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Suboxone Addiction

Table of Contents

Suboxone is the brand name for a combination of two drugs. The first drug is buprenorphine, an opioid that, compared to drugs like oxycodone, morphine, and heroin, is extremely weak. The second drug is called naloxone, which is an opioid antagonist that is used to reverse opioid overdoses. 

Suboxone is a prescription medication that is used as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) during rehabilitation treatment for opioid addiction, helping to ease cravings and symptoms of withdrawal. Suboxone is meant to be used in tandem with behavioral therapy to help someone recover from their opioid dependence and eventually achieve sobriety.  

Unfortunately, even though it was specifically made to be difficult to abuse, the presence of the buprenorphine still gives it the potential to become habit-forming if someone uses it outside of the prescribed dosage or in combination with other drugs. 

How Does Suboxone Work?

As a medication intended to treat opioid addiction, Suboxone is rather unique in how it works. As previously mentioned, buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. This means that while it binds with the same opioid receptors as full agonists like heroin, it produces just enough of an effect to reduce cravings, but not enough to get someone high. 

It also takes up space where opioid agonists would typically bind with receptors and stimulate them into overproduction. Instead, the buprenorphine blocks them out. 

The naloxone component of Suboxone is meant to make it difficult to abuse. When used on its own, naloxone cuts off access to the opioid receptors, effectively negating an opioid high and often bringing on sudden and painful withdrawal symptoms. This is why it is paired with buprenorphine; otherwise, its antagonist effects would make it too potent to be useful in regular medical maintenance therapy.

What Are the Signs of Suboxone Addiction?

Because Suboxone is meant for pharmaceutical use and the treatment of opioid use disorders, it is significantly weaker than other opioid medications and is much more difficult to get high on. However, this does not mean Suboxone does not have the potential for abuse and even addiction if someone can obtain enough of it to regularly abuse in large amounts.

While people with opioid addiction may misuse Suboxone to manage their cravings for other drugs, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), it’s people who do not have an opioid use disorder that are far more likely to abuse Suboxone.

This is, in part, due to the perception that it is a safe drug compared to other opioids, and that the people who are taking it as part of medical maintenance therapy are not getting high on it. Unfortunately, for those who use the drug nonmedically, these assumptions make it all-too-easy to slide from misuse to abuse and, eventually, addiction, often without even realizing it.

Common behavioral signs of Suboxone addiction include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Frequent headaches
  • Excessive sweating and fevers
  • Insomnia
  • Sudden, unpredictable mood swings
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea and gastrointestinal issues
  • Slurred speech
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The point at which Suboxone abuse becomes Suboxone addiction is when someone has lost control to the point of obsessive, compulsive use. Someone who has become addicted to Suboxone will begin to exhibit abnormal behavior consistent with a substance use disorder, such as neglecting responsibilities, relationships, and hobbies in favor of obtaining and using Suboxone. 

Common behavioral signs of Suboxone addiction include:

  • Taking Suboxone in unintended ways
  • Using Suboxone more often or in larger amounts than prescribed
  • Taking Suboxone without a prescription or medical supervision
  • Increased tolerance to the effects of Suboxone
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using Suboxone
  • A noticeable decline in work or academic performance
  • Hiding or lying about Suboxone use
  • Becoming socially withdrawn and isolated
  • Missing money or valuables to pay for Suboxone
  • Feeling unable to function without using Suboxone
  • Being unable to stop using Suboxone after trying to

If you recognize these signs in your behavior or have observed them in a loved one, it is critical that you seek professional addiction treatment at an accredited center as soon as you can to prevent a potential overdose as well as any permanent physical or mental damage.

What Is Involved in Suboxone Addiction Treatment?

As with nearly any addictive substance, effective Suboxone addiction treatment should begin with medical detoxification to rid Suboxone and any other potential substances and toxins from someone’s system to treat acute intoxication and get the person stabilized.

While the symptoms of opioid withdrawal are relatively mild compared to other drugs, Suboxone detox should not be attempted without medical treatment from experienced health care professionals. An experienced medical detox team will ensure the Suboxone detox process goes as safely and painlessly as possible. They also are prepared to handle any possible withdrawal complications.

After finishing with detox, the next part of Suboxone addiction treatment should be entering an addiction recovery treatment program. Detox will get someone sober, but it will take more to help them commit to sobriety full time. Ongoing care in a rehabilitation program is essential for recovering substance users to effectively manage their addiction and avoid relapse in the long-term.

Clients can opt for either an inpatient or outpatient program, depending on the severity of their addiction and if they have a history of addiction and relapse. During these programs, they will take part in various therapies and treatments to increase the understanding of the issues at the root of their addictions and learn the coping skills necessary to manage them. 

When treating opioid addiction, many treatment centers will utilize medical-maintenance therapy, usually with drugs like methadone or Suboxone. But if someone is in treatment for abusing Suboxone, then it is unlikely that it will be used, except potentially as a means of tapering down someone’s Suboxone use.

Other common recovery therapies include:

How Dangerous Is Suboxone?

Even though it was created for the sole purpose of helping those with opioid use disorders, Suboxone can still be dangerous if misused. The inclusion of naloxone is meant to make it extremely difficult to overdose on Suboxone, but it is still possible. The primary way people overdose while using Suboxone is by combining it with other depressants, including benzodiazepines and alcohol, for a stronger effect. This combination can easily prove lethal, slowing down the user’s breathing and heart rate to the point of coma and major organ shutdown.

Common Suboxone overdose symptoms include:

  • Dangerously slow and shallow breathing
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Impaired coordination
  • Inability to remain conscious
  • Bluish skin around fingernails and lips
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting

Suboxone Abuse Statistics

  • According to the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ), between 2006 and 2011, the number of ER visits in the U.S. resulting from nonmedical buprenorphine use rose from less than 500 to nearly 21,500.
  • As of 2017, roughly 3% of doctors in the U.S. had the necessary qualifications to allow them to prescribe Suboxone. 
  • During the past decade, Suboxone has become one of the most frequently confiscated drugs in U.S. prisons.

Your Recovery Journey Can Start Today

If you or someone you care about is battling an addiction to Suboxone, help is always available at Ocean Breeze Recovery, where our mission is to help get you or your loved one on the path to sobriety and provide comprehensive support every step of the way.

At Ocean Breeze Recovery, we work to address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction to provide truly comprehensive and effective treatment. Don’t wait any longer. Call 844-554-9279 now for a free and confidential consultation with one of our compassionate, knowledgeable specialists to learn more about finding the treatment program that’s best for you or your loved one. You can also contact us online for more information.

Sources (2019, November 4) Suboxone. Entringer, S. PharmD. Retrieved from

National Alliance on Mental Health. (2020 February) Buprenorphine/Naloxone (Suboxone). Retrieved from

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016, May 31). Medication-Assisted Treatment: Buprenorphine. Retrieved from

Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015, November 5). Emergency Department Visits Involving Narcotic Pain Relievers. Retrieved from

The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment. (2017, May). Buprenorphine Treatment. Retrieved from

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