• Addiction & recovery

Suboxone Treatment

Nzinga Harrison

November 8, 2021


The widespread use of opioids and their effectiveness in treating chronic pain has left the country trying to stay afloat amidst the alarming rise in opioid addiction, dependence, and fatal overdoses. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly 50,000 people died from an opioid overdose in the U.S. in 2019 alone.  

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a public health concern in the U.S. and worldwide. As such, medical professionals and institutes have identified and introduced several measures to help treat OUDs. And one such measure is the development of medications such as Suboxone. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), Suboxone is one of the most recommended treatment options for managing physical dependence on opioids. 


What Is Suboxone? 

Suboxone is a prescription medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 for treating opioid dependence. Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone as active ingredients and is available as oral tablets and sublingual film strips. The buprenorphine in the medication is a partial opioid that blocks opioid receptors and helps reduce opioid cravings. The second ingredient, naloxone, is an opioid antagonist (inhibitor) that prevents the effects of other opioids. Both work together to help minimize painful opioid withdrawal symptoms to facilitate long-term sobriety. 

Suboxone is a schedule III controlled substance that can only be prescribed by doctors who have received special training and certification from the U.S. federal government. Suboxone maintenance treatment is generally provided in conjunction with other facets of a comprehensive treatment plan, such as counseling and behavioral therapy. 


Suboxone Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Suboxone offers an effective solution for long-term sobriety from OUD. It helps minimize the symptoms of withdrawal and cravings and, in turn, reduces the risk of relapse during the recovery process. As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, Suboxone also helps:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety 
  • Promote calmness, relaxation, and overall well-being 

Suboxone treatment provides people in recovery the confidence and determination to work through their treatment process. It also helps individuals wean off opioids without having to enroll in an inpatient treatment program. Suboxone is generally prescribed during the onset of acute opioid withdrawal symptoms. However, the duration of treatment may differ from person to person based on individual treatment needs and conditions. 

Side Effects of Suboxone 

Suboxone can cause mild to severe side effects. Most of the common side effects disappear within a few days or a couple of weeks. 

Some of the common side effects of Suboxone include:

  • Headache
  • Anxiety 
  • Insomnia 
  • Depression 
  • Constipation 
  • Nausea
  • Weakness or fatigue 
  • Back pain 
  • Dizziness 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Burning sensation on the tongue 
  • Mouth redness 
  • Trouble concentrating 

Severe side effects are uncommon with this medication, but they remain a possibility. Thus, it’s important to seek immediate medical care if someone faces the following symptoms:

  • Blurred vision 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Confusion 
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Extreme weakness 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Severe allergic reactions (such as hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat)
  • Liver problems (symptoms include loss of appetite, dark urine, upper stomach pain, or yellowing of the skin or eyes)


Suboxone Withdrawal 

Another effect of Suboxone treatment is tolerance and physical dependence. Although Suboxone addiction is less likely due to the “ceiling effect” of the medication, it’s possible to form tolerance and dependence on the medication when used for a prolonged period. Individuals with a physical dependence on Suboxone may undergo uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms upon abruptly quitting the medication.

Some of the symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose 
  • Insomnia 
  • Fatigue 
  • Digestive distress
  • Mood swings 
  • Irritability
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Cravings 

Suboxone withdrawal symptoms usually begin within 2-4 days of the last dose and resolve within seven days. Due to the risk of withdrawal, health care providers generally taper down the medication towards the end of Suboxone treatment. 

Suboxone Treatment - Eleanor Health

Can You Overdose on Suboxone?

Suboxone overdose is less likely due to the presence of naloxone in the medication as it helps reduce the risk of misuse and overdose. The “ceiling effect” of buprenorphine also makes it difficult to overdose on Suboxone. However, Suboxone overdose is a possibility, especially when individuals combine it with other substances such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, or barbiturates. And the risk of an overdose is even higher in older adults.

Symptoms of Suboxone overdose include:

  • Abdominal pain 
  • Anxiety 
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Shallow or slow breathing 
  • Loss of physical coordination 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Poor memory or difficulty concentrating 
  • Sleepiness 
  • Seizures 

Suboxone overdose is a life-threatening situation that can result in respiratory depression, coma, or even death. Individuals experiencing symptoms of an overdose must seek immediate medical attention to mitigate the risk of fatal consequences.


Who Should Not Be On Suboxone Treatment?

Suboxone treatment may not be an ideal solution for individuals with certain health conditions. Hence, it’s important to inform your healthcare provider of any of the following conditions to mitigate the risk of negative reactions.

  • Opioids in the system
  • Allergic to buprenorphine or naloxone
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Sleep apnea
  • Enlarged prostate or urination problems
  • Liver disease or kidney disease
  • Abnormal curvature of the spine that affects breathing
  • Issues related to gallbladder, adrenal gland, or thyroid
  • A head injury, brain tumor, or prone to seizures
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding

The use of Suboxone during pregnancy and breastfeeding has been shown to be safe. However, as with all medications, breastfeeding or pregnant women should notify their healthcare provider of their condition prior to starting Suboxone.

If you are seeking help with your loved one’s addiction, contact us today or complete our quick contact form below, to speak with an addiction treatment specialist.

If you need help with your substance use disorder, we are here to help you build your confidence and momentum towards the future you want. We provide treatment services for adults with alcohol, opioid, and other substance use disorders. We are currently located in Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Washington.

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Our mission at Eleanor Health is to help people affected by addiction live amazing lives. We deliver whole-person, comprehensive care and are passionate about transforming the quality, delivery, and accessibility of addiction treatment. Our actions are rooted in respect for each member's values, culture, and life experiences, and our commitment to their wellbeing is unwavering and without judgement.

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