Effects of Suboxone

Suboxone effects

Suboxone is a medication that is administered to those who are addicted to opioids. It contains a synthetic opiate and a second drug that is intended to counteract the euphoric effect of the opiate, supposedly preventing the user from getting high. The Suboxone patient gets as much as a month’s supply from a doctor instead of the daily dose of methadone most people must acquire from a methadone clinic.

The two main ingredients of this pill are buprenorphine, the synthetic opiate, and naloxone, the drug intended to block euphoric effects. Suboxone is also administered as a small sheet of film that is placed under the tongue where it will dissolve.

Usual or Occasional Effects

One of the primary effects of Suboxone is respiratory suppression. Any opiate, synthetic or not, has this effect. This is the way that an opiate overdose kills someone.

Suboxone can also make it dangerous for a person to drive a car or operate hazardous machinery.

Other common effects of Suboxone include:

  • Sleeping problems
  • Cold or flu symptoms
  • Nausea

Emotional highs and lows

One doctor administering Suboxone described the effect of the drug: “A lesser dose of Suboxone (2 mg a day) will block an estimated 80 percent of a person’s feelings, while higher doses can make a patient practically numb.” This doctor also stated that in his experience, long-term use of Suboxone can cause loss of interest in sex, hair loss and abnormalities in how the body deals with emotions and stress.

The idea behind administering Suboxone is to taper a person off the drug gradually so he (or she) can become free from opiate addiction without the withdrawal sickness. But many people are just maintained on this drug for long periods.

When a person is tapered off Suboxone but does not receive effective help to recover from the need to abuse drugs, he may return to drug abuse later. As long as he takes his Suboxone, it is considered that he is “in compliance” with the treatment.

When a person is being tapered off Suboxone, its withdrawal symptoms may show up on a delay. So if the medical practitioners tapering a person off this drug are not intimately familiar with the drug’s actions, they may discharge a person and send him home before the final withdrawal symptoms hit. The person may have to deal with them alone, at home.

When a person has been tapered off Suboxone, he is likely to suffer from restlessness, irritability, and discontent. These effects can drive a person back into drug abuse.

Dangerous and Potentially Fatal Effects

The accidental ingestion of Suboxone can be fatal to a child. A pregnant woman passes along Suboxone to her unborn child and a nursing mother gives the drug to her baby in her breast milk. The newborn or nursing child could go into withdrawal if the Suboxone is no longer supplied.

A person who is prescribed Suboxone has already been taking opiates for a considerable time and so can tolerate the dosage he (or she) is given. He has already developed a tolerance to a higher dose of opiates. But if a person not accustomed to taking opiates tries the two-milligram dose given to the addict, it could kill him.

A person taking Suboxone properly who tries to also abuse benzodiazepines or alcohol can end up suppressing his respiration to the point of death. Some people try to pile opiate abuse on top of Suboxone and can kill themselves by overdose.

Suboxone just prevents withdrawal symptoms. It does nothing to help a person stop craving the high of opiate abuse, or desiring the oblivion of the opiate euphoria. The only way to stop the desire to abuse drugs is with honest and effective drug rehabilitation.

True Recovery from Opiate Addiction

Suboxone may help a person get control of an addiction but it does not constitute recovery. Real addiction recovery means that a person has no drugs in his system (other than medically-required ones). He does not rely on alcohol, cocaine or any other substance for relief, entertainment or escape. Ideally, he is capable of a productive, enjoyable life. But this is how graduates of the Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program describe their futures as they prepare to go home.

One young woman who started using drugs when she was sixteen said this about her result from this program: “I completed the Narconon program five months ago. This program helped me see where I went wrong in my past and how to make better decisions in the future. I learned how to surround myself with people who have a positive impact on my life. I learned how to take responsibility for my actions. Since my graduation, I have completed my GED and I have held down a full-time job at the courthouse. I scored very well on my SAT and have been accepted into college. I am very excited to start my new life.” Angel M.

See also: Signs and Symptoms of Suboxone


Clinical Review by Claire Pinelli, LADC, CCS, ICAADC, MCAP

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