What is Suboxone you ask? Well, Suboxone is one of the most common drugs prescribed to help treat opioid addiction. It is commonly prescribed at the start of treatment and patients continue to take it until they have fully overcome their addictions. It helps ease the symptoms of withdrawal, particularly the harsh and violent symptoms caused by short-acting opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers. Suboxone is a combination of two drugs: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine blocks opiate receptors in the brain, helps to reduce urges, and staves off withdrawal symptoms. Naloxone helps reverse the symptoms of an opioid overdose by blocking and reversing the effects of opioids on a person’s nervous system. Unlike other opioid replacement drugs which require a prescription from a special treatment center, Suboxone can be prescribed by your doctor.
Now perhaps you read buprenorphine and are questioning if it is possible to get addicted to Suboxone. It is a good question, since buprenorphine is an opioid, but worry not. Suboxone adds naloxone to negate the addictive nature of buprenorphine. Suboxone works as a depressant to help your brain redirect its pleasure centers away from the endorphin highs created by using opioids, helping you find a balance between euphoric highs and devastating lows. People who have taken Suboxone experience pain relief, a sense of calmness and overall well-being, reduced levels of stress, fewer worries, and relaxation. Unlike other opioids, buprenorphine also has a “ceiling effect.” This means that you will eventually build up a tolerance to the drug, and will be unable to overcome this tolerance by taking it more often or in larger doses. Studies have shown that Suboxone has led to increased and lasting sobriety among users.
If you are prescribed Suboxone, be sure to follow the directions on the prescription label and to read all medication guides. Do not take larger doses or use Suboxone for longer than prescribed. Communicate regularly with your doctor about how you are feeling while taking it, and let them know if you feel an increased urge to use more of the medication, as this is a sign that you are becoming addicted to Suboxone and your treatment plan needs to be updated. Do not suddenly stop your Suboxone treatment as it could cause severe withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor about how to safely stop taking this medication.
Suboxone comes in tablet form or as a film sheet that dissolves on your tongue, similar to the mouthwash film sheets you find at the store. Treatment plans vary, but typically a medical professional will give you an initial dose of Suboxone at a clinic 12-24 hours after your last dose of opioids to help mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal. For the next two days you will be given a Suboxone film sheet. The first day consists of taking a lower dose film sheet every 2 hours, and then a single higher dose sheet on the second day. Film sheets are used to minimize your exposure to naloxone and mitigate withdrawal symptoms. Following these initial doses, your doctor will prescribe you a maintenance plan consisting of either Suboxone film sheets or tablets. They will most likely also recommend frequent blood tests to check your liver function.
While taking the film sheets, be sure to drink water beforehand to moisten your mouth and help dissolve the film. Let it dissolve fully against your cheek or under your tongue. Do not chew or swallow it. If you are prescribed Suboxone tablets, do not crush or break them to inhale the powder or mix it with liquid to inject it. These methods have resulted in death.
Do not drink alcohol while on Suboxone as it can lead to death. Avoid driving or operating machinery until you know how Suboxone affects you.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before starting Suboxone. There is a possibility your newborn could suffer from life-threatening withdrawal symptoms at birth. Tell your doctor if you notice severe drowsiness or slow breathing in your nursing baby if you’re taking Suboxone while breastfeeding.
Do not take Suboxone if you suffer from breathing problems, sleep apnea, an enlarged prostate, urination problems, liver or kidney disease, have problems with your gallbladder, adrenal gland, or thyroid, have had a head injury, brain tumor, or seizures. Breathing problems and sleep apnea are especially dangerous because Suboxone can cause your breathing to slow.
There are minor side effects from starting Suboxone like dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, fever, headaches, nausea, and sweating, but these usually subside within a few days. However, if you experience the following symptoms, seek medical help immediately:
- Weak or shallow breathing
- Breathing stopping during sleep (sleep apnea)
- Loss of coordination
- Extreme weakness
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Light-headed feeling, feeling like you might pass out
- Liver problems (upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stool, jaundice)
- Persistent nausea and vomiting
You should talk to your doctor if you are taking a Benzodiazepine before starting Suboxone as it can interfere with the effectiveness of the drugs. Suboxone can also interact with medications taken for:
- Cold and allergy
- Asthma and COPD
- Motion Sickness
- Overactive Bladder
- Mood Disorders
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Serious Infections
- Diuretics (“water pills”)
- Sedatives (Xanax, Valium)
- Sleeping Pills
- Muscle Relaxers
If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction such as swelling in the throat and difficulty breathing, stop taking Suboxone and seek medical attention immediately.
Taking Suboxone is the first step on your journey to recovery. It is not a miracle cure-all and should be combined with continued in-and out-patient therapeutic treatments such as counseling and group therapy.
There is so much more to know and consider before taking Suboxone and we recommend contacting one of our medical experts who can answer any of your questions.