Suboxone Effects – What to KnowAnna Ciulla
In the last two decades, the opiate epidemic has swept throughout the country like a tornado, wreaking havoc, leaving broken and destitute people in its wake, and racking up an ever-increasing body count. In all likelihood, you are all too aware of this terribly addictive and destructive drug. What you may not know is that, in recent years, opiates have surpassed car accidents as the number one killer of people under the age of 35.
The definition of an epidemic is an increase, typically a sudden upsurge, in the number of cases of a disease that surpasses anticipations for a population of that size or in that place. Opiates meet this criterion, seeing as the opiate-related deaths per capita have increased precipitously beyond expectations. Desperate lawmakers and communities have frantically sought remedies or strategies for combatting this universal scourge. One such treatment has been the introduction of the suboxone to the market.
Suboxone has done wonders to help opiate users taper off of daily opiate use and to manage long-term opiate drug abuse, but it is vital you are aware that it can be abused and dangerous in its own right. While it is a useful aid for the easing of withdrawal symptoms, it is essential that you know as much as possible about Suboxone. Below, you can learn everything you need to know about Suboxone’s effects.
What Are Opiates
Opiates are medicines created to treat moderate to severe pain. Because of their potency and the chemical interaction with the brain, all too often, people who simply need pain relief become addicted without even knowing it. By the time a habit forms, it may already be too late.
These drugs are hard to come by and extremely expensive on the secondary market. As a result, many unfortunately turn to heroin, highly processed morphine, which when snorted, smoked, injected, or ingested is infinitely cheaper, stronger, and more addictive than painkillers. Withdrawal effects are harrowing and could be deadly, whether a person is addicted to pain pills or heroin.
Because of this, one of the most effective and safest methods of stopping opiate use is to wean oneself off it, taking less and less of it each day, rather than simply quitting cold turkey. While the latter method might work for cigarettes, it can be extremely dangerous for serious opiate users. In order to help this weaning process, drugs such as Suboxone were introduced to the market.
Suboxone’s Chemical Makeup
Suboxone is a partial opiate agonist that is a mix of buprenorphine and naloxone—created to decrease withdrawal symptoms for a 24-hour period. To understand how it works and its effects, you first should understand the two drugs it is comprised of.
Buprenorphine is a partial opiate agonist used for detoxification and both short-term and long-term opiate replacement therapy. Unlike full agonists, which increase exponentially with each dose, partial agonists increase linearly with increasing doses, until they hit a ceiling, where there is no marginal benefit to another dosage. This is what is known as the “ceiling effect.”
Because of this ceiling effect, buprenorphine has:
- Decreased possibility of misuse
- Less chance of physical dependence
- Less euphoria
- Lower potential for overdose
- Relatively mild withdrawal symptoms
It is typically taken once the symptoms of withdrawal set in and can be used as a sublingual tablet, injection, implant, or skin patch. It provides temporary pain relief and withdrawal symptom mitigation within an hour and its effects can be felt up to 24 hours.
At the correct dosage buprenorphine does the following:
- Aids a patient’s fight during treatment and detoxification
- Blocks the effects of other opiates
- Cuts back opiate cravings
- Fights opiate withdrawal symptoms
For decades, it was used as the primary treatment for opiate and heroin withdrawals, that is until suboxone was introduced to the market in 2002.
Buprenorphine Side Effects
Because it is a component of Suboxone, many of the buprenorphine side effects will be similar. These include:
- Blurry vision
- Feelings of depression
- Stomach pain
Buprenorphine Potentially Serious Side Effects
Although these symptoms are not nearly as common, they do occur for a select few and could possibly be signs that a person requires medical attention. These include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Extreme fatigue
- Lack of appetite
- No energy
- Pain in the upper stomach
- Slowed breathing
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an opiate antagonist used to counteract the effects of opiates, especially in the cases of overdoses. Opiate antagonists prevent opiates from binding to areas outside of cells where they’d typically take effect.
It can be taken as a spray or shot, or given intravenously and will work within minutes of administering a dose. It has a shocking effect on the system that can jar a person out of overdose symptoms and send them straight into feeling like they are going through opiate withdrawal. Because of this, when a person is not overdosing or under immediate threat of death, doctors will administer small doses periodically until the desired effects are achieved.
Naloxone Side Effects
As mentioned, Naloxone can cause opiate users to feel the symptoms of opiate withdrawal these include:
- Increased heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach pain
Naloxone Potentially Serious Side Effects
As with Buprenorphine, there are potential side effects that can occur in a select few people who take Naloxone. Such serious side effects include:
- Heart Stopping
- Irregular Heartbeat
Suboxone was created in order to take advantage of these two potentially lifesaving drugs by combining them in such a way that it utilized the best of their opiate fighting-effects while attempting to minimize their worst side effects.
After its approval and introduction to the market, it quickly became viewed as the ideal supplement in the fight against opiate addiction and overdose. A huge reason for this was that it could decrease the likelihood of fatal overdose while refraining from depressing the respiratory system. When administered in the correct dosage, it was shown to be very effective at cutting down the frequency and intensity of cravings and alleviating many of the withdrawal symptoms.
Suboxone’s Side Effects
Because Suboxone is meant to combat opiate withdrawal, there is a bit of a blurry line, since some of these side effects could be caused or enhanced by withdrawals. Such common side effects include:
- Back pain
- Difficulties focusing
- Double vision
- Feeling lightheaded
- Numbness in mouth
- Redness in the mouth from taking the tablet
- Swollen tongue
- Upset Stomach
Suboxone’s Potentially Serious Side Effects
For some, Suboxone may cause serious side effects. Such side effects could lead to severe damage, and for a select few, even death. Serious side effects may include:
- Addiction to Suboxone
- Allergic reaction resulting in hives, rash, face swelling, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and loss of consciousness.
- Difficulty in motor-skill coordination
- Feeling faint
- The feeling of dependence on Suboxone to function normally
- Respiratory depression
While Suboxone can be an extremely effective treatment in the ongoing fight against opiates, because it is a synthetic opiate itself, some users end up abusing it as a lesser substitute for opiates and wind up physically or psychologically dependent upon it and then addicted. If this dependence goes untreated, suboxone addiction could have the same potential ramifications of addiction to other drugs.
While it is fairly standard for opiate users to feel physically dependent to Suboxone, addiction goes beyond that and typically involves a person going beyond their administered dosage or frequency, or attempting to get stronger doses.
Effects of Suboxone Abuse
A person who uses Suboxone to chase the opiate high can have a whole host of issues that affect their life for the worse. These may include:
- Broken relationships with friends, family, or loved ones
- Issues with responsibilities like work, school, family life
- Financial troubles
- Legal Problems, especially from DUIs
Suboxone addiction can have adverse long-term effects on health such as:
- Death from overdose
- Death from respiratory depression
- Depression of the central nervous system
- Kidney damage
- Liver problems
- Pupil constriction
- Respiratory depression
Withdrawal Symptoms of Suboxone
A person who abuses Suboxone can undergo a series of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly cease taking it. Such symptoms include:
- Cravings for Suboxone
- Digestive issues
- Dilated pupils
- Drug cravings
- Muscle aches
- Teary eyes
- Trouble concentrating
These symptoms can last for months afterward, though they typically subside after the first 72 hours.
Tapering off Suboxone
Because suboxone exhibits many of the same effects of straight opiates, it can be difficult to wean oneself off of it. While you can go “cold turkey,” most medical professionals do not recommend this approach, especially for those who are severely addicted. Tapering off alleviates or mitigates the brunt of these withdrawal symptoms without creating such a shock to the system.
Typically, this tapering process will be done under medical supervision. For serious opiate users, it may be done in conjunction with their opiate detoxification during rehab. This slow process involves the Suboxone user or Opiate user taking less of the drug each day. While they still may feel the effects of withdrawal, such effects are minimalized since some of the drug, but not enough, is in the system.
Because withdrawal can be painful, if not dangerous, it is recommended that you taper off and go through detoxification at a drug rehabilitation center, whether in an inpatient drug rehab or outpatient recovery.
Beach House Recovery offers inpatient treatment, which is the most intensive and effective method of rehabilitation.The professional team views you as a family member and is willing to do everything in their power to help you fight suboxone detox or opiate addiction. A patient will stay for anywhere from 30 days to 90 days, surrounded by both patients and doctors who understand the struggle you are facing. It offers:
- Top of the line medical supervision
- Knowledgeable substance abuse therapists
- A sober free environment, away from the world as you treat your addiction
- Medicated-assisted treatment
- State-of-the-art facility and grounds right by the beach
- Group, one-on-one and family therapy
Beach House Recovery offers a 65-day, intensive outpatient drug program perfect for people who want to medically manage their drug detox and maintain accountability as they juggle their home and work responsibilities. This can involve:
- Medication-assisted treatment for drug cravings
- Life skills training
- Vocational coaching
- Group and individual therapy sessions
- Family therapy
- 12-step recovery groups
- Strong peer support community
Talk to a Doctor
If you are considering Suboxone to help you fight opiate addiction, it is essential that you keep in mind and weigh both the positive and negative effects of Suboxone. As you go through treatment, be transparent and talk with your doctor frequently about how you are feeling and managing opiate cravings or withdrawals. A good doctor will either increase or decrease your Suboxone intake, depending on your reaction.
Be sure to ask questions such as:
- Am I at the correct dosage of Suboxone?
- Are there certain side effects that I am at higher risk of feeling?
- Are there steps I can take to reduce the common side effects?
- Are any of the drugs I already take for other reasons going to interfere with Suboxone?
- Are there long-term dangers of taking Suboxone?
- Do I need to worry about Suboxone addiction?
- Should I taper off Suboxone?
- When should I stop taking Suboxone?
Breaking it Down
Suboxone is a fantastic tool in the ongoing fight against opiate addiction. It can produce both negative and positive effects, but mainly positive if you follow the doctor’s or the Beach House Recovery staff’s recommended dosage. Proper Suboxone usage can save lives, but improper usage can leave an opiate user simply addicted and suffering from different substance abuse. So, if you are in the midst of this fight, speak with a medical expert about Suboxone and see if it is right for you in your drug abuse treatment program.
SAMSHA – Buprenorphine: https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/buprenorphine
SAMSHA – Medication-Assisted Treatment: https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Opioids: https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html