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  • Suboxone was introduced in the early 2000s as an alternative to methadone in treating opioid addiction. In combination with behavioral therapy, Suboxone can effectively lower drug cravings and prevent relapse.

    Although Suboxone has many benefits as a long-term treatment option, it’s classified as a Schedule III controlled substance in the United States. It has the potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction. 

    Many people who are not involved in inappropriate treatment may self-administer by smoking, snorting, or injecting their Suboxone. These methods can cause serious health complications and lead to opioid withdrawal symptoms. 

    What Is Suboxone?

    Suboxone is a brand name combination medication that contains buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that attaches to opioid receptors and produces effects similar to oxycodone and heroin, but to a lesser extent. 

    The other active ingredient, naloxone, is an opioid antagonist that attaches blocks and reverses the effects of opioids when it attaches to receptors. Naloxone will induce opioid withdrawal symptoms if you take it with opiate painkillers.

    Suboxone is only available as sublingual film strips, however, you can also find buprenorphine in:

    • Subutex (buprenorphine tablets)
    • buprenorphine/naloxone (generic tablets)
    • Zubsolv (buprenorphine/naloxone tablets)

    Effects Of Suboxone

    Although Suboxone is meant to prevent withdrawal, it can cause severe withdrawal symptoms if you are physically dependent and try smoking, snorting, or injecting it. 

    If you are not opioid dependent, you may feel some pleasurable effects by abusing Suboxone but you increase the likelihood of many adverse reactions.

    Side effects that may be intensified when you abuse Suboxone include:

    • nausea
    • constipation
    • headache
    • drowsiness 
    • lightheadedness
    • blurred vision
    • respiratory depression

    While you may feel euphoria from Suboxone if you aren’t dependent on the drug, it does have a ceiling effect. This means after ingesting a moderate amount of the drug, you may stop feeling its pleasurable effects. 

    Learn more about Suboxone Side Effects

    Smoking Buprenorphine

    Buprenorphine can be abused by inhaling the heated vapors of the medication through a straw-like device. The gel-like substance can be scraped off the film strips or the tablets can be crushed into a powder before smoking.

    Suboxone contains chemicals that are meant to be metabolized by your liver. When you smoke buprenorphine, these chemicals are not absorbed the same way and can cause harm to your mouth, lungs, and throat. 

    Snorting Buprenorphine

    Buprenorphine/naloxone tablets are snorted by crushing them into a fine powder and inhaling them intranasally to produce euphoric effects. 

    Some of the risks of snorting buprenorphine/naloxone include:

    • nasal septum perforation
    • chronic sinus infections
    • respiratory infections

    Many people believe snorting is a safer alternative to injecting. However, sharing paraphernalia can spread infections like HIV and Hepatitis C. 

    Injecting Buprenorphine

    Suboxone films contain a synthetic gelatin substance that is mixed with water to prepare for injection. The prepared mixture is then filtered through cotton, often a cigarette filter, and injected intravenously (IV) into the bloodstream.

    Some of the risks of injecting buprenorphine include:

    • abscesses
    • viral infections (HIV, Hepatitis C)
    • vessel occlusion, caused by harmful pieces of gelatin entering the bloodstream
    • endocarditis

    Dangers Of Suboxone Abuse

    Although abusing Suboxone may lead to a stronger, faster “high”, eventually your body will become dependent. Once you’re dependent, the naloxone will kick out the buprenorphine when you abuse it and induce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. 

    If you are prescribed Suboxone, it is important to take your medication exactly as prescribed. If you believe your dose is not sufficient enough to help with cravings or withdrawal symptoms, you should speak with your prescribing doctor. 

    Drug Interactions

    According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Suboxone should never be combined with central nervous depressants. This can increase the risk of respiratory depression, which is a dangerous condition marked by slow and labored breathing.

    Central nervous depressant medications include:

    • benzodiazepines
    • hypnotics
    • barbiturates

    Buprenorphine Addiction

    Although buprenorphine is a partial agonist and less potent than other opioids, abusing it can still lead to addiction. If you abuse Suboxone, you are increasing the chance of abusing other prescription painkillers and overdosing. 

    Signs of buprenorphine addiction may include:

    • using more than your prescribed amount
    • smoking, snorting, or injecting it
    • taking it to mask feelings 
    • compulsively abusing it despite negative consequences

    Suboxone Addiction Treatment

    Although addiction is a chronic disease, it is treatable with comprehensive care. If you’re addicted to Suboxone, medical detox can help you wean off safely with the help of healthcare professionals. 

    Following detox, you may be given options for other treatment programs, such as inpatient rehab or residential treatment. These facilities offer constant supervision and trained professionals that provide behavioral therapy and peer support. 

    To learn about treatment programs available through Ark Behavioral Health, contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on April 18, 2022
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