Suboxone is a brand name prescription medication that combines two drugs to help people struggling with opioid addiction and abuse overcome their physical dependence.
This medicine combines buprenorphine, a long-acting partial opioid agonist, and naloxone, a drug that temporarily reverses the effects of opioid drugs on the brain.
That being said, people who do not have a high opioid tolerance may still be able to experience some euphoria by taking Suboxone, and some medications can interfere with the drug’s functioning. These problems can lead to overdose, even though the drug contains naloxone.
Symptoms of an overdose on Suboxone are like those of other opioid drugs. A person overdosing on Suboxone may experience:
When artificial opioids do not enter the body and bind to the receptors in the brain, the body cannot produce enough neurotransmitters to feel normal.
This causes withdrawal symptoms, including intense cravings for the drug.Dependence and tolerance often correlate with addiction. People who have struggled with an addiction to narcotics for years need help tapering off these substances, so their body can slowly detox from a long dependence. When dependence is reduced, tolerance is too, and the person will become more sensitive to smaller doses of narcotics. After some time working on a taper, a person may be able to take a large dose of Suboxone and experience a high from it.
Several drugs interact with Suboxone. Some of these drugs include:
One of the most dangerous interactions involves mixing Suboxone and benzodiazepines. These fast-acting anti-anxiety medications, like Klonopin, Xanax, and Valium, are notorious for enhancing the effects of other drugs, such as prescription narcotic painkillers or alcohol. In fact, a combination of any two, or all three, of these drugs can lead to hospitalization. The DAWN Report showed that, between 2005 and 2011, almost 1 million people went to the hospital for emergency medical attention due to any combination of opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol.
Although buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, and not a full agonist like hydrocodone or oxycodone, it can still create euphoria like harder narcotics do if a person can enhance the drug’s effects. Often, this involves taking a lot of buprenorphine or getting the full dose all at once. A person could also mix benzodiazepines and Suboxone, which bypasses the naloxone, and get very intoxicated from the buprenorphine. This practice can quickly lead to overdose.
On its own, buprenorphine usually has a ceiling effect. This means that though the drug may induce a high, which increases as the dose increases, it only does so up to a certain point. For many people ending an opioid addiction, this means that they cannot get high from buprenorphine because they cannot take enough of it. They hit the ceiling.
To people new to opioid abuse, however, the alleged ceiling affect may make Suboxone or Subutex seem safer than Percocet or morphine. Those with little or no opioid tolerance may suffer an overdose before they hit the ceiling because their body is not used to the presence of opioids. People who mix drugs for recreational reasons, like benzodiazepines or alcohol with Suboxone, may bypass the ceiling effect and experience an overdose.
Emergency medical attention is the only way that a person will survive a Suboxone overdose. Administering naloxone may temporarily stop the overdose, but naloxone has a very short half-life compared to buprenorphine and will wear off first. Once naloxone wears off, the person may experience continued overdose symptoms.
Call 911 immediately to get help for a person who is overdosing on Suboxone or another opioid. If naloxone is available, it can be administered too.
It is possible to overdose on Suboxone, and it is possible to become addicted to the buprenorphine in this medication. Fortunately, there is help. Detoxing with the help of a medical professional, getting social support from friends and family, and entering a rehabilitation program that includes therapy is the best path to overcoming the problem and getting healthy.
The opioid abuse epidemic is a large problem in the United States, so many rehabilitation programs are able to provide the care needed to understand the compulsions underlying addiction and how to change behaviors in response to stress or triggers. Prescription medications like Suboxone are meant to help the detox process, but they are not a solution to addition, and they can become a target of abuse, just like prescription painkillers. Professional care from a rehabilitation program helps an individual overcome the psychological aspects of addiction after they overcome their physical dependence on the drug.