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Can You Get High Off Suboxone?

What Is Suboxone?Depressed guy with drugs on the table

Suboxone is a medication prescribed for the treatment of opioid addiction. Some of the more commonly abused opioid narcotics are heroin, OxyContin, hydrocodone, and Vicodin.
Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone; together, the two drugs may be used to help addicts overcome their dependence on opioids.

  • Buprenorphine is a powerful and potentially addictive opioid painkiller. It belongs in a class of drugs known as partial opioid agonists, meaning that it partially activates the same receptors in the brain as more potent opioids. Buprenorphine produces a sense of euphoria, but it does not provide an intense “high” sensation.
  • Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, meaning that it completely blocks the opioid receptors in the brain and prevents the user from feeling any of the narcotic effects of opioid drugs. It was added to discourage addicts from abusing Suboxone itself and to minimize the risk of overdose.

In conjunction with therapy, Suboxone has been found to be very effective at reducing opioid abuse as long as it is used carefully under a physician’s supervision.It is available as a sublingual tablet or a sublingual film. It should not be crushed, chewed, or swallowed whole but allowed to dissolved slowly in the mouth.2


How Suboxone is Abused

Suboxone cannot make you high. Nonetheless, it is commonly misused. As much as 50% of the Suboxone prescribed in the United States is diverted to non-medical uses; often, it is sold illegally on the street along with heroin and other powerful narcotics. Suboxone was approved for the treatment of opioid addiction in 2002. Addicts soon discovered that it could also be used to maintain their addiction. This is because Suboxone alleviates the symptoms of withdrawal that addicts experience between highs. If the unpleasant effects of withdrawal can be successfully managed by using Suboxone, the addict is free to abuse his drug of choice. Also, if the addict cannot get the drug they really want to abuse, Suboxone will keep them in a mellow state until it becomes available.

Since buprenorphine is itself an opioid drugs, some individuals will attempt to get high by tampering with Suboxone and using it improperly. Suboxone tablets can be crushed and the resulting powder taken by nasal insufflation (“snorting”) or dissolved in solution and injected into the bloodstream. However, injection often produces an immediate withdrawal because naloxone cancels out the activity of opioid drugs present in the user’s system, including buprenorphine.

The euphoric effects of Suboxone are mild compared to other opioids; however, users often combine it with other substances to heighten its effects.

The euphoric effects of Suboxone are mild compared to other opioids; however, users often combine it with other substances to heighten its effects. Many combinations can be lethal because both Suboxone and the substances taken with it depress the respiratory system. Some common substances that are abused with Suboxone include the following:

  • Alcohol: Adds to breathing difficulties; potentially fatal.2
  • Sedatives/tranquilizers (benzodiazepines): May slow breathing to dangerous, potentially fatal levels.3
  • Heroin: Naloxone blocks the receptors for heroin stimulation, so the body goes into rapid withdrawal.
  • Stimulants: Effects counter the relaxation provided by the buprenorphine and may lead to stimulant overdose.

Suboxone Doesn’t Make You High

Since everyone reacts differently to drugs, it’s possible that you won’t experience any sort of euphoric effect from abusing Suboxone regardless of the method you use. If you still experience cravings or if you feel “high” while taking Suboxone as prescribed, it’s a sign that it isn’t working properly for you. Be honest with your physician and admit that Suboxone isn’t working.

What Are the Symptoms of a Suboxone Overdose?

Woman feeling extremely tired

If you experience any of the following symptoms of a Suboxone overdose, get medical help immediately:2

  • Lethargy.
  • Confusion.
  • Slow, labored breathing.
  • Feeling faint.
  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Blurred vision.

How Did I Start Abusing Suboxone?

You can become addicted to Suboxone by taking it for an extended period of time. The longer that you use it, the more likely it is that your body will develop a physical dependence to the drug. Many people struggling with addiction feel that Suboxone withdrawal is just as severe as withdrawal from other opioids like heroin.

Suboxone is intended to be used only for the treatment of opioid addiction. It should be taken on a short-term basis under your doctor’s supervision until you are free of all drugs. If you are using Suboxone for any other purpose, you may have become dependent. Treatment can help.


What Are the Dangers of Abusing Suboxone?

As mentioned previously, injecting dissolved Suboxone may produce instant opioid withdrawal syndrome due to the presence of naloxone. Although snorting or injecting Suboxone provides the user with a mild buzz, the unpleasant naloxone effects often counter that high. In short, the dangers of Suboxone can be summarized as follows:

  • Suddenly discontinuing Suboxone can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
  • Suboxone can have deadly interactions with other drugs like alcohol and sedatives.
  • Suboxone can have uncomfortable side effects, such as respiratory problems, allergic reactions, and problems with coordination.

Seek Help for Your Addiction

Some users find success with Suboxone and others do not. Using Suboxone alone is not enough to treat opioid addiction; you need psychological therapy to address the causes behind your addiction.


Sources

  1. Sittambalam, C. D., Vij, R., Ferguson, R. P. (2014). Buprenorphine outpatient outcomes project: can Suboxone be a viable outpatient option for heroin addiction? Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, 4(2).
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2015). Medline: Buprenorphine sublingual and buccal.
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2002). Subutex and Suboxone Approved to Treat Opiate Dependence.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Buprenorphine.
  5. National Pain Report. (2012). Suboxone: The New Drug Epidemic?

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