Last updated: November 27, 2023
This semi-synthetic opioid, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, was modeled after methadone. Physicians prescribe Suboxone to treat opioid addiction. Rather than producing the extreme euphoria that’s associated with opiates, it binds tightly with the receptors in the brain providing a slight euphoric reaction that prevents cravings.
There’s a myth floating around the internet that people can easily overdose on Suboxone. The truth of the matter is that it’s extremely difficult to overdose on this drug alone. Because Suboxone limits how the opioid receptors in the brain react, there isn’t as great a risk of slowed breathing. Overdosing with Suboxone in the system is nearly always due to mixing the drug with benzodiazepines or other sedatives that slow breathing.
The drug isn’t normally included on employee drug tests but can be added separately if requested.
A recovery drug
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved buprenorphine as a new method for treating people struggling with an addiction to heroin or prescription narcotic medications. Taken as directed, Suboxone slowly releases in the body to ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
However, if someone attempts to misuse the drug to obtain a “high,” they won’t feel a rush of buprenorphine. That’s because the naloxone binds to the opioid receptors first putting a temporary block on the opioids in the medication. They don’t reach the opioid receptors in the brain at all.
Because there is no intense feeling of euphoria, those that turn to the street in search of Suboxone usually do so to try and kick their addiction on their own. However, that’s not always the case. Some addicts want to have this drug on hand in case of an overdose because the naloxone can reverse the effects of overdose long enough to get professional medical help.
Some city governments are changing their views regarding prosecution and are decriminalizing the drug. With tens of thousands of people dying from overdosing on opiates and heroin each year, easing the penalties for addicts who find the drug on the street in hopes of beating their addiction seems like the humane choice.
However, there are some dangers the user should be aware of.
Dangers of use
Suboxone is ingested by placing the medication under the tongue and allowing it to dissolve slowly. Crushing the tablet for snorting or mixing the powder with liquid for injection has resulted in death.
Moreover, users should have frequent blood tests to check liver function as Suboxone has been linked to liver damage. It’s unclear, though, if that is due to hepatitis infection, an entirely unrelated cause, or the medication itself.
There is a danger of an allergic reaction to the drug. Anyone experiencing hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat should immediately seek medical attention.
In addition, one dose of Suboxone can trigger serotonin syndrome, a condition resulting from the accumulation of high levels of serotonin in the body. It usually occurs within a few hours of taking a new drug or when increasing the dosage. It can be deadly if left untreated.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome are:
- Agitation or restlessness
- Rapid heart rate and high blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of muscle coordination or twitching muscles
- Muscle rigidity
- Heavy sweating
Life-threatening signs include:
- High fever
- Irregular heartbeat
Side effects experienced when using Suboxone can include any or all of the following:
- Weak or shallow breathing
- Loss of coordination
- Extreme weakness
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice can all be signs of liver problems
- Nausea or vomiting can indicate low cortisol levels
When someone stops using Suboxone, tapering off the drug is the best way to avoid suffering withdrawal symptoms.
They can include:
- Increased sweating
- Feeling hot or cold
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Muscle pain
If you suspect someone is exhibiting signs of Suboxone impairment, you can request a drug test be conducted using any of the following methods:
Urine drug test
A urine drug test is the most cost-effective drug test. It detects Suboxone in the specimen for up to three days if used casually. Habitual users will test positive for up to five days after discontinuing use.
Saliva drug test
The saliva drug test, otherwise known as the mouth swab test, is very non-invasive and takes minutes to complete. The saliva drug test identifies Suboxone for 2 days when used casually. Three days is the limit for habitual users.
Hair follicle drug test
The hair follicle drug test involves clipping a small section of hair (about the size of a #2 pencil) as close to the scalp as possible. Technicians cut the hair to test length (normally one and one-half inches) at the laboratory.
Hair follicle tests identify Suboxone for 90 days.
Blood drug test
Blood tests are usually reserved for post-accident situations due to the cost. Suboxone shows up on a blood test for one day only no matter how often the drug has been used.
Varied detection windows
There are a number of reasons why detection windows vary.
- Frequency of use
- Individual metabolism
- Individual body mass
- Overall health
A final word
Suboxone was created with the intention of helping people recover from opioid addiction.
After seeing a slight decline in opioid overdose deaths during 2018, it’s feared that the statistic will soar again for 2020 as many turn to drugs to cope with the anxiety, stress, and fearfulness the pandemic created around the world.
Recovery from addiction is possible but it’s a hard battle to win. If used as directed, statistics show that Suboxone is beneficial in helping addicts achieve the success they desire.
We hope they all succeed.