Suboxone for Opioid Dependence

Suboxone has been toted by many as a miracle drug. This medication is used to treat opiate and opioid dependence. While has been proven effective, individuals considering the drug to treat opioid dependence should educate themselves before being prescribed suboxone.

What is Suboxone?


Because of the frequent abuse of buprenorphine, scientists developed Suboxone. It contains an opiate called buprenorphine, which is a partial opioid agonist, along with naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist and is designed to be extremely long-acting. It blocks the opiate receptors. Naloxone is designed to prevent you from experiencing a high from other opiates while you are taking suboxone.

How Is Suboxone Taken?

Most people take Suboxone orally with strips or sublingual tablets. Because it also contains naloxone, it is not advisable to crush and inject it like similarly abused drugs because acute opiate withdrawal symptoms will be induced. This is because an individual's brain will receive a higher dose of naloxone if they attempted to inject Suboxone. In fact, injecting the drug would trigger immediate opiate withdrawal symptoms which are extremely uncomfortable to the user. Taking suboxone strips sublingually can also be highly effective. This allows the medication to be absorbed more quickly through the mucous membranes of the mouth.

What Does Suboxone Look Like?

Suboxone pills are often pinkish in color, and the color of the film varies. However, Suboxone strips are usually an orange color. Suboxone pills and strips have the dose amount listed on them.

How Does It Affect The Body?

Naloxone binds to opioid receptors partially rather than fully, and the blocking effect of the drug lasts for around an hour or two. There also are unique properties of buprenorphine, and this makes it much longer-lasting than many other opiates. In fact, the effects of buprenorphine can last as long as 24 hours.

How Long Does Suboxone Stay In Your System?

The length of time that it stays in the system varies from one individual to another. It's important to note that the length of time that buprenorphine stays in the system is very different from how long naloxone stays in your system. Here are the half-lives of the two drugs:

  • The half-life of buprenorphine is 24-60 hours, and this is slightly longer than methadone.
  • The half-life of naloxone is quite brief, and it is between 1-1.5 hours.

The half-life of a drug is the amount of time that it takes for half of the substance to be removed from the body. The long half-life of buprenorphine means it takes longer for withdrawal to begin after one stops taking the medication than when one stops taking other opiates.

Is Suboxone Or Methadone Better For People Who Use High Doses Of Opiates?

Individuals who are using high dosages of opiates might not receive any significant benefits from suboxone. Methadone is generally prescribed in these circumstances. There are pros and cons to using methadone vs Suboxone. But you should always consult a healthcare professional before making a decision.

Is Suboxone Addictive?

Unfortunately, it can be quite addictive for many people. Some people continue to take suboxone throughout their lives because physical withdrawal symptoms occur when one stops using it. Furthermore, suboxone does cause mild euphoria in some users, and this can cause psychological addiction. These are some of the most common symptoms of suboxone withdrawal:

Physical WIthdrawal Symptoms from Suboxone

  • Muscle cramps
  • Restless legs
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Sweating and Cold Sweats

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms from Suboxone

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability and/or Changes in Mood

Call Lakeview Health to speak with one of our addiction specialists. Our representatives can answer questions about what to expect while in treatment, what services are available, and how we can help you begin your journey toward long-term recovery. Unfortunately, the drug is sometimes used illegally by individuals who are addicted to other opiates, and this can be quite dangerous. If an individual is addicted to other opiates, they may use suboxone to prevent withdrawal during periods of time when they cannot access their drug of choice. In some cases, individuals who are addicted to suboxone experience long-term depression.

Timeline Of Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms

Suboxone withdrawal typically begins within 36 hours after an individual stops taking the drug, and it continues to intensify until around the 72-hour mark. This is markedly different from most other opiates, and an individual withdrawing from most other opiates will experience symptoms after only 6-12 hours. After a week, symptoms will typically have lessened substantially, and it's often possible to get back to one's day to day routine at this point. After two weeks, the symptom left (if any) is likely to be depression. Many people who took it experience cravings and depression for a period of around a month after an individual last used the drug.

Furthermore, mild psychological symptoms can last for around a year after quitting suboxone. This condition is often called PAWS or post acute withdrawal syndrome, and it can often be somewhat disruptive in an individual's life. It's also difficult for many doctors to detect PAWS, and this can make it extremely difficult to treat. In many cases, PAWS is misdiagnosed as mental health problems unrelated to the medication, such as depression and anxiety.

What are Some Common Suboxone Side Effects?

The side effects of suboxone vary considerably from one individual to another, but these are the most common side effects that people experience:

GI Distress: Many people find that they experience constipation while they are taking it, and the severity of this side effect varies considerably from one person to another. While this is one of the most common suboxone side effects, it's also a side effect of many other opiates.

Discomfort In The Mouth: Many people find that they experience a painful tongue along with numbness in the mouth. Other people find that their tongue actually becomes swollen.

While it's rare, allergic reactions have been known to occur as a result of suboxone. Some people find that they experience significant sweating while they are taking the drug. Despite the fact that the drug causes fatigue for many users, it also can also cause insomnia.

How Do Side Effects of Suboxone Compare To Methadone?

Overall, suboxone is somewhat safer than methadone, and that's because the naloxone in suboxone can prevent an overdose in many cases. However, methadone only contains an opiate drug, and overdoses on methadone are not uncommon. In addition, methadone can be injected, and while some doctors prescribe methadone this way, IV methadone is extremely easily abused.

Also, suboxone is a partial opiate agonist, but methadone is a full opiate agonist. This can also increase the potential for side effects in some individuals, and it increases the effects that an individual is likely to perceive from the drug. As a result, it can be more psychologically addictive than suboxone, and this is another reason why many people who are recovering from opiate addiction choose suboxone instead of methadone. Furthermore, methadone is more likely to cause impairment in consciousness than suboxone.

How Does Suboxone Withdrawal Compare To Methadone Withdrawal?

Suboxone withdrawal is typically less severe than methadone withdrawal, and this can make it easier for people who were once addicted to opiates to ultimately live a drug-free life. The withdrawal from methadone is much more likely to warrant significant medical intervention. In addition, methadone withdrawal can be much longer-lasting than withdrawal from suboxone, and this is a reason why many patients choose suboxone treatment.

What Dosages Of Suboxone Are Typically Prescribed?

In many cases, the dose is decreased over time, but some people require an increase in dosage as time goes on. One of the most important factors that influence suboxone dosage is the dosage of the drugs that you took in the past. Individuals who took higher dosages of drugs will need a higher dose of suboxone, but this it's often difficult to determine exactly how much an individual was taking if they used an illicit opiate. This is because the doses of illicit opiates vary between batches. These are the dosages that the medication comes in:

  • Suboxone strips (sublingual): 2mg buprenorphine/0.5mg naloxone, 4mg buprenorphine/1mg naloxone, 8mg buprenorphine/2mg naloxone, and 12mg buprenorphine/3mg naloxone
  • Suboxone pills: 2mg buprenorphine/0.5mg naloxone, 8mg buprenorphine/2mg naloxone

What Are The Signs Of Suboxone Addiction?

Often, individuals who abuse it will have constricted pupils. People who take the drug may appear to have extremely secretive behaviors. Here are some other signs that an individual has a suboxone addiction:

Signs Of IV Drug Abuse: It is designed to deter IV drug abuse. Many people who have a serious suboxone addiction, attempt to inject the drug to amplify the effects. This means that there may be needles lying around their living space or markings on their arms or other injection sites.

Weight Loss: Individuals who are abusing it typically do not have a strong appetite. This often results in considerable weight loss. As a result, people who are abusing suboxone often wear tighter clothing or baggy clothes to conceal the weight loss.

Money Problems: It's common for people who use suboxone to have serious problems with money, and this can result in the individual frequently asking for money from others. In many cases, individuals who abuse suboxone often have difficulty holding down jobs and may go through frequent periods of unemployment.

Loss Of Interest In Previous Activities: Many people who had strong interests before using the drug ultimately lose interest in these activities after they become addicted to it.

Serious Physical Symptoms: The medication has been known to cause fainting and severe GI side effects.

More Minor Physical Side Effects: Some people experience tearing and may have dilated pupils, and other people who abuse suboxone experience other common side effects of the medication that are exacerbated by the high dosages.

Nodding Off: People who are using large doses of suboxone may suddenly appear to partially go to sleep while engaged in ordinary activities. This is similar to the effects that are sometimes caused by stronger opiates. In some cases, this can result in accidents.

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