Suboxone has been called a “blockbuster” medication with the potential to reduce symptoms of opiate addiction and withdrawal. This medication does, however, have a dark side, and Suboxone addiction is a real problem. Medical detox is the first step in a Suboxone addiction treatment program, and it should be used in conjunction with therapy and followed by aftercare support.
Americans are developing prescription opiate addictions at an alarming rate. The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated about 1.9 million Americans had a prescription painkillers use disorder. Unlike the illicit opioid heroin, doctors frequently prescribe painkillers to people suffering from painful injuries. For example, if a person fractured their arm in a car accident, a doctor may prescribe them the opioid painkiller OxyContin. Whether a person begins using illicit or prescribed opioids, they can develop addiction disease. In recent years, medications have been synthesized expressly to treat opioid addiction through drug replacement therapy. The opioid partial agonist Suboxone is among them. Just like pure opioids themselves, this drug can be habit-forming, leading to Suboxone addiction. Read further for additional Suboxone information, including details on the drug’s chemical behavior and abuse potential.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone, the trade name for buprenorphine and naloxone mixtures, is a man-made drug. What is Suboxone prescribed for? It’s used to treat opioid addiction. Millions of Americans have received Suboxone treatment under medical supervision. Suboxone is called an opioid partial agonist because it binds to the same brain receptors as opioids but is not an opioid itself. Because of this action, Suboxone can be used to replace more harmful drugs, such as heroin. The medication not only serves to reduce opioid cravings but also helps to suppress the symptoms of withdrawal. Ultimately, Suboxone is used in medical settings to help an addict stop using opioids, get through treatment, then remain in recovery.
The FDA approved Suboxone in 2002 for the sole purpose of treating opioid addiction. It was first sold under the name Subutex, which was discontinued in 2011. A generic version of Subutex was available by 2009. A generic version of Suboxone was available by 2012. Since its release, Suboxone has been dispensed under additional brand names:
- Suboxone Film
What Does Suboxone Look Like?
At first, Suboxone was only available in tablet form; it looked like most any other small white pill. Eight years after Suboxone was first sold in the U.S., manufacturers moved beyond pills to release more innovating formulations including Suboxone strips that look like a postage stamp. Some more creative formulations of Suboxone include:
- June 2010 – The FDA approved Butrans, an extended release transdermal film that functions like a nicotine patch — that is, by being absorbed through the skin.
- August 2012 – The FDA approved Suboxone Film.
- July 2013 – The FDA approved sublingual tablets called Zubsolv, which were made available by September of that year.
- November 2014 – The FDA approved Bunavail, a buccal film.
- May 2016 – The FDA approved Probuphine, an under-the-skin implant that remains in place for six months, doling out a steady dose of the drug.
What Are Suboxone Strips?
A Suboxone strip is a sublingual film, which means it’s placed under the tongue. The strip is intended to completely dissolve on the tongue. This usually occurs in about a minute. If two strips are necessary, the first should be placed close to the base on the right or left side of the tongue. The second film should then be placed on the opposite side to prevent overlapping. If a third strip is prescribed, it should be placed only after the first two have dissolved.
What Are Suboxone Strips Used For?
Just as with every other form of Suboxone, Suboxone strips are prescribed to treat opioid dependence. Only a licensed doctor can determine what formulation of this drug is best for a patient.
Suboxone Strips High
“Can you get high off Suboxone strips?” is a commonly asked question regarding this version of the medication. The short answer is “yes.” If enough of the strips are placed under the tongue o dissolve, it can result in a high. Those involved with Suboxone addiction seeking a high tend to dissolve Suboxone strips into the water to inject into themselves.
Common Suboxone Street Names
Like other drugs of abuse, Suboxone has many nicknames when sold on the street. Some of the most popular slang terms for Suboxone are:
- Stops or stop signs
Suboxone Dosage Amounts
If an addict is switching from methadone therapy to Suboxone, they may need less Suboxone than someone who is coming directly off of opioids. The ultimate goal for everyone is to slowly taper down to an effective dose that can be used for as long as is medically necessary. Most people can reach stabilization with a daily dose of 12–16 mg of Suboxone or Subutex.
Is Suboxone Addictive?
“Is Suboxone addictive?” is a commonly asked question of this substance; many people wonder if Suboxone addiction can develop. In short, the answer is yes. Suboxone is addictive, although the rates of Suboxone addiction are low compared to those of other opioids. Suboxone is blended of two drugs — buprenorphine and naloxone. As an opiate antagonist, naloxone blocks the brain’s opiate receptors, which can trigger withdrawal symptoms and even be deadly for those addicted to harder opiates like heroin. Buprenorphine is a partial opiate agonist, which activates the opioid receptors and acts like another opioid drug.
The combination allows those addicted to harder opioids to wean off of their addiction without being subjected to harsh withdrawal symptoms. The problem with using Suboxone, a partial opioid, to treat a more serious opioid addiction is the person still craves opioids and may never stop using Suboxone, thus developing Suboxone addiction. In some cases, those who are involved in Suboxone addiction even dissolve Suboxone Strips in water and inject the solution, bypassing the stomach and rendering the naloxone in the drug ineffective.
While it is rare for Suboxone addiction to develop when following a prescription and consulting with your doctor, Suboxone abuse and non-medical use is especially likely to cause Suboxone addiction. Taking Suboxone intravenously is the riskiest form of abuse because injection delivers faster effects and a more concentrated dose of the drug.
When you withdraw from Suboxone, symptoms are similar to those that occur when you quit other opioids.
As Suboxone has become more widely available, data shows it’s also being more widely abused. For example, in 2010, buprenorphine use led to 30,135 emergency room visits. Roughly half of these trips to the ER were following instances of abuse. Comparatively, in 2005 only a few years after the drug was released on the market, Suboxone use only led to 3,161 ER visits. When you withdraw from Suboxone, symptoms are similar to those that occur when you quit other opioids. You might experience some of the discomforts of opiate cessation, but withdrawal symptoms are significantly less severe with Suboxone. These symptoms include mood swings, muscle aches, fever, headaches, insomnia and nausea.
What Are the Signs of Addiction?
One predominant sign of addiction is that you keep taking the drug regardless of the negative side effects and consequences to your life. These effects can involve anything from health issues to problems with your family and social life. You might:
- Begin to perform poorly at school or work.
- Steal or get in trouble with the law.
- Lie and attempt to get Suboxone from illicit sources.
- Go to multiple doctors to get more of it.
- Take Suboxone via methods not intended or recommended.
- Experience increased conflicts with friends and family due to your use.
Am I Addicted?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides diagnostic criteria for opioid use disorders. The following are some of the criteria which may indicate you have a problem with Suboxone use:
- Taking the substance for the longer duration or in larger amounts than intended.
- Craving the drug.
- Giving up your once-enjoyed activities to obtain and use Suboxone.
- Using Suboxone in situations that pose a physical hazard (e.g., operating machinery).
- Having to take more and more to feel the same effect (secondary to the development of tolerance).
- Spending an excessive amount of time trying to get it, use it, or recover from using it.
Does Suboxone Get You High?
To an average Suboxone user, no, the drug does not get you high. However, those who abuse the medication and/or have developed Suboxone addiction may experience a high from it. Suboxone is a partial opiate agonist, meaning the drug does interact with the opioid receptors in the brain and can cause the euphoric feeling characteristic of opioid abuse. However, Suboxone also contains an opioid antagonist, naloxone, that prevents the brain’s opioid receptors from being triggered. The result is a drug that meets an opioid addict’s craving enough to prevent withdrawal symptoms, but does not get a person high.
In fact, the medication is so powerful it blocks the user from getting high on any opiate while they take Suboxone. Some who use Suboxone to wean themselves off of harder opioids, such as heroin, may later find Suboxone does provide a high as they get accustomed to the drug. Taking the drug intravenously provides the most significant Suboxone high possible because this method bypasses the digestive system, which activates naloxone.
Treating Addiction to Recovery Medication
Suboxone is a medication typically prescribed as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program for those recovering from an addiction to heroin or opioid painkillers. When the patient takes the medication as directed, it is not addictive. That being said, some people find ways to abuse Suboxone, since it contains the opioid medication, buprenorphine. Chronic Suboxone abuse can lead to addiction and may require a Suboxone rehab program to help them overcome their problem.
"the long-term adverse effects of Suboxone as a result of incorrect prescription and misuse can be serious and even deadly."
The drug buprenorphine, which is sold under the brand name Suboxone, was originally intended as an improvement to methadone and meant to help individuals addicted to opiates minimize their withdrawal symptoms. Although it was originally believed that Suboxone held very little abuse risk, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that this drug is susceptible to abuse, since it is a partial opioid agonist. While safety measures have been put into place, abuse of Suboxone has been reported throughout the United States. If you think that you or someone you know may be addicted to Suboxone, it is important to seek help at a rehab center immediately. According to the FDA, the long-term adverse effects of Suboxone as a result of misuse and abuse can be serious and detrimental to physical and mental health. These risks increase when Suboxone is mixed with other substances, such as alcohol or sedatives. Long-term use of Suboxone may lead to dependence, addiction, and even overdose.
Inpatient Facilities vs. Outpatient Clinics
Treatment for a Suboxone addiction is available in two different types of treatment environments: inpatient and outpatient. In determining which type of treatment option is best for you or your loved one, it is important to understand that treatment is available around the clock in an inpatient facility. The patient will reside in the inpatient treatment facility while they receive professional, caring treatment for an addiction to Suboxone. You receive a combination of individual therapy, group counseling, family therapy, peer support meetings, and medication, if applicable. Many people benefit from inpatient because they are separated from their old using environment and are able to focus solely on their recovery. This option is appropriate for someone with a severe addiction, a polydrug addiction, a co-occurring mental health disorder, history of complicated withdrawals, history of treatment noncompliance, etc.
Outpatient clinics may provide treatment on a more limited basis. Patients attend scheduled treatment sessions, ranging from a couple hours per week to several hours per day, depending on the intensity of the outpatient program. Patients continue living at home while receiving outpatient treatment. This means that they need a strong and sober support system and reliable transportation to the outpatient facility.
Do I Need a Residential Rehab Facility?
While Suboxone is intended for medical purposes, when use reaches the point that you crave the drug, it has crossed the line from use or abuse to addiction. While it is possible to recover from addiction without entering a Suboxone rehab center, treatment can be helpful. For example, residential rehab facilities provide patients with a number of benefits to help them ease their way through the detoxification and withdrawal process. In addition, Suboxone treatment programs provide a number of other crucial services, including counseling.
Tolerance vs. Suboxone Dependence
Suboxone is used in detox settings to manage withdrawal symptoms and in medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which combines long-term medication management with behavioral therapy.1 If you are taking Suboxone as prescribed, tolerance will not occur. You will likely develop a dependence on the medication, but this is the body's normal adaptation to the presence of a substance. If you take the medication as part of MAT and want to quit taking it, your physician will create a gradual tapering schedule in which your dose is slowly decreased so that you don't experience any withdrawal symptoms. If you abuse Suboxone, dependence is likely to develop much more quickly. Dependence in someone who abuses the drug can contribute to a develop of addiction, as the person develops a problematic cycle of abuse. When this happens, it is imperative that you seek out professional help from a Suboxone rehabilitation center. It is possible to recover from your addiction and begin a new life.
Are Suboxone Rehabs Private and Confidential?
It is imperative that you know that privacy is completely valued in a Suboxone treatment program, and you need not be concerned that your or your family member's privacy will be breached during the course of treatment. There are many Suboxone rehab centers that also provide comfortable, private rooms. Depending upon the type of rehab center you choose, private suites may also be available for your increased privacy and comfort.
90-Day Addiction Rehab Program
Many inpatient rehab programs include 90-day drug rehab options. These three-month rehab centers allow for long-term treatment that can lead to a higher success rate for recovering addicts.
The most important thing is that you receive treatment in the most caring and supportive environment possible to provide you with the best chance for a full and lasting recovery.
How Long Does Inpatient Suboxone Rehabilitation Last?
Many people who are considering treatment for themselves or a loved one often have questions about the duration of treatment. While this is completely understandable, it should also be understood that the length of treatment may vary between individuals. For some people, 30-day treatment at a Suboxone rehab center will be sufficient. In other cases, particularly more severe addictions, a 60-day or 90-day treatment program may be more advisable. Outpatient services are available, but may not provide the same level of comprehensive services as a residential treatment program.
What Happens During Treatment?
When you are considering treatment at a Suboxone rehabilitation center for yourself or someone close to you, it is important to know what to expect. The intake process is the first step in the treatment journey. A mental health or addiction professional conducts a comprehensive evaluation, in which they assess the patient's addiction and mental, physical, and social health. After the patient has been fully assessed during intake, a treatment program will be planned to help them with the detoxification process. Once they achieve a medically stable, substance-free state, they will then receive substance abuse treatment in the form of individual therapy, group counseling, family therapy, support groups, and more. The patient will receive specialized care to assist with their particular needs.
What Happens After?
The prospect of staying sober after treatment may seem daunting for many people, but it is important to know that the Suboxone rehab center will provide patients with the tools they need to remain healthy and sober even after they have completed a residential treatment program and returned home. Once they complete the treatment program, they will continue receiving ongoing support to prevent relapse. Aftercare options include sober living homes, individual therapy, 12-step programs, non-12-step programs, alumni programs, and group counseling.
Are You Ready?
Asking for help is the first step in the treatment journey. To speak to a professional counselor today and obtain help in locating a Suboxone rehabilitation center, call our helpline today. According to the FDA, the long-term adverse effects of Suboxone as a result of incorrect prescription and misuse can be serious and even deadly. Long-term use of Suboxone may lead to dependence, addiction, and even overdose.
An intervention can often be a life-changing step for someone addicted to Suboxone. This can form the basis for the next important step of assessment and intake at a qualified Suboxone rehab center. Carefully monitored detox programs can assist patients with their withdrawal from Suboxone. Both residential inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities are available, but many people find that residential centers offer a more comprehensive level of treatment. There are also numerous types of treatment available, including non-spiritual, 12-step or spiritual, holistic, and religious or faith-based treatment options. Tools are also provided to help with sober living after treatment through aftercare services. No matter where you or someone you know may be right now, there is no need to continue down the same path. A Suboxone rehabilitation facility can provide the help you need to break free from the addiction cycle once and for all.
What Information Does the Helpline Need From Me?
When you call the helpline, you’ll want to have some information concerning the addiction and the addicted individual at hand. If you’re calling for yourself, have your insurance card available so you can disclose your policy number and specific plan to the admissions consultant. Then you’ll want to provide them with information concerning what substance you’re addicted to, your typical dose, how long you’ve been abusing the substance or substances, and how severe your addiction is. If you are calling for a loved one, it’ll be helpful to know this as well. If someone has a co-occurring mental health or physical condition, that information should be relayed as well.
Finding a Suboxone Doctor
In order to dispense buprenorphine products, such as Suboxone, doctors must be certified to prescribe buprenorphine. These doctors are:
- Licensed under their state law
- Registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to prescribe a controlled medication
- Not allowed to treat more than 30 patients at a time within the first year of certification
- Qualified by certification and/or training
Fortunately, you don’t have to call individual doctors to see if they can prescribe you Suboxone. SAMHSA has a resource that allows you to search for a doctor by your state, city, or zip code. The results list the physician’s name, office address, and telephone number.
It's Not Too Late to Turn Everything Around
It is truly never too late to turn things around and get the help you need at a Suboxone rehab center. No matter how long you have suffered from an addiction to Suboxone, help is available right now. According to the FDA, the long-term adverse effects of Suboxone as a result of incorrect prescription and misuse can be serious and even deadly. It is for this reason that the agency has issued a black box caveat against fentanyl abuse. Long-term use of Suboxone may lead to tolerance, dependence, occupational hazards, constipation and potentiation.
Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). Highlights of Prescribing Information.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Qualify for a Physician Waiver.
BUPRENORPHINE - Trade Name : Buprenex®, Suboxone®, Subutex® https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/buprenorphine.pdf
Withdrawal from Buprenorphine/Naloxone and Maintenance with a Natural Dopaminergic Agonist: A Cautionary Note https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3835595/
Emergency Department Visits Involving Buprenorphine https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/DAWN106/DAWN106/sr106-buprenorphine.htm