Suboxone Addiction: The Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Explained

Author: NP Addiction Clinic
Published: July 26, 2022

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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