What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is the brand name for a prescription medication which is designed to treat opioid addiction. Suboxone has two ingredients: the opioid buprenorphine and the medication naloxone. The combined effects of these two ingredients reduce cravings for addictive opioids such as heroin, codeine, fentanyl, and oxycodone.
Buprenorphine is an opioid which is actually more potent than morphine, but it is also prevents other opioids from binding to opioid receptors in the nervous system. In other words, buprenorphine prevents other opioids from affecting the brain. Buprenorphine is also unlikely to cause the intense sedation and euphoria which most opioids cause, but for someone who is addicted to opioids, buprenorphine will satisfy their basic opioid cravings and suppress withdrawal symptoms. Naloxone is a medication which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. The purpose of naloxone in Suboxone is to prevent people from overdosing on the drug.
Only people who are experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms should use Suboxone. Therefore, people who are undergoing treatment for opioid addiction usually take Suboxone to manage withdrawal while they detox from opioids. Afterwards, they often continue to use the medication to control cravings and withdrawal while they progress through therapy and rehab. Suboxone is not meant to be a cure for opioid addiction, but rather a helpful part of the recovery process.
In the United States, Suboxone is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance, a drug which has medical value yet also carries moderate risks for addiction. As a result, only doctors who receive certification from the Department of Health and Human Services may prescribe Suboxone. The medication is manufactured as dissolvable films and tablets.
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Is Suboxone Addiction Possible?
Suboxone is potentially addictive, although the risk of becoming addicted to Suboxone is less than the risk of becoming addicted to other opioids. Buprenorphine, the opioid ingredient in Suboxone, may provoke moderate withdrawal symptoms, specifically headaches, muscle pains, and nausea. However, unlike other opioids, buprenorphine has a “ceiling effect.” This means that larger and more frequent doses of buprenorphine do not have a stronger impact on the body and mind. In other words, while it’s possible for someone to develop tolerance to buprenorphine, it is not likely that they will develop dependence as a result of using it repeatedly. Moreover, doctors tend to gradually reduce their patients’ doses of Suboxone as they finish addiction treatment.
While Suboxone addiction is unlikely, Suboxone abuse is absolutely possible. In fact, drug traffickers have been selling illegal Suboxone to people throughout the United States. In 2018, police in just one city, Cincinnati, confiscated over 6,000 doses of illegal Suboxone. Most people who buy Suboxone illegally and abuse it are not trying to experience its effects as an opioid. Instead, they are trying to obtain relief from opioid withdrawal. A person could abuse Suboxone by using it to relieve opioid withdrawal without a prescription and without undergoing treatment for opioid addiction. In such cases, the person will use Suboxone whenever they start to experience withdrawal symptoms while failing to abide by any medical limits. Consequently, they may experience Suboxone’s worst side effects.
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What Are the Side Effects and Risks of Suboxone?
Like most medications, Suboxone can cause a variety of side effects. Most side effects are not life-threatening and usually subside within several days. The most common side effects of Suboxone include:
- Muscle pain
Suboxone does pose a risk for more serious side effects, especially when people who are taking Suboxone also drink alcohol or use Benzodiazepines. For instance, Suboxone can cause an allergic reaction characterized by swelling in the throat and difficult with breathing. In addition, high doses of Suboxone can cause liver damage and induce a coma. It is also possible to suffer a Suboxone overdose.
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What Are the Symptoms of a Suboxone Overdose?
Since Suboxone is an opioid-based medication, overdose is one of the most serious risks of Suboxone. In fact, an overdose on Suboxone can be lethal if left untreated. Someone who uses too much Suboxone or combines it with other drugs is most likely to suffer an overdose. The symptoms of a Suboxone overdose include:
- Constricted pupils
- Stomach Pain
- Nausea and vomiting
In severe cases, a Suboxone overdose can cause respiratory depression, a condition which restricts or stops breathing. Respiratory depression can cause brain damage, coma, and death.
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How Can I Find Treatment for Suboxone Addiction?
Suboxone is a useful medication, but everyone has to use it responsibly. Abusing Suboxone by taking it too often, in excessively large doses, or without a prescription is dangerous. It is a tragedy that a medication which is supposed to help end addiction is also addictive, but once someone overcomes dependence on Suboxone, they can reclaim their life from opioids once and for all.
If you or someone you know is abusing Suboxone and needs help with overcoming opioid addiction, please contact a dedicated treatment professional today to learn more about the many treatment centers which are available to help you or your loved one achieve freedom from substance abuse. A treatment program for Suboxone dependence at a rehab facility will involve detox, therapy, and ongoing support in an aftercare program. Please reach out today for help getting started.
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