Suboxone Addiction Symptoms

Content Overview


Suboxone is a buprenorphine-based drug used to treat individuals in recovery from opiate or opioid abuse. Though not at first thought to be addiction-forming, some individuals abuse Suboxone. Some of the reported physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms of Suboxone abuse include:

  • Impaired coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Itching
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Lying to doctors to get Suboxone
  • Doctor shopping to get extra Suboxone

Suboxone abuse causes withdrawal symptoms to emerge when a person stops abusing this drug or significantly reduces their regular intake level. Withdrawal symptoms include cravings for Suboxone (or other opioids or opiates), diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, shaking, and/or muscle pain. There is a general recommendation that a person who wants to withdraw from Suboxone abuse do so under the care of a doctor who specializes in addiction treatment.

drug abuseAbuse of Suboxone (buprenorphine is a main active ingredient) provides evidence of how difficult it is to treat opioid abuse.
Buprenorphine acts as an opiate partial agonist. When a person is in recovery from heroin (an opiate) or prescription opioid (pain relievers) abuse, buprenorphine helps to stop withdrawal symptoms from emerging. Buprenorphine has a low risk of abuse because, usually, the effects top out (i.e., taking more of this drug does not lead to psychoactive effects).

Buprenorphine is also the generic drug in the branded medication called Suboxone, which also contains the drug naloxone. Per the 2011 National Pain Report, about 9 million Suboxone or buprenorphine prescriptions were filled in the US that year. Suboxone is available in a pill or dissolvable film format.

Like methadone, Suboxone is classified as an opioid substitution therapy. Research shows that the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone is as therapeutically beneficial as methadone and carries a lower risk of abuse. Suboxone does not reportedly confer the high that can be experienced if a higher-than-needed amount of methadone is consumed.

However, Suboxone has become a drug of abuse. For instance, some individuals buy Suboxone on the street in order to prolong their heroin use (i.e., they use Suboxone to cope with withdrawal symptoms and then go back to using heroin). Although Suboxone was not at first thought to be susceptible to abuse, there are reports of it causing a high when abused.

According to one story published in The Fix, the first time the author took a sublingual film of Suboxone, he became extremely high. He had no history of narcotic or other drug abuse. He shares that Suboxone made him overcome his shyness, provoked him to be talkative, and covered his body in a warm feeling. He quickly lapsed in addiction and has struggled with it for the last several years. He reports that he has not made a full recovery, but he has learned how to better manage his Suboxone intake. His story shows how careful one must be not to abuse Suboxone, whether you have a history of substance abuse or not.

Physical Symptoms of Suboxone Addiction

It is helpful to distinguish between symptoms and signs of Suboxone addiction. Symptoms are the side effects of Suboxone use that a person feels. When one person sees another experiencing a symptom, that’s a sign. The following are some of the physical symptoms associated with Suboxone abuse or taking too much of this drug:

  • Poor coordination, limpness, or weakness
  • Slurred speech
  • Problems with thinking
  • Blurred vision
  • Shallow breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the upper stomach
  • A pounding heartbeat
  • Itching
  • Loss of appetite
The development of a substance use disorder is an inevitable physical consequence of ongoing Suboxone abuse, as it is an addiction-forming narcotic drug. If physical dependence sets in, when a person stops using Suboxone, withdrawal symptoms will emerge. This is a natural consequence of the body forming a dependency and then experiencing different symptoms to instigate the person to use the drug again and re-establish the status quo.

The following are some of the more common symptoms associated with Suboxone withdrawal:

  • Shaking or shivering
  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Feeling cold or very hot
  • Cravings for the drug

As The Fix explains, Suboxone abuse is also associated with a host of psychological symptoms. The following are some of the most commonly reported:

  • Poor memory
  • Erratic behavior
  • Shifts in mood
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

When Suboxone is used for its intended purpose, under the care of a doctor, there is little risk of severe side effects or death. However, individuals who abuse Suboxone have, so to speak, gone off the grid and are in dangerous territory. A Suboxone overdose can depress respiration to a fatal point. When a fatal overdose occurs, there is often alcohol or other drug abuse involved. The fact that some individuals mix Suboxone with alcohol or illicit drugs is a testament to how unaware people are of the potency of this narcotic.


Behavioral Symptoms of Suboxone Addiction

As The Fix discusses, it can be difficult for a concerned person to pinpoint Suboxone abuse based on physical or psychological symptoms. When people experience the behavioral symptoms associated with Suboxone abuse, people in their surroundings are likely going to take them as signs of a problem. The following are some of the most common behavioral symptoms of Suboxone abuse:

  • Loss of interest in activities, hobbies, or social outings that were enjoyed in the past
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends to abuse Suboxone or defend it from any challenges or criticisms
  • Having a hard time keeping up with family, work, job, or school responsibilities because of the Suboxone abuse
  • Sleeping excessively or having trouble sleeping
  • Draining financial resources to fund Suboxone abuse
  • Lying and manipulating others in order to protect and continue Suboxone abuse
  • Stealing in order to pay for Suboxone
  • Stealing the drug itself
  • Having obsessive thoughts and actions related to Suboxone, such as taking all measures necessary to ensure one does not run out of it
As Suboxone is a prescription medication, there is also the possibility that a person will visit multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions, or make repeated trips to an emergency room to get extra doses. Although some states are instituting a prescription monitoring system, in the past and still in some places today, it is difficult for a doctor to monitor the number and type of prescriptions a patient gets from other doctors. This has led individuals to visit different doctors, even paying out of pocket, and go to different pharmacies to fill prescriptions. If a person is doctor shopping, they will likely have a collection of prescription bottles that show the names of different doctors and pharmacies. Suboxone can also be purchased on the street, or sometimes obtained from those with a legitimate prescription. In that case, the Suboxone pills or film may be in baggies or folded in pieces of paper.
Research and clinical experience show that there are effective treatment methodologies available at rehab centers to safely and comfortably help a person recover from Suboxone addiction. As the withdrawal process can be intense, medically supervised detox is always most advisable. An attending doctor and addiction staff members will determine whether to initiate the detox process or start the recovering person on a substitution therapy program with the use of legally manufactured and prescribed narcotics. It may seem circular to use narcotics to help a person recover from narcotics abuse (especially Suboxone because it’s intended to be a substitution therapy) but this practice has proven effective in some cases.

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