Is Suboxone Addictive?

Suboxone, a medicine consisting of buprenorphine and naloxone, is now part of the ongoing effort to help people with opioid drug addiction. Buprenorphine reduces the withdrawal symptoms people get after stopping use of opioid drugs. Naloxone can reverse the effects of heroin and drugs that are similar to it. Some addiction treatment medications have the potential to be addictive, but what about Suboxone?

How Addictive Is Suboxone?

The effects of buprenorphine are mild; its onset is slow and the drug has a long duration. This makes it less addictive than heroin, morphine, and other opioids. According to the National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment , the risk of becoming addicted to it is low. The organization also says, despite the drug’s use in maintaining opioid dependence, any dependency can be resolved by gradually tapering the dose as the patient progresses through treatment.

Black and white image of a young woman crying and covering her fThose treated with buprenorphine are more vulnerable to opioid addiction than average. It’s rare that someone shows compulsion toward taking the medication. The possibility exists, however, to become addicted to anything that leads to pleasure.

Naloxone, according to the Harm Reduction Coalition, works only if opioids are present in the body. It will counteract the depressing effects of opioids on the lungs and central nervous system, so one can maintain normal breathing. There’s no potential for abuse, and it has been used individually for people who have overdosed on heroin and opioid-based substances.

Addiction vs. Compulsion

Addiction is any behavior that is compulsive, dangerous, and uncontrollable. It has to do with the natural reward system in the brain. Whatever feels good releases dopamine, and people tend to repeat actions that feel rewarding. There are substances that trigger the same biochemical process, generating cravings that become part of a repetitive cycle.

The faster a substance can reach the brain, the higher its potential to lead to addiction. The strength of the effect impacts reinforcement while speed of onset, level of pleasure, and duration of the substance’s active cycle affect addiction too. Given buprenorphine’s slow onset, mild effects, and relatively long duration cycle, the effect on the brain’s reward system is minimal as is its potential for addiction.

How Suboxone Works

Buprenorphine produces similar, but weaker, effects than opioids. It is known as an opioid partial agonist. Unlike other opioids such as heroin, it has a ceiling effect, which means its effects increase until the person takes a certain amount; then, these effects level off. It is why buprenorphine, and Suboxone, does not trigger dependency. The presence of naloxone decreases the chances of misuse. In fact, the long-acting medication is often not needed in daily doses.

Side Effects

The side effects of buprenorphine can be:

  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fever
  • Irritability

Naloxone’s side effects include:

  • Nervousness and irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Body aches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Fever and chills
  • Sneezing/runny nose

How Cocaine Impacts the Mind and the Body

There are three main phases to administering buprenorphine or Suboxone, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The induction phase involves treating a patient with the medication starting 12-24 hours after opioid use. Cravings are reduced by the stabilization phase. By now, the person should have discontinued or at least significantly reduced use of the addictive drug. The person may need dosing and timing adjustments. If the person responds well, the maintenance phase begins. The treatment can be tailored to the individual on an indefinite basis unless a different approach, such as medically supervised withdrawal or other rehabilitative treatment, is chosen.

Suboxone: A Relatively Safe Option

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 23 percent of people who use heroin develop an opioid addiction. Suboxone has become a common choice for treating this condition. Unless a person uses other illegal drugs, drinks alcohol, or takes medications that slow breathing, Suboxone is considered a safe treatment unless there’s an underlying health issue. Its components carry a low risk of addiction. Treatment can suppress withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and prepare individuals for long-term treatments that support a healthier future.

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