Suboxone is a medication used to manage withdrawal from opioid addiction. Although it is used during detox, many people continue using the drug to control withdrawal and cravings throughout their rehab and therapy. And some continue to use the medication for months or years.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is the brand name for a drug that is made up of two medications: naloxone and buprenorphine. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist and buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. Simply put, Suboxone is made of an opioid blocker and a weak opioid. Since buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, it stops other opioids from attaching to opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system. Naloxone blocks and reverses the effects that opioids have on the central nervous system and brain. It is in Suboxone to prevent individuals from overdosing on the opioid buprenorphine. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Resource Guide, Suboxone is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance. Drugs in this classification have a moderate risk for addiction and have medical value.
Suboxone Abuse & Addiction
For many people, Suboxone effectively helps them wean off opioids. However, the effects this prescription medication produces are very similar to the effects of other opioids, except the highs are typically less intense. If Suboxone is taken long-term, drug-craving behavior, dependence, abuse, and addiction are possible.
The symptoms of Suboxone addiction are similar to those of addiction to other opioids, such as morphine, heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, or fentanyl. Taking the drug in excessively large doses, taking it too often, or without a prescription can be very dangerous and are common signs of addiction. Doctor shopping, going to the ER to get more medication, stealing the medication from family or friends, or mixing Suboxone with alcohol or drugs to achieve a more intense effect are also common symptoms.
A drug user is often very secretive and separates themselves from their family and friends. The person may experience depression, anxiety, have mood swings, or act erratically. They often have slurred speech, difficulty with coordination, slowed shallow breathing, and a rapid heartbeat.
Other common symptoms of Suboxone addiction include:
- Confusion, impaired cognition, and the inability to think
- Compromised motor skills
- Feeling physically or emotionally numb
- Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and constipation
- Appearing drowsy or sedated
- Looking high or intoxicated
When a person stops taking Suboxone, they will experience withdrawal as the drug leaves their system. Because the drug has a long half-life, it can stay in your body for as long as eight days, and withdrawal symptoms generally last for approximately one month. Because everyone is different, symptoms vary in severity and duration depending on the following:
- The dosage
- The duration of use
- Whether or not alcohol or other drugs were also taken with Suboxone
- The person’s tolerance for opioids
- Whether or not the person has detoxed from opioids before
- Whether or not the person has other physical conditions or mental health disorders
In the early stage of suboxone withdrawal, the person will experience headaches, chills, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, or other sleep problems. They will sweat profusely, have goosebumps, run a fever, and have muscle aches, pains, and spasms. As withdrawal continues, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach aches, and cramps will occur. Feelings of anxiety, agitation, irritability, and restlessness are strong.
As withdrawal progresses, the person’s symptoms will also include:
- Tremors, twitching, shaking
- Increase in blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Flu-like symptoms including a runny nose and teary eyes
- Constricted pupils
Depression, moodiness, and fatigue set in, and the person feels lethargic. They have difficulty concentrating, their body aches, and there is a general feeling of discomfort. Throughout the entire process of Suboxone withdrawal, the individual feels intense cravings to use the drug or another opioid.
Suboxone Withdrawal Timeline
- The physical symptoms of withdrawal typically begin within 24 to 72 hours after the last dose of the drug was taken. They last for about ten days, with symptoms being worse during the first three days.
- During the first week of withdrawal, muscle aches and pains, mood swings, and insomnia usually begin.
- During the second week, depression is the strongest symptom.
- Depression, intense drug cravings, and the inability to experience pleasure may last for a month or longer.
- Typically, most physical withdrawal symptoms will be gone after one month. However, psychological dependence is often still present.
If You Need Help
If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to Suboxone, another drug, or alcohol, it is time to get the help you need. Make up your mind to reclaim your life. Call and speak to a professional at English Mountain Recovery, located in the heart of the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee. We will answer your questions and help you take your first step toward recovery.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.