The Side Effects of Suboxone

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

the side effects of suboxone

Long Term Side Effects of Suboxone

Suboxone is a class of prescription drugs used in the treatment of opioid addiction. While treating addiction and drug abuse generally requires a comprehensive addiction treatment program addressing underlying issues via behavioral therapy, suboxone treatment can greatly increase the chances of recovery by limiting the intensity of the opiate withdrawal that addicts suffer when they quit a drug like heroin or oxycodone.

Short Term Side Effects of Suboxone

Suboxone, which received FDA approval in the United States in 2002, is a combination of two substances: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning it somewhat activates the same opioid receptors that drugs of abuse, such as heroin and oxycodone, do. 

By activating these receptors only partially, addicts can mitigate some of the severe withdrawal symptoms while avoiding a high. Buprenorphine on its own can thus be very helpful to opioid addicts in recovery.

However, when buprenorphine is injected against medical advice, it can offer recovering addicts a high and thereby becomes a drug with a high potential for abuse. It is for this reason that in the case of suboxone, naloxone is added to the mix. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it blocks the effects of opioids. 

If a user were to try to get high off of suboxone by injecting it, they would go into withdrawal immediately — which is quite the contrary to a high.

Used for a limited period of time, the short term side effects of suboxone tend to be relatively mild. Using suboxone as part of a treatment plan for opioid withdrawal can still allow for some opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as body aches, abdominal cramps, and rapid heart rate. 

Suboxone itself can also present a range of symptoms, including headaches, anxiety, insomnia, sweating, depression, constipation, nausea, weakness, back pain, burning tongue, and redness in the mouth. These symptoms are usually mild and can be resolved by speaking to a physician about them.

What is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. This means that it activates some of the same receptors in the brain as heroin and other opioids, but not to the same extent.

As a result, buprenorphine can provide pain relief without creating a high or putting users at risk for addiction. It is the active ingredient in Suboxone and is used to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine and naloxone are used in combination to treat opioid overdoses.

What Are The Long-term Effects of Taking Suboxone?

There is nothing wrong with using suboxone for a long period of time. Some recovering addicts use it for years. Doing so can allow a recovering addict to develop the tools necessary for long term recovery. 

Treating the underlying issues behind a substance abuse problem often takes time. Some recovering addicts consider it a lifelong process. By slowing down and mitigating the withdrawal process using suboxone, recovering addicts can focus on the more comprehensive work necessary for treating their drug addiction.

The side effects of suboxone, when used for a long period of time, can, however, increase the risk of certain medical problems. One of these problems is addiction and opioid dependence, which is ironically the condition that suboxone is designed to treat. 

However, taking suboxone for too long can also result in liver damage, thrombotic effect and hormonal problems such as adrenal insufficiency, which occurs when cortisol is too low.

Adrenal insufficiency can cause a range of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, depression, and low blood sugar.

If left untreated, adrenal insufficiency and other associated medical conditions can become life-threatening. This is why people who abuse suboxone need a comprehensive treatment plan to reduce both physical and psychological dependence.

What Are the Side Effects of Suboxone?

Aside from those major medical conditions, the other side effects of suboxone, when used for the long term, are often considered mainly annoying but not dangerous. 12 percent of people taking suboxone, for instance, report constipation. 

36 percent of people taking suboxone report experiencing headaches. Some people taking suboxone have even reported hair loss, though this is not an officially listed symptom.

Some of the dangers of Suboxone include:

Respiratory depression is a result of taking too many pills in one day or combining it with other substances, such as alcohol

  • Dependence and addiction

  • Withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug

  • Impaired motor functions

Studies have also demonstrated that the long term use of suboxone can alter users’ emotional states. These studies show that despite being an effective treatment, suboxone causes long term users to display a “flat affect,” meaning less emotional expressivity. 

They also demonstrate less self-awareness of their own emotional state. Long term users of suboxone can have difficulty recognizing their own feelings of happiness, depression, or anxiety. This can make treating negative emotional states difficult.

What Does Suboxone Do to the Body?

Using Suboxone for a long time can benefit those recovering from opioid addiction and dependence. However, it also has serious side effects that can have long-term consequences if left untreated. 

These include addiction, liver damage, adrenal insufficiency, constipation and headaches, hair loss, respiratory depression, altered emotional state, and impaired motor functions.

It is important to consult with a doctor before beginning any long-term treatment with Suboxone. They will be able to provide the best advice on how to use the medication safely and effectively.

Suboxone Side Effects in Men and Women

The long-term effects of Suboxone use can be different for men than women. For example, men may suffer sexual side effects such as decreased libido or erectile dysfunction. Men may also experience more intense withdrawal symptoms when stopping the medication compared to women. 

It is important to talk to your doctor about any potential side effects that may occur before starting long-term treatment with Suboxone. Additionally, taking some time to research the risks and benefits of Suboxone can help you make an informed decision about whether it is right for your particular situation.

Suboxone Side Effects

Common Side Effects

  • Numbness, redness, or pain in the mouth

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Tingling in the body

  • Stomach pain

  • Insomnia

  • Constipation

  • Concentration issues

  • Feeling drunk

Serious Side Effects

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Fainting

  • Slow breathing

  • Inability to wake up

  • Severe mood changes

  • Intense dizziness

What are the Negative Side Effects of Suboxone?

Perhaps the most worrying issue with the long-term use of suboxone relates to its efficacy. Suboxone is often touted as a crucial harm-reduction method for dealing with opiate addiction to reduce opioid cravings. 

However, some studies show that a sizeable population uses it as a long-term substance abuse treatment as a way to continue to use higher doses of heroin and other illegal drugs without suffering from the withdrawal side effects of suboxone.

This suboxone abuse involves rapidly starting and then stopping a treatment plan. While there is nothing wrong with using suboxone over the long term, it is important to remember that it is just one tool among many in a comprehensive addiction treatment plan.

Getting involved in a recovery community such as Narcotics Anonymous, seeking behavioral therapy, and dealing with the underlying issues behind one’s addiction is ultimately more beneficial for long-term sobriety. 

Suboxone is useful for making that recovery path feel more accessible to recovering addicts. But it is still important to take that path. Long-term suboxone use without taking any steps in recovery can be a recipe for stagnation.

Less known Side Effects of Suboxone

Aside from the side effects discussed above, Suboxone can also cause some less-known and lesser-acknowledged side effects. These include changes to the heartbeat (QT prolongation), hearing loss, vision changes, feeling faint or dizzy, increased sweating, and increased risk of infection.

If any of these symptoms occur while taking suboxone, it is important to report them to a doctor immediately. Additionally, it is important to be aware that the longer a person takes suboxone, the more likely they will experience these side effects. Therefore, it is best to keep Suboxone treatment as short-term as possible to minimize potential long-term consequences.

Why Do People Have a Hard Time Getting Off Suboxone?

People often have a hard time getting off Suboxone for several reasons. Firstly, it is important to remember that Suboxone is an opioid and, therefore, can be addictive in its own right. This means that people may become dependent on the medication and struggle to stop taking it without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Secondly, long-term use of Suboxone can potentially cause changes in the brain that can make it difficult to stop taking. For example, some studies have found that long-term use of Suboxone can cause an increase in dopamine receptors, making it more difficult for a person to feel pleasure if they are not on the medication.

Finally, people may struggle to get off Suboxone because they have not taken steps to address the underlying issues that led to their dependence on opioids in the first place. Without dealing with these issues, it can be difficult for a person to stay off of Suboxone and remain sober in the long term.

Medically Assisted Suboxone Addiction Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an evidence-based approach for individuals with opioid use disorder. It combines using FDA-approved medications, such as Suboxone, with counseling and behavioral therapies. MAT can help reduce withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and relapse risks associated with opiate addiction. MAT may also be used to treat polysubstance abuse and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

MAT should only be used under the supervision of a medical professional and may require regular check-ins with a doctor to ensure that it is effective. Because Suboxone can cause serious side effects, it is important to be monitored to make sure that the person is not taking too much or using it in a way that can be harmful.

Recovery from Suboxone Addiction

It is possible to recover from an addiction to Suboxone successfully. The key is to seek professional help and support from friends and family. It is also important to create a plan for recovery that includes relapse prevention strategies such as avoidance of triggers and focusing on positive activities. 

Additionally, joining a recovery program or group can be helpful, as this can provide an additional layer of support and accountability. You can also go for medication-assisted treatment to manage suboxone withdrawal symptoms and for high-level opioid use disorder. Taking these steps makes it possible to successfully recover from a Suboxone addiction and lead a happy, healthy life.

Design for Recovery is a sober living home in Los Angeles, California that helps young men develop the skills they need to avoid relapse over the long term. Our program is based on the 12-step model and includes one-on-one mentoring and group meetings, daily chores and responsibilities, and weekly outings.

We believe that sobriety is possible for everyone, no matter how hopeless it may seem. If you’re ready to make a change, we’re here to help you every step of the way. Our goal is to help you develop the skills you need to live a happy and fulfilling life in recovery.

Call us today at (424) 327-4614 to learn more about our program.

Frequently Asked Questions

Long-term use of suboxone is defined as taking the medication for more than 12 weeks. It is mostly done as a maintenance medication to prevent relapse, manage withdrawal symptoms, and reduce cravings for the substance of abuse.
The most common side effects of suboxone use are nausea, drowsiness, headache, constipation, insomnia, and decreased libido. Other less common but still possible side effects include changes to the heartbeat (QT prolongation), hearing loss, vision changes, feeling faint or dizzy, increased sweating, and increased risk of infection.
Yes, Suboxone can make you feel very tired all the time. This is one of the more common side effects of taking suboxone and should be reported to your doctor if it becomes a problem.
The effects of suboxone typically last for between 24-36 hours, depending on the individual. However, the drug can take anywhere from 12-72 hours to leave one’s system completely.
The side effects of stopping suboxone can vary from person to person. Common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, nausea, headache, and sweating. More severe side effects can include hallucinations, seizures, and delirium. Therefore, it is important to work closely with a doctor before deciding to stop suboxone treatment.
Yes, Suboxone is also used to treat chronic pain. However, it should be noted that there are risks associated with using suboxone for this purpose, and these risks should be discussed with a doctor before taking the medication.
Yes, there can be both behavioral and mental health side effects of taking suboxone. These can include mood swings, changes in behavior, impulsive behaviors, and difficulty concentrating. If any of these symptoms occur while on Suboxone, it is important to speak with a doctor as soon as possible.
The negative side effects of Suboxone include its potential for misuse, the risk of physical dependence when taken over long periods of time, and the possibility of experiencing less known side effects such as changes to the heartbeat (QT prolongation), hearing loss, vision changes, feeling faint or dizzy, increased sweating and increased risk of infection.

Yes, long-term use of suboxone can cause organ damage if not taken as prescribed. This is because the medication can be metabolized into substances that can be toxic to certain organs, such as the liver and kidneys. Additionally, taking higher doses of suboxone than recommended by a doctor or misusing the drug in any way can increase the risk of organ damage. Always take suboxone as prescribed and speak with a doctor if any concerning side effects arise.

Yes, buprenorphine can be used long-term. However, it is important to note that taking this medication over long periods of time can cause physical dependence and lead to addiction if not taken as directed. Therefore, it is important to speak with a doctor before starting any long-term use of buprenorphine.
Yes, Suboxone can affect testosterone levels. Studies have found that buprenorphine, the active ingredient in Suboxone, can cause a decrease in testosterone levels in both men and women. If you are taking suboxone and experience decreased libido or other symptoms of low testosterone, speak with your doctor about any potential effects.
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Author

Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

RADT
David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen
IMG-1545

LMFT
Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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