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  • Suboxone is the brand name for a prescription drug used to treat opioid use disorder (also called opioid addiction). It’s a sublingual film taken under the tongue. 

    Some people sell their leftover Suboxone on the street. This is called diverted Suboxone. Diverted Suboxone may help people who can’t access professional addiction treatment. Fake or diverted Suboxone can cause serious side effects that can lead to addiction and overdose.

    How Does Suboxone Work?

    Suboxone contains two main ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone

    Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist, which means its effects are similar to but weaker than the effects of other opioids. It helps reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with opioids, including prescription opioids (such as oxycodone, oxymorphone, and hydrocodone) and the illicit drug heroin. 

    Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of opioids. It can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. 

    Is Diverted Suboxone Dangerous?

    Many people worry that diverted Suboxone is fake. Indeed, drug traffickers often sell fake versions of prescription drugs such as Adderall (amphetamine), Xanax (alprazolam), and Percocet (oxycodone)

    These fake drugs usually contain dangerous substances like methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant, and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid responsible for numerous overdose deaths. 

    However, Suboxone sold on the street is typically real and free of other substances. 

    Most people buy diverted Suboxone not to get high but to self-medicate their opioid addictions. Generally, people self-medicate with Suboxone because they can’t access professional treatment due to financial concerns or a lack of health insurance. 

    In fact, according to a survey of people who use non-prescribed buprenorphine (one of the main ingredients in Suboxone), 97% of people wanted to reduce opioid cravings, 90% wanted to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms, and 29% wanted to save money.

    The use of diverted Suboxone has helped decrease some of the negative effects of the opioid crisis. 

    For example, it has reduced opioid overdose death rates. It has also increased opioid addiction treatment success rates. That’s because many people who get introduced to Suboxone on the street seek professional treatment after experiencing the drug’s benefits. 

    Still, it’s safest to use Suboxone under the care of a prescribing physician. Using it without a prescription comes with certain dangers. 

    Dangers Of Diverted Suboxone

    People who use Suboxone without the guidance of a doctor may accidentally take too much of the drug or mix it with substances that cause negative interactions, such as alcohol

    This behavior increases your risk of experiencing the drug’s side effects. It may also lead to overdose or, rarely, addiction. 

    Suboxone Side Effects

    The most common side effects of Suboxone include: 

    • trouble sleeping
    • headache
    • blurry vision
    • stomach pain
    • back pain
    • constipation

    Some people also experience more serious side effects, which may include:

    • trouble breathing or swallowing
    • rash, hives, or itching
    • swelling of the face, lips, tongue, throat, eyes, hands, lower legs, ankles, or feet
    • sweating
    • fever
    • loss of coordination
    • nausea and vomiting
    • diarrhea
    • confusion
    • hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there)

    If you or someone you know experiences these more serious side effects seek medical help right away. 

    Suboxone Overdose

    Suboxone poses a much lower risk of overdose than other opioids because its effects are much milder. However, overdose is still possible, particularly if you use the drug in a manner not prescribed by your doctor. 

    Most Suboxone overdoses occur when someone mixes the drug with another substance that slows down breathing, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines. 

    Common symptoms of Suboxone overdose include:

    • extreme drowsiness 
    • dizziness
    • smaller pupils
    • blurry vision 
    • slow or shallow breathing 
    • loss of consciousness

    If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, call 911 immediately. When left untreated, a Suboxone overdose may be life-threatening. 

    Suboxone Addiction

    Suboxone poses a very low risk of addiction. However, some people may become addicted to it after repeatedly using it in a manner not prescribed by a doctor.

    Common symptoms of Suboxone addiction include:

    • tolerance (needing increasingly larger or more frequent doses of Suboxone to feel the desired effects)
    • physical dependence (experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or sweating, when you don’t use Suboxone)
    • doctor shopping (visiting multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions of Suboxone) 
    • loss of interest in activities once enjoyed

    Like other types of addiction, Suboxone addiction requires professional treatment

    If you or someone you love struggles with Suboxone or another drug, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. 

    Our compassionate health care providers offer a variety of substance abuse treatment options, including medical detox, therapy, and aftercare planning.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    National Institute on Drug Abuse- What is the treatment need versus the diversion risk for opioid use disorder treatment?
    Providers Clinical Support System - Diversion and Abuse of Buprenorphine
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Buprenorphine
    Wayne State University - Buprenorphine Diversion in the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on October 20, 2022
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