Suboxone Addiction: Is Suboxone Addictive?

Suboxone Addiction Treatment Atlanta, GA
Picture of Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Dr. Joshua Yager is an Atlanta native, board-certified family practice physician who is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of his community.

Table of Contents

Suboxone is a medication commonly used to treat opioid addiction, composed of two key ingredients: buprenorphine, an opioid, and naloxone, which counteracts the effects of opioid overdose. While Suboxone is effective in managing addiction, it is not without risks due to the opioid nature of buprenorphine, which can lead to dependence and addiction in some individuals.

Understanding the symptoms of Suboxone addiction is critical for early detection and intervention. Early recognition of these symptoms enables healthcare providers to offer appropriate treatment and support, helping individuals on their journey to recovery.

Highlighting the symptoms of Suboxone addiction not only increases awareness but also enhances the support networks available to those affected. This knowledge is essential for fostering effective recovery strategies and facilitating healing within the community.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is widely utilized in the treatment of opioid addiction. Although it is classified as an opioid, its mechanism differs significantly from typical opioid painkillers that are often subject to abuse. While common opioids are full agonists that create intense euphoria by fully activating opioid receptors, Suboxone comprises two key components: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning it offers some of the pain relief and withdrawal mitigation benefits of opioids but with a reduced likelihood of producing euphoria. Naloxone, an opioid antagonist, blocks opioid receptors and is particularly effective in preventing misuse, especially if Suboxone is injected.

This combination not only helps diminish cravings for stronger opioids but also lowers the potential for abuse. Despite its design to be less addictive, the risk of developing a dependency on Suboxone still exists, particularly with improper use. It remains one of the most frequently prescribed medications for managing opioid dependence, playing a crucial role for many among the millions who have struggled with opioid misuse.

Commonly known on the street as Boxes, Oranges, Sobos, Stops, and Bupes, Suboxone continues to be a pivotal tool in the ongoing battle against opioid addiction.

What is Suboxone Addiction?

Suboxone addiction develops when an individual becomes dependent on this medication, commonly used to treat opioid addiction. Suboxone combines buprenorphine, a drug that alleviates withdrawal symptoms, with naloxone, designed to thwart misuse.

The pathway to addiction typically starts with the misuse of Suboxone, either by consuming it in larger quantities or more frequently than prescribed. Such misuse can escalate to physical dependence, where the body craves the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms without it. The signs of addiction might manifest as intense cravings, emotional instability, and an inability to fulfill daily responsibilities.

Understanding and recognizing these symptoms is crucial for seeking timely professional intervention, essential for overcoming Suboxone addiction effectively.

Is Suboxone Addictive?

Yes, Suboxone carries a risk of addiction, albeit lower than many other opioids. Its main ingredient, buprenorphine, has a unique pharmacological profile that makes it less likely to cause intense cravings compared to more sedative opioids. Buprenorphine can induce moderate withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, muscle pains, and nausea. To manage these symptoms, medical professionals usually taper the dosage gradually during the course of treatment.

Buprenorphine exhibits a “ceiling effect,” meaning that beyond a certain dose, its effects do not increase, which helps in reducing the risk of misuse by limiting the high it can produce. However, while tolerance to buprenorphine can develop, increasing doses does not enhance its effects, which somewhat mitigates the risk of addictive behaviors.

Despite the safeguards, Suboxone abuse still occurs. Illegally distributed Suboxone is often purchased by individuals seeking to self-medicate the withdrawal symptoms of other opioids. Misusing Suboxone in this way—without a prescription or medical supervision—can lead to overdose. People might resort to using Suboxone on their own to avoid withdrawal symptoms, which can result in a dependency that circumvents the underlying addiction issue.

This type of misuse underscores the necessity for comprehensive treatment as opposed to relying solely on Suboxone. True recovery involves structured addiction treatment that addresses both withdrawal and the psychological aspects of addiction, not just the temporary alleviation of symptoms.

How Addictive is Suboxone?

Suboxone presents a milder effect compared to more potent opioids such as heroin or morphine. Its gradual onset and prolonged action render it less addictive, with the National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment stating that the risk of addiction is relatively low. This organization also notes that any dependency developed can typically be managed through a carefully controlled tapering of the dosage during treatment.

However, individuals undergoing treatment with buprenorphine may still be susceptible to opioid addiction. Compulsive use of Suboxone is uncommon, but the potential for addiction exists as with any substance that can induce pleasure.

Despite its therapeutic intent, Suboxone has potential for misuse. Some users may acquire it illicitly to manage or delay withdrawal symptoms from heroin, facilitating continued opioid use. Initially not recognized widely for its abuse potential, reports have emerged that Suboxone can produce euphoric effects if misused, thus highlighting its capacity for abuse.

Signs of Suboxone Addiction

Signs and Symptoms of Suboxone Addiction or Abuse

Suboxone is frequently prescribed to assist individuals detoxing from opioid addiction, such as with prescription painkillers or heroin. However, if not closely monitored or if prescribed for extended periods by a healthcare provider not specialized in addiction treatment, it can lead to misuse.

The misuse of Suboxone might be indicated by certain behaviors, physical or emotional symptoms suggesting that the prescription is not being followed as intended.

These behaviors of Suboxone addiction include:

  • Discrepancies in the amount of medication in the bottle compared to prescribed dosages.
  • Secretive behavior or dishonesty regarding medication use.
  • Engaging in “doctor shopping” to obtain multiple prescriptions from different healthcare providers or pharmacies.

Physical Symptoms of Suboxone addiction:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Drowsiness or excessive sleepiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Dilated pupils
  • Poor coordination
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite or weight

Emotional and Psychological Symptoms of Suboxone addiction:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Depression or sadness
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Increased secrecy or lying
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Cravings for Suboxone
  • Memory or cognitive difficulties

Suboxone may also be acquired through illicit means, such as diversion from legal prescriptions to self-treat withdrawal symptoms, sustain another drug addiction, or even to experience euphoria. Illicit channels can include theft from medical facilities or illegal imports.

Suboxone abuse might manifest through various signs typically used to diagnose substance use disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

These signs of Suboxone abuse include:

  • Inability to control or cease substance use.
  • Intense cravings and excessive time spent on obtaining, using, or recovering from the drug.
  • Interpersonal problems and neglect of major responsibilities due to drug use.
  • Persistent use despite awareness of physical or psychological problems it may be exacerbating.
  • Prioritizing drug use over other important or pleasurable activities.
  • Using the substance in hazardous situations.

Moreover, combining Suboxone with central nervous system depressants like benzodiazepines or alcohol elevates the risk of severe side effects and fatal overdose. This is because all these substances cumulatively depress vital bodily functions such as heart rate and breathing, significantly increasing the danger of life-threatening outcomes. Thus, awareness and caution are paramount if there is suspicion of Suboxone abuse, especially in conjunction with other depressants.

How Long Does Suboxone Stay in Your System?

The duration Suboxone remains in your system varies widely and depends on multiple individual factors such as age, gender, weight, and metabolic rate.

The active component in Suboxone, buprenorphine, has a half-life ranging from 25 to 70 hours. Typically, a drug is considered to be cleared from the body after four to five half-lives. Consequently, Suboxone could stay in the system for about 100 to 350 hours, which translates to roughly four to fourteen days. This estimation can help guide medical professionals and patients in understanding how long the drug’s effects may linger in the body.

Causes of Suboxone Addiction

Suboxone is commonly utilized in opioid addiction treatment. Although it is an effective intervention, it carries potential risks, including the possibility of developing an addiction.

Factors contributing to Suboxone addiction include:

  • Prolonged Use: Extended consumption of Suboxone can lead to physical dependence. Over time, users might need higher doses to feel the same effects, a sign of growing tolerance.
  • Misconceptions About Safety: The belief that Suboxone is completely safe because it is a prescription medication can lead to its misuse. Patients may take more than the prescribed dose or use it without medical guidance, increasing addiction risk.
  • Peer Influence: Social environments can play a significant role in substance use. Seeing peers use Suboxone recreationally can encourage others to try it, potentially leading to abuse.
  • Psychological Factors: Suboxone might be used to self-medicate for stress, trauma, or other mental health issues. Dependence can develop when individuals use the medication to manage emotional or psychological distress.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Genetics can affect an individual’s susceptibility to addiction. A family history of substance abuse can increase the likelihood of dependence on medications like Suboxone.
  • Environmental Influences: Factors such as availability of Suboxone, economic conditions, and community attitudes towards drugs can influence addiction patterns. Stressful or unstable environments may drive individuals to seek relief through substances.
  • Lack of Monitoring and Regulation: Insufficient medical oversight and control over Suboxone prescriptions can facilitate misuse and addiction. Without appropriate monitoring, the risk of drug abuse escalates.

Understanding these factors is crucial in preventing Suboxone addiction and ensuring that treatment for opioid dependence is managed safely and effectively.

Suboxone Side Effects

Suboxone, like any medication, may produce side effects that typically aren’t life-threatening and often diminish after a few days. Here are some of the common side effects associated with the two active ingredients in Suboxone:

Buprenorphine Side Effects:

  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fever
  • Irritability

Naloxone Side Effects:

  • Nervousness and irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Body aches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Fever and chills
  • Sneezing or runny nose

Although these side effects are usually not severe, it’s important to monitor them closely. If they persist or worsen, consulting a healthcare provider is advisable to ensure they are managed effectively and to adjust treatment if necessary.

Why Do People Abuse Suboxone?

Individuals may misuse Suboxone for several reasons. Often, it is used as an alternative to opioid painkillers when they are not available, due to its prescription status and relative accessibility. Its primary misuse, however, stems from those trying to manage withdrawal symptoms from more potent opioids or those looking to circumvent drug tests while maintaining some level of opioid intake.

Although Suboxone’s effects differ markedly from those of traditional opioids—it lacks the same euphoric high—it can still mitigate the cravings associated with opioid addiction. This aspect can lead individuals to misuse Suboxone as a makeshift solution. Some users discontinue its misuse upon realizing that it does not induce the euphoria typical of other opioids. However, continued misuse can lead to physical dependence on Suboxone, trapping individuals in a cycle of substance reliance.

Can You Overdose on Suboxone?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on Suboxone, especially if taken in large doses or when mixed with other depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines. Suboxone contains naloxone, which is intended to prevent overdose effects when the drug is injected. However, overdose can still occur, particularly if Suboxone is combined with opioid agonists such as painkillers, which can enhance the risk of overdose beyond what Suboxone alone might cause.

Symptoms Of A Suboxone Overdose

Overdosing on Suboxone is a serious risk and can be fatal without prompt treatment. The risk increases when Suboxone is used excessively or in conjunction with other substances.

Symptoms of a Suboxone overdose may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Chills
  • Confusion
  • Constricted pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Stomach pain
  • Sweating

In severe cases, a Suboxone overdose can lead to respiratory depression, a critical condition that reduces or halts breathing entirely. This can result in brain damage, coma, or death if not immediately addressed.

Treatment for Suboxone Addiction Atlanta, GA

Can Suboxone Addiction be Treated?

Yes, Suboxone addiction is treatable with a combination of medication and addiction therapy. The approach to treating Suboxone addiction is often akin to the treatment methodologies used for prescription painkillers and other opioids.

Effective treatment strategies for Suboxone addiction typically aim to achieve the following objectives:

  • Detox: Assisting individuals in eliminating Suboxone from their bodies through a medically supervised detox process.
  • Trigger Identification: Helping individuals identify triggers—situations or stressors that may tempt them to use Suboxone or could challenge their recovery efforts.
  • Skill Development: Enhancing essential life skills, including communication, stress management, problem-solving, and conflict resolution, to support long-term recovery.
  • Mental Health Support: Addressing any co-occurring mental health issues that may be intertwined with the addiction.
  • Building Support Networks: Establishing a robust personal support system through connections with peer support groups and other community resources.
  • Sustaining Recovery: Providing ongoing support to help individuals maintain their sobriety after completing formal treatment, ensuring a durable recovery from addiction.

By integrating these elements, treatment programs for Suboxone addiction focus on both overcoming the physical dependence and equipping individuals with the tools necessary for a sustained recovery.

Suboxone Addiction Treatment

Effective outpatient programs are often sufficient for those battling Suboxone addiction. For those needing additional support, intensive outpatient programs or trauma-informed care may offer the necessary resources for recovery. It’s crucial to select a treatment program that aligns with your specific needs to ensure the best outcomes.

Therapies for Suboxone Addiction

Diverse therapies such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are integral in overcoming Suboxone addiction. These therapies focus on teaching problem-solving skills and ways to cope without resorting to substances. Additionally, holistic methods like hypnotherapy, yoga, and art therapy can also be beneficial in the recovery process.

Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders

Many individuals dealing with Suboxone addiction may also have prior histories with opioid use and could be experiencing concurrent mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. It’s vital to treat these underlying conditions alongside the addiction because they often contribute to the development and continuation of substance misuse. A comprehensive approach that addresses both the addiction and any associated mental health disorders simultaneously is crucial for effective recovery.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Suboxone addiction, reach out to Hope Harbor Wellness in Atlanta, GA, today. Contact us at 678-605-9725 or via our online form to start your Suboxone addiction treatment in Atlanta, GA today.


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