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Article Summary

What Is Suboxone?

Americans have been developing addictions to prescription opiates at alarming rates. In fact, the NSDUH (abbreviation for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) for 2014 showed that more than 1.9 million people in the United States were suffering from prescription painkiller use disorders.

Painkillers are commonly prescribed to treat a variety of painful conditions. For instance, if you fracture your leg in a traffic accident, your doctor might prescribe OxyContin - which is an opioid analgesic (or pain relief) medication.

Whether you start using prescription opioids or illicit ones like heroin, it is highly likely that you might eventually develop an addiction to these drugs. Today, there are medications used to treat such addictions through DRT or drug replacement therapy. Among these medications is Suboxone.

It is similar to pure opioids in the sense that it is also habit forming. This means that you can also develop an addiction to Suboxone. In the following article, you will learn more about this drug, what it is, how it works, and its addictive potential, among others:

Understanding Suboxone

But what is Suboxone exactly? Essentially, it is trade name drug that contains a mixture of naloxone and buprenorphine. This synthetic medication is commonly prescribed for the treatment of opioid addiction.

Today, millions of Americans receive Suboxone treatments - mostly under strictly monitored medical supervision. This drug is classified as a partial opioid agonist since it will bind to the brain receptors that opioids also bind to. However, it is not a pure opioid. Through its action, the drug can effectively replace harmful opioids like heroin and OxyContin.

Apart from the above action, Suboxone also reduces cravings for opioids as well as suppressing some of the withdrawal symptoms that arise when you stop abusing this class of drugs.

This is why doctors prescribe Suboxone in medical settings to empower addicts so that they no longer need to abuse opioids. Instead, they are empowered to remain in recovery.

The Food and Drug Administration (or the FDA) first approved Suboxone for the treatment of this form of drug addiction in 2002. At the time, it was marketed as Subutex - a drug that was eventually discontinued from use in the marketplace in 2011.

In 2009, there was a generic version of the Subutex medication while Suboxone's generic version first appeared on the market in 2012. That said, since Suboxone got into the market, it has been dispensed under brand names like:

  • Bunavail
  • Buprenex
  • Buprenex
  • Butrans
  • Cizdol
  • Norspan
  • Probuphine
  • Suboxone Film
  • Temgesic
  • Zubsolv

While trying to understand the answers to the "what is Suboxone?" question, you might want to know a bit more about how it looks like. When the drug first came on the market, it was only available as a tablet that resembled any other white pill.

8 years after its market release, manufacturers started producing more innovative versions of the drug. These included Suboxone strips - which resemble postage stamps. Other creative formulations of the medication include:

a) June 2010

The FDA first approved Butrans - which is a transdermal film (extended release) that works in the same way as nicotine patches in the sense that it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin.

b) August 2012

In 2012, the same administration approved the Suboxone film.

c) July 2013

The next year, the FDA approved the Zubsolv sublingual tablets - which became widely available in September of the same year.

d) November 2014

Bunavail, which is a buccal film, received FDA approval.

e) May 2016

Probuphine received FDA approval. It is an under the skin implant that works for 6 months - during which time it releases steady doses of Suboxone.

Since Suboxone comes with a potential for abuse and addiction, it is similar to other intoxicating substances in the sense that it is sold under different names on the street, including but not limited to:

  • Subs
  • Stops
  • Stop signs
  • Sobos
  • Saboxins
  • Oranges
  • Bupes
  • Boxes

Suboxone Addiction

When addicts are made to switch from methadone to Suboxone therapy, they will usually have to take less of the replacement drug than a new addict who is just coming down from a period of opioid dependence.

Either way, the ultimate goal of the medical team will be to taper you down to effective doses that you can use for as long as is necessary. Most addicts are able to reach full stabilization with daily doses of between 12 and 16 milligrams of Suboxone.

Still, you might want to learn whether Suboxone is addictive. When you use this drug long enough, it is possible to develop an addiction to it. However, the rates of such addiction tend to be relatively low - especially in comparison to other opioids.

Essentially, Suboxone is a combination drug that contains both naloxone and buprenorphine. Since it works as an effective opiate antagonist, the naloxone component will block the opiate receptors in the brain - an action that could trigger some withdrawal symptoms. As such, naloxone is sometimes deadly for people who have developed an addiction to hard opiates such as heroin.

The buprenorphine component, on the other hand, acts as a partial opiate agonist. This means that it will activate the opioid receptors in your brain and that it works like any other opioid substance.

This combination of naloxone and buprenorphine is useful because it will allow an opioid addict to wean off their dependence without suffering some of the harsher withdrawal symptoms that arise when you stop abusing opioids.

The only problem with Suboxone and its use in the treatment of serious opioid addictions is that you might still feel intense cravings for your favorite substances of abuse. As a direct result, you might not stop using this drug - which could potentially cause you to become dependent on it.

If you are addicted to Suboxone, you might even find yourself dissolving its strips in water before injecting the resulting solution - which will bypass your stomach and make the naloxone component ineffective.

Although it is rare for you to develop an addiction to this drug if you follow your doctor's instructions correctly, abusing the medication could cause you to become addicted to it. The riskiest form of such substance abuse comes in the form of taking it intravenously. This is because an injection will deliver the effects faster and cause you to have a highly concentrated dose of Suboxone in your system.

Over time, if you are unable to use enough Suboxone, you might start experiencing withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are quite similar to those that arise when you stop abusing opioids.

Today, Suboxone is becoming more widely available. As a direct result, more people are abusing it. According to recent statistics, for instance, it was shown that the buprenorphine component in this medication caused more than 30,000 visits to emergency rooms in 2010 alone. Close to half of these visits were as a result of abusing the medication. This is in stark comparison to 2005 - only a couple of years after the medications came on the market - when there were only about 3,000 visits to emergency rooms.

As we mentioned earlier, Suboxone's withdrawal symptoms are quite similar to those of opioid withdrawal. For instance, you are likely to experience some level of discomfort that arises from opiate cessation. However, these symptoms tend to be less severe if you have been abusing Suboxone than if you were addicted to an opioid drug. They include nausea, insomnia, headaches, fever, muscle aches, and mood swings.

Suboxone Effects

Even as you try to answer the "what is Suboxone?" question, you might wonder whether the drug can create intoxication. For an average user of this medication, Suboxone does not cause high or pleasurable feelings and effects.

However, if you start abusing the drug or develop an addiction to it, you might experience these effects. This is because Suboxone acts as a partial opiate agonist. This means that it interacts with the brain's opioid receptors and might cause the euphoric effects typical of opioid abuse, dependence, and addiction.

However, Suboxone contains naloxone - which is an opioid antagonist. This naloxone component might prevent you from triggering the opioid receptors inside your brain.

As a direct result, Suboxone can meet your cravings for other opioids just enough to ensure that you do not suffer any adverse withdrawal symptoms. However, you might not be able to feel any pleasurable effects in the process. The naloxone component, in fact, is so powerful that it can effectively block you from getting intoxicated to another opioid drug when you are on Suboxone.

However, if your doctor prescribes Suboxone to wean you off a harder opioid like heroin, you might find that this drug can provide high effects as you become used to it. As a direct result, you may start taking it intravenously - because this mode of administration tends to give the greatest pleasure possible as it bypasses your digestive system.

Suboxone Side-Effects

Suboxone abuse is often accompanied by some side effects. Since this medication is powerful enough to work on the brain, it causes both physical and psychological side effects, including:

  • A general sense of happiness and well-being
  • Calmness
  • Confidence
  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of no stress
  • Intense pain relief
  • Relaxation

However, you might also experience other adverse side effects - both in the short and in the long term - that far outweigh the above effects that you may initially perceive as pleasurable. These effects include:

  • Addiction
  • Blurry vision
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of control over your emotions
  • Loss of libido
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lung or respiratory problems
  • Nausea
  • Poor stress management
  • Slowed breathing

Suboxone Overdose

Although Suboxone was first created with the intention of protecting opioid addicts from overdosing when they entered a recovery and rehabilitation facility, some people still overdose on it when they decide to abuse or misuse it.

As we mentioned earlier, injecting Suboxone tends to bring about the most intense effects. As a result, many people start injecting more of this medication - which poses a significant danger because it can cause them to overdose.

However, you can also overdose on Suboxone pills, strips, and other formulations of the medication if you take high enough doses. Still, since everyone has different levels of tolerance and unique physical makeups, there is no universal dose of Suboxone that can lead to an overdose.

If you overdose, however, it means that your body is unable to metabolize this drug fast enough. This causes it to poison your body and create severe and adverse side effects like:

  • Stopped breathing
  • Small and constricted pupils
  • Slowed breathing
  • Fainting
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Death
  • Collapse
  • Blurry vision
  • Blue fingers or lips

In case you notice these symptoms either in yourself or a loved one, the best thing you can do is call 911 or any emergency help available immediately. Overdose is a medical emergency that requires urgent treatment.

Most people who have survived a Suboxone overdose eventually find themselves seeking treatment and rehabilitation for their substance abuse and addiction. This is because of the scare of sudden death that comes with such an overdose.

Even though this is no universal cure for this form of addiction, you might find that rehab works well enough at treating Suboxone dependence. After you receive medical attention and intensive therapy, you might eventually start living a more productive life free of any other substances of abuse.

Signs And Symptoms Of Suboxone Abuse

If you have been abusing Suboxone and you develop a chemical dependence to it, you might start displaying some of the classical signs of such an addiction. These signs and symptoms include:

  • Apathetic mood
  • Appetite loss
  • Being disinterested in the hobbies and activities you used to enjoy
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drowsiness
  • Enduring financial troubles
  • Erratic behavior
  • Experiencing unexplained weight loss
  • Fainting
  • Fever
  • Having too many prescriptions of Suboxone
  • Higher than usual blood pressure
  • Impaired cognition
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Owning drug paraphernalia related to this medication
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor memory
  • Sleep trouble
  • Slurred or impaired speech
  • Sweating
  • Tearing
  • Vomiting

If you have developed a chemical dependence (or an addiction) to Suboxone, the best solution would be to seek additional treatment from a qualified rehabilitation facility. The earlier you do this, the easier it might be for you to free yourself from this drug and start living a lifestyle of productivity, accomplishment, and fulfillment.

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