilizes a number of modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Mindfulness amongst others. Erika has been in practice for close to a decade and has earned her license in Mental Health Counseling, as well as being a Master’s Certified Addiction Professional. Erika has worked with many individuals including couples counseling and family therapy, and is fluent in Spanish.
 
Throughout my years of practice, one of the things I enjoy helping people find is inner peace. Whether you are in the deepest parts of depression, overrun by your anxiety, controlled by your addiction, or there are certain issues in your life that are negatively impacting your ability to function, and have a happy, healthy life, maybe now is the time to talk about it. I am a big believer in empowerment, working hard in therapy, and utilizing different techniques to help you regain that inner peace that may have been lost along the way. I want to work with you as a team because with two people, absolutely everything is possible. I want to be there as a therapist, to help build you up, support you, but also help you be honest with yourself and accountable. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, my biggest goal for you is going to be simple….for you to no longer need my services. Why? Because if you no longer need my services, it means that you have regained your peace, you have regained your strength, you have regained your confidence. It means that you now have the tools to address any issues that try to derail you, and best of all, you will have the insight to overcome and thrive. So let’s begin this journey together, and get you to the place you want to be, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and in your sobriety.

Aurelio Ayuso, MSW, LCSW, CAP, ICADC

Clinical Director

Aurelio has worked with those that suffer from the disease of addiction in adults and juveniles alike for over 10 years, beginning in the United States Navy where he proudly served for 20 years, working with those that were succumbed by addiction due to trauma and continuing his passion for helping those in need locally in Central Florida.

He specializes in both Addictions and Trauma, he has worked first as a therapist then as the clinical supervisor to both the Juvenile and Adult Drug Court programs in Brevard County. Aurelio has been instrumental in developing substance abuse treatment programs directly tailored to help those that also suffer from complex trauma due to their addiction. He has been recognized by several organizations for his forward thinking and ability to tailor treatment to individuals in the most restrictive environments.

Mr. Ayuso received his Graduate Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker as well as Certified Addictions Professional in the State of Florida, and Internationally Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor. Aurelio specializes in the treatment of Addiction, Trauma, and Abandonment using strength based strategies deeply rooted in Solution Focused, and Mindfulness Therapies. At the Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic he passionately develops holistic curriculums that foster the belief that through addressing the mind, body, and spirit together, the Disease of Addiction can be addressed successfully.

Robert Lehmann, MHSA

Chief Operating Officer

Bob Lehmann is the Chief Operating Officer at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Services Administration with a concentration in Mental Health Administration and over twenty-five years of experience as a senior executive at addiction and mental health treatment facilities.

One of the reasons for his commitment to excellence in addiction treatment was his experience related to family members who suffered from the disease of addiction. Bob has been actively involved in community organizations throughout his career. Recently he was one of the founders of the Florida Addiction Treatment Coalition (FATC) and is its present Vice President. FATC was designed to bring together treatment executives in Florida to advocate on behalf of treatment facilities and the clients they serve adhering to a foundation of integrity and service excellence.

Jose R. Toledo, M.D.

Medical Director

A well-rounded and accomplished individual, Jose R. Toledo, M.D., is the Medical Director of Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a neurologist with 25 years of experience and has been in private practice since 1991 on the Treasure Coast of Florida. He completed his neurology training at the State University of New York and his Fellowship training at the University of Pittsburgh in Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology.

He also completed 24 months of acute inpatient psychiatry at the Western Missouri Mental Health Center, University of Missouri in Kansas City. In 2008, Dr. Toledo participated in and was certified in the continuing medical education activity entitled “Buprenorphine and Office-Based Treatment of Opioid Dependence” from The Medical University of South Carolina during which began his quest to found and head Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a brain specialist with particular competence in addiction medicine and out-patient detoxification treatment and integrates the fields seamlessly. He is certified to prescribe Buprenorphine (Suboxone). He incorporates his background in neurology into the addiction field. Dr. Toledo is member/fellow of The American Medical Association, The Florida Medical Association and The American Society of Addiction Medicine