Suboxone is the brand name for a prescription medication used in treating those addicted to opioids, illegal or prescription. It contains the ingredients buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, blocks the opiate receptors and reduces a person’s urges. The second ingredient, naloxone, helps reverse the effects of opioids. Together, these drugs work to prevent withdrawal symptoms associated with an opioid addiction.
Suboxone has become the preferred treatment medication for opioid addiction. It is now used more than methadone, which can be habit-forming.
What does Suboxone do to the body?
Humans have naturally-occurring opioid receptors in the brain. When a person takes an opiate derivative or abuses heroin, these receptors are activated. Activation produces a euphoric high and an analgesic effect. It’s incredibly easy to become addicted to the feelings and sensations that opioid drugs produce. On top of that, the human body quickly develops a tolerance to opioid medications, and they will need more and more to get the desired effect.
Suboxone contains two ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone.
Buprenorphine has some of the same effects as opioid drugs, but it also blocks other effects of opioids. Because of these unique effects, it’s called an opioid partial agonist-antagonist.
Buprenorphine is the part of Suboxone that helps treat opioid drug dependence. It does this by reducing withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. And because it’s an opioid partial agonist-antagonist, it’s less likely to cause a high than an opioid.
Naloxone is included in Suboxone solely to help prevent abuse of the medication. Naloxone is classified as an opioid antagonist. This means it blocks the effects of opioid drugs.
If you’re dependent on opioids and inject Suboxone, the naloxone can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms. This is because it blocks the effects of opioids, putting you into immediate withdrawal.
However, this withdrawal is less likely to occur when you use the Suboxone film. This is because the film releases less naloxone into your body than an injection does.
Is Suboxone a controlled substance?
Yes, Suboxone is a controlled substance. It’s classified as a schedule three (III) prescription drug. This means that it has an accepted medical use, but it may cause physical or psychological dependence and may be abused.
The government has created special rules for how schedule III drugs can be prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacist. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more.
Doctors can only prescribe this drug for opioid dependence after receiving special training and certification through the U.S. federal government.
Suboxone can slow or stop your breathing, and may be habit-forming.
MISUSE OF THIS MEDICINE CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH, especially in a child or other person using the medicine without a prescription.
Taking Suboxone during pregnancy may cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the newborn.
Fatal side effects can occur if you use this medicine with alcohol, or with other drugs that cause drowsiness or slow your breathing.
Before taking this medicine
You should not use Suboxone if you are allergic to buprenorphine or naloxone (Narcan).
To make sure Suboxone is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:
- breathing problems, sleep apnea;
- enlarged prostate, urination problems;
- liver or kidney disease;
- abnormal curvature of the spine that affects breathing;
- problems with your gallbladder, adrenal gland, or thyroid;
- a head injury, brain tumor, or seizures; or
- alcoholism or drug addiction.
If you use Suboxone while you are pregnant, your baby could become dependent on the drug. This can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby after it is born. Babies born dependent on opioids may need medical treatment for several weeks.
Ask a doctor before using Suboxone if you are breastfeeding. Tell your doctor if you notice severe drowsiness or slow breathing in the nursing baby.
What are the Possible Side Effects of Suboxone?
Suboxone can cause mild or serious side effects. The following list contains some of the key side effects that may occur while taking Suboxone. This list does not include all possible side effects.
For more information on the possible side effects of Suboxone, or tips on how to deal with a troubling side effect, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
More common side effects
The more common side effects of Suboxone include:
- opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as body aches, abdominal cramps, and rapid heart rate
- insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- weakness or fatigue
- back pain
- burning tongue
- redness in the mouth
Some of these side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects from Suboxone aren’t common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects.
Serious side effects can include the following:
- severe allergic reaction
- abuse and dependence
- breathing problems
- hormone problems (adrenal insufficiency)
- liver damage
- severe withdrawal symptoms