Suboxone Addiction: Symptoms, Side Effects, Withdrawal, Detox, and Rehab

By The Fix staff 01/21/15

Suboxone Addiction: Symptoms, Side Effects, Withdrawal, Detox, and Rehab

Suboxone Addiction Side Effects

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Suboxone is a combination of Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Buprenorphine is a synthetic opiate created to prevent withdrawal symptoms that come from quitting heroin or other opioids like Norco or Oxycontin. Naloxone is a drug that suppresses the euphoria or "high" that a user may get from Buprenorphine.

This drug is used as a medication and is dispensed as a means of tapering off opiates. When used as directed and under the supervision of a physician or a drug treatment program, Suboxone is an effective tool for helping someone get off of opiates without the severe withdrawal symptoms of going "cold turkey."

Suboxone, like any other drug, has the potential for abuse. Although it is only available by prescription, people are able to purchase it illegally and those actually prescribed the drug may still become addicted. Suboxone was developed in to limit recreational or addictive use, but it still happens. Additionally, it is less tightly controlled than Methadone, another drug used to treat opiate addiction.

Although, as noted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the drug does not cause the same "high" as other opiates, it suppresses withdrawal and, if used in large quantities, does have a mind-altering effect. 

Signs Of Suboxone Addiction

It may be difficult to pinpoint signs of Suboxone addiction specifically since it is frequently used in conjunction with other drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, other opiates, and benzodiazepines, like Xanax.

When a person is addicted to Suboxone, they may not show major symptoms, unless the person has run out and is beginning to go through withdrawal. This may be a family member's first clue that there is a problem.

There are certain behaviors that tend to go along with addictive using, the following are some signs that may indicate you or your loved one has a problem:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Difficulty maintaining responsibilities such as work and family
  • Excessive sleepiness or difficulty sleeping
  • Lying and manipulating
  • Constant obsessive thinking around getting and using the drug
  • Stealing money or drugs
  • Doctor shopping or frequent visits to the emergency room

This is by no means a complete list but, if you or a loved one displays these behaviors, they may signal a problem.

It is important to note that, when it comes to opiates, there is a difference between dependence and addiction. Opiates are physically addictive, even when used as directed. If you have been using them for an extended length of time, it is possible that you have become physically addicted to them. Therefore, if you quit taking them you may have withdrawal symptoms. This does not mean that you are an addict, but it does mean that quitting the medication or drugs may cause difficulty.

Addiction is more than just the physical dependence on the drugs. It is also psychological. The cravings may manifest themselves as physical symptoms while the user struggles with obsessive and compulsive thinking and behavior around the drug.

Denial of the problem is common, even in the face of mounting evidence that there is a problem. Friends and family may become frustrated when trying to talk about it because the addict becomes defensive, insists nothing is wrong, or blames other people or circumstances for the problem. This is very common addict behavior. Once the denial is broken, it is much easier to recover.

Suboxone Addiction Side Effects

According to the FDA, Suboxone addiction has a number of side effects. The following is a list of some of the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms and side effects that can occur with its use:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor coordination
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Depression
  • Drowsiness
  • Small pupils
  • Poor memory
  • Erratic moods and behavior

In addition to these side effects, use of Suboxone can cause risks to one’s health. Depressed respiratory activity is one major risk associated with the drug. Overdose is another possibility. Most instances of overdose and respiratory distress or other health issues seem to arise when the drug is combined with other substances, such as alcohol.

If you are taking Suboxone as part of a program of detoxification from opiates, you should not be taking any other drugs. If you have been prescribed medication, you should let your pharmacist know that you are taking Suboxone. Ask your pharmacist if there are any possible interactions when taking over-the-counter medications as well.

Suboxone Addiction Withdrawal

Although Suboxone is used to treat opiate addiction and ease the symptoms of withdrawal, suddenly quitting the drug will cause withdrawal symptoms. 

Suboxone is generally prescribed as part of a treatment plan to wean the patient off of opiates such as heroin or prescription opiates. An initial dosage of Suboxone is given, the amount depending on several factors such as length of time using, quantity used, weight etc.

After a set amount of time, the dose is reduced incrementally until the physician determines it is time to stop. This is the weaning process. When the drug is stopped, there may still be some withdrawal symptoms, but they will be mild.

For someone who has been abusing Suboxone, or stops taking it without "stepping down," the results will be withdrawal symptoms like with any other opiate. Some of those symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Insomnia or excessive sleepiness
  • Stomach problems
  • Irritability
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating and chills
  • Headache
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Depression

The severity of withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person. How long the drug has been taken and usual dose are also factors.

Suboxone Addiction Detox

The symptoms of opiate withdrawal are severe and unpleasant. This makes opiate addiction one of the hardest to beat, because, in addition to the psychological cravings, there is also the physical dependence. It is not uncommon for an addict to feel like they will die if they can't get more of the drug. During the withdrawal period, the user will often go through a rollercoaster of emotions. He or she may lash out at friends, family, or anyone who may be trying to help. Crying, feeling emotional and alone, and bargaining with caregivers to just get "a little" of the drug are all common.

It is important to have good, healthy support during this time. If you or your loved one is thinking about detoxing off of Suboxone, it is advisable to seek medical help. Detoxing is unpleasant and can leave you dehydrated and sick.

There are detox services that can provide care and support during the detox process, allowing you to detox safely in a caring atmosphere with access to immediate medical care should any problems arise.

If you do choose to detox at home, it is essential that you remove all drugs and paraphernalia from your home, and that you have access to clean and sober people who support your decision to get off of the drug. 

Because of the severity of the symptoms, it is common for the addict to relapse early in the detox phase. The support of people who understand addiction and particularly addiction to opiates can make a big difference in the success rate of Suboxone addiction withdrawal. This is why rehab is often an addict's best option.

Suboxone Addiction Rehab

If you or a family member is struggling with Suboxone addiction and you can't seem to stop using on your own, a rehab can help.

Even after Suboxone addiction withdrawal is complete, relapse is still a risk. The physical signs of withdrawal may be gone, but the psychological addiction is strong, and may lull you into believing that you can "handle it." In fact, feeling good and healthy is sometimes what triggers the addict to use again.

A residential rehab can greatly increase your chances of success. Most residential rehabs last from 28 days to 6 months and sometimes longer. Rehab is effective for several reasons:

  • It is a safe space, away from drugs and the people who use them.
  • When you are in rehab, the only responsibility you have is to stay there and stay clean, allowing you to focus on yourself.
  • There are counselors available who can help you wade through the many emotions you will have, now that you are clean. These early recovery emotions can lead to relapse if you don't have the supportive environment to turn to.
  • You will learn about addiction, what some of the factors are, how to avoid triggers, and how to live life without drugs.
  • You will meet other recovering addicts, build a support group, and learn to have clean and sober fun.
  • You may have underlying issues that contribute to your addiction such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other trauma. This is common among addicts. Treatment can help you address these issues..

If you are tired of living a life of addiction, it can't hurt to look into treatment. It may seem scary or overwhelming. However, treatment is voluntary: you choose to go and to stay clean and sober. If you are truly ready for a change, rehab can be help you start a new life, free of addiction.

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