According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 10.1 million Americans reported misusing prescription opioids in the past year and 75% of drug overdoses in 2020 involved an opioid.
Because opioid addiction is common and often becomes life-threatening, addiction treatment is more important than ever. With addiction relapse rates being so high, the recovery community has begun using more proactive methods of treatment for opioid addiction. Opioid addiction treatment often includes medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which is the combination of evidence-based therapy, peer support, and FDA-approved medications like Suboxone.
Suboxone is the brand name for a medication that contains two medications: buprenorphine and naloxone. Suboxone is a partial opioid antagonist that activates opioid receptors but to a lesser degree than full opioid agonists like heroin, oxycodone, or methadone. Suboxone is used to treat opioid dependency by reducing the withdrawal symptoms that occur when someone is getting sober.
How Does Suboxone (Buprenorphine/Naloxone) Work?
Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone. Both of these substances have different purposes in treating opioid addiction.
Buprenorphine attaches to your opioid receptors while blocking other opioids from working. It will lessen symptoms of withdrawal, reduce cravings, and prevent you from being able to get high off of other opioid drugs like heroin, oxycodone, or morphine.
Naloxone’s role in Suboxone is to prevent you from being able to misuse the medication. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of opioids. If you attempt to abuse heroin, oxycodone, or another type of opioid drug while you have naloxone in your system, you will begin to experience immediate withdrawal.
Because of the way Suboxone works, it is used to treat withdrawal symptoms during detox and prevent relapse after you have completed detox.
Is Suboxone Addictive?
While Suboxone is used to treat opioid dependency, you can become addicted to it. However, to become addicted, you must be abusing the medication. People taking the medication as prescribed will not develop an addiction, but if you begin taking it in higher doses or changing the route of administration, you could get addicted.
If you develop an addiction to Suboxone, that means you have been taking more of the medication than you are prescribed. People who abuse Suboxone might experience the following effects:
- Impaired coordination
- Slurred speech
- Confusion or not thinking clearly
- Extreme tiredness
While taking more Suboxone than you are prescribed can lead to mind-altering symptoms, this medication has a “ceiling effect”. This means that at some point, no matter how much Suboxone you take, the effects will not increase in potency. Instead, the naloxone in the medication will cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms.
Suboxone Addiction vs. Dependence
Understanding the difference between Suboxone addiction and dependence is vital in breaking the stigma against medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Some people have an unfavorable view of MAT because they believe it is trading one addiction for the other, but this is completely false.
When someone takes medication for an extended period, their body will become dependent on it. Dependency is characterized by building a tolerance to a substance over time and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking that drug. While addiction includes dependency, these conditions can be separate from one another.
For example, people taking non-addictive antidepressants can become dependent on their medication because their body has adjusted to the presence of the substance and requires it to function normally. If they suddenly quit their antidepressant medication, they might experience withdrawal symptoms like irritability, insomnia, dizziness, or flu-like symptoms.
Being dependent on a substance does not mean you are addicted to it. Addiction must also include psychological dependence, which is characterized by uncontrollable cravings and urges to misuse the drug.
Most people who take daily medication will become dependent on that substance, however, they will not become addicted. The same goes for people taking Suboxone.
Signs of Suboxone Addiction
If you are worried that someone you love is addicted to Suboxone, it’s important to be aware of the signs. Typically, people addicted to Suboxone will display the same signs as heroin or oxycodone addiction.
Symptoms of Suboxone addiction include:
- Doctor shopping (going to more than one doctor to get multiple prescriptions)
- Running out of suboxone early
- Taking more suboxone than prescribed
- Frequently “losing” their suboxone to get more prescriptions
- Mixing suboxone with other substances
- Appearing drowsy or fatigued frequently
- Being physically or emotionally numb
- Slowed breathing
- Decreased cognitive abilities
- Appearing high or intoxicated
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (i.e. shaking, vomiting, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms)
- Spending a lot of time thinking about, obtaining, using, and recovering from the use of suboxone
What Happens When You Stop Taking Suboxone?
If you have been prescribed Suboxone and suddenly stop taking it, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal will occur whether you are addicted to Suboxone or not because dependency can form in individuals who take the medication as prescribed for long periods of time. As a result, doctors typically taper patients off of the medication when they are ready to stop taking it. Gradually reducing your dose of Suboxone over time can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
The symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal include:
- Excessive shaking or tremors
- Muscular pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Cold sweats
- General discomfort
Find Help for Suboxone Abuse and Addiction Today
If you or a loved one developed an addiction to Suboxone, you should seek help from a drug rehab facility near you. Suboxone addiction can cause you to relapse on the opioids you previously recovered from, putting you at risk of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms or life-threatening overdoses.
To learn more about Suboxone or to find out if Suboxone treatment is right for you, please contact our team at Woburn Wellness today.