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Suboxone Addiction: Risks, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, designed as an opioid replacement therapy to help individuals break free from the clutches of opioid addiction. Its composition is unique, with buprenorphine alleviating withdrawal symptoms and naloxone preventing misuse. 

Suboxone addiction highlights the risk of treating one form of dependency only to create another. 

In the United States, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported an increase in emergency department visits involving buprenorphine (a component of Suboxone) between 2006 and 2010, highlighting the growing concern. 

However, as we delve deeper into Suboxone addiction, we’ll explore the symptoms, risks, and treatment options that can pave the path to recovery. Understanding Suboxone addiction is crucial to mitigating its impact and aiding those who find themselves entangled in its web.

Is Suboxone Addictive?

Suboxone, while introduced as a safer alternative to methadone for opioid addiction treatment, carries a potential for dependency. Factors contributing to this include its route of administration, as snorting or injecting Suboxone can escalate its addictive potential. 

Those with a history of substance abuse might find themselves at heightened risk. It’s crucial to understand the multifaceted factors behind Suboxone addiction, particularly as its historical context as a treatment solution contrasts its potential for misuse.

What are the Risks of Suboxone Addiction?

Suboxone addiction presents a variety of risks, like combining Suboxone with depressants, such as alcohol, amplifies the overdose threat. 

While Suboxone might lead to dependency and addiction, it’s important to differentiate the two: dependency refers to physical reliance, while addiction encompasses compulsive behavioral patterns. 

As the addiction deepens, it can have profound social and economic implications, from job losses to strained interpersonal relationships.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Suboxone Addiction?

Suboxone addiction manifests in distinct behavioral, physical, and psychological symptoms that can deeply impact an individual’s life. From sudden behavioral shifts to physical complications, understanding these indicators is essential for early intervention.

Behavioral signs of Suboxone Addiction

One notable behavioral sign of Suboxone addiction is a marked shift in social interactions, where an individual gravitates more toward those who misuse drugs.  

As addiction takes hold, individuals might neglect their appearance and hygiene, avoid previous social circles, or neglect their responsibilities. They might also show reduced interest in previously enjoyed activities or hobbies, indicating a growing preoccupation with the drug.

Physical symptoms of Suboxone Addiction

Physical indications of Suboxone addiction include developing a drug tolerance, leading to increased dosages for the same effect, disrupted sleep patterns, appetite changes, and unexplained weight variations. These tangible signs can be clear indicators of an underlying problem.

Physiologically, the onset of tolerance—where more medication is required to achieve the same effect—indicates growing reliance. 

Psychological symptoms of Suboxone Addiction

Those battling Suboxone addiction often have mood swings, heightened anxiety, and deep-seated denial about their usage levels. 

Feelings of paranoia or intermittent episodes of depression may be evident, pointing to the drug’s psychological toll.

Psychologically, denial can be a significant barrier, where users either downplay or remain unaware of their Suboxone consumption extent. Paranoia, characterized by unwarranted suspicions or fears, can also arise, complicating the recovery trajectory.

What are the long-term effects of Suboxone use?

 Over extended periods, the drug can also compromise one’s overall well-being and introduce various health vulnerabilities. Long-term use of Suboxone can lead to strained personal relationships and weakened immune responses. 

Persistent Suboxone use may exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Another often overlooked consequence is its potential impact on the immune system, rendering users more vulnerable to various illnesses.

Is it possible to overdose on Suboxone?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on Suboxone. Like other opioids, excessive amounts of Suboxone can lead to life-threatening conditions. Suboxone, which contains both buprenorphine and naloxone, is designed to reduce the risk of overdose compared to other opioids. However, when taken in large quantities or combined with other depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines, the risk of overdose increases.

What are the signs of Suboxone overdose?

The signs of a Suboxone overdose include pinpoint pupils, extreme drowsiness, and slowed breathing. Grasping the depth and consequences of an overdose is vital. Here’s a more detailed exploration:

  • Risk Factors: Combining Suboxone with other drugs, especially depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines, can heighten the risk of overdose. Only use Suboxone as prescribed to prevent such occurrences.
  • Duration: The symptoms of an overdose can last for hours, depending on the dosage and individual factors. Immediate intervention can help avert long-term damage.
  • Treatment: Naloxone is the primary emergency treatment, reversing overdose effects by quickly restoring regular respiration in individuals with slowed or halted breathing due to opioid overdose.
  • Prevention: Stick to the recommended Suboxone dosage. Regular medical reviews can detect and address misuse or tolerance development early on.
  • Statistics: The rise in Suboxone-related overdoses over recent years mirrors the larger opioid crisis, emphasizing the need for awareness and proper education.
  • Long-term Implications: Repeated overdoses or delays in obtaining treatment can result in permanent health issues, including potential brain damage from lack of oxygen.
  • Withdrawal vs. Overdose: Distinguishing between overdose and withdrawal symptoms from Suboxone is critical. Their respective treatments differ, making accurate diagnosis essential.

What are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Suboxone? and Timelines

Suboxone withdrawal symptoms arise after discontinuing or reducing the drug’s intake and following specific timelines. Individuals typically experience muscle aches, restlessness, and insomnia within the first three days. From days 4 to 14, nausea, vomiting, and intensified drug cravings become prominent. Beyond two weeks, and extending to six months, lingering symptoms such as depression and persistent cravings may be observed.

  • Initial Withdrawal (Days 1-3): Muscle aches, restlessness, anxiety, excessive yawning, insomnia, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and teary eyes.
  • Extended Symptoms (Days 4-14): Nausea, vomiting, cramps, dilated pupils, blurred vision, goosebumps, and intensified drug cravings.
  • Long-Term Symptoms (2 weeks – 6 months): Depression, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and persistent drug cravings.

How long does Suboxone stay in your system?

Suboxone’s detection in the body varies with the type of test applied. In blood tests, it can be found between 2 to 12 hours, while urine tests might detect it for 3 to 7 days. Hair tests offer the longest detection window, up to 90 days, and in saliva, it’s generally 1 to 3 days.

Body System

Time in System


2-12 hours


3-7 days


Up to 90 days


1-3 days

Remember, these detection times can vary based on individual factors. Always consult with a medical professional or laboratory for precise detection windows.

How to Successfully Taper off Suboxone?

Successfully tapering off Suboxone involves a gradual reduction in dose under medical supervision, accompanied by supportive measures such as avoiding other substances, staying hydrated, and employing alternative therapies. 

Navigating this process can be challenging, but the following steps provide a structured approach:

  • Gradual Reduction: Lowering the dose progressively minimizes the withdrawal symptoms. Working closely with a healthcare professional to determine an appropriate tapering schedule is vital.
  • Avoid Other Substances: Alcohol and other drugs can heighten withdrawal symptoms and interfere with the tapering process.
  • Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is crucial as dehydration can amplify withdrawal effects.
  • Alternative Therapies: Techniques like acupuncture, meditation, and yoga can aid in managing withdrawal symptoms.
  • Over-the-counter Medications: Some non-prescription medicines might alleviate specific withdrawal symptoms. Consultation with a doctor before starting any medication is necessary.
  • Maintain a Diary: Documenting dosage, withdrawal symptoms, and emotional states aids in tracking progress.
  • Emergency Contacts: Having a list of emergency contacts, such as healthcare practitioners and support group members, is crucial.
  • Educate Yourself: Knowing the potential challenges and understanding what to expect can be beneficial.
  • Surround Yourself with Positivity: Supportive friends, family, or a controlled environment like a rehab facility can significantly help.

Following these steps can pave the way for a safer and more effective tapering process from Suboxone.

What are the Treatment Options for Suboxone Addiction?

There are several treatment options for Suboxone addiction, including medically supervised detox, behavioral therapies, medication-assisted treatments, and community-based support groups. Each is tailored to individual needs, offering comprehensive support during the recovery journey.

The choice between inpatient and outpatient treatment also hinges on individual needs. Inpatient treatments offer a controlled environment beneficial for severe addictions, while outpatient treatments maintain familiar surroundings.

Suboxone Detoxification under medical supervision

The primary step in treating Suboxone addiction is medical detox, where withdrawal symptoms are managed in a controlled environment.

Going through detox is a vital step in treating Suboxone addiction. Yet, the potential risks of unsupervised detox make it essential to seek medical guidance due to possible severe withdrawal symptoms. Furthermore, detox is only the beginning; post-detox care, which often involves continuous therapy or counseling, is crucial to prevent relapse.

Behavioral therapies and counseling for Suboxone Addiction

Behavioral therapies and counseling help addicts understand their addiction and devise coping strategies. Incorporating family therapy and regular sessions enhances the effectiveness of these treatments.

Counseling and behavioral therapies provide addicts with tools to understand and combat their addiction. 

It’s also imperative to have regular therapy sessions to ensure continuous monitoring and support, adjusting coping strategies as needed.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for Suboxone Addiction

Medication-assisted treatment combines medications, like methadone and naltrexone, with behavioral therapy. 

While Suboxone is a standard treatment, other medications like methadone and naltrexone can also play a role. With MAT, ongoing monitoring becomes crucial, demanding regular check-ins to track progress and adjust dosages if required.

Support groups and community programs for Suboxone Addiction

Engaging in support groups like AA offers a platform for individuals to share experiences and seek guidance. 

Community outreach programs provide an avenue for broader education, taking the message about the perils of drug addiction to schools and communities.

How to Seek Help for Suboxone Addiction?

To seek help for Suboxone addiction, it is crucial to consult healthcare providers for diagnosis and treatment. Several dedicated organizations offer resources such as online guides, hotlines, and chat services that provide immediate assistance wherever needed. 

Early intervention is vital, as recognizing the addiction and seeking help promptly can significantly improve recovery chances. Family and social support can’t be emphasized enough, as they play a vital role in recovery. 

A strong support system can help individuals stay motivated and accountable throughout their recovery journey. So, it’s essential to lean on the support of loved ones and friends during this challenging time.

Can Suboxone interact with other medications or substances?

Yes, Suboxone can interact with various medications and substances, including benzodiazepines, other opioids, and specific antivirals. 

It’s especially crucial to be wary of medications like benzodiazepines, other opioids, and certain antivirals. Not just prescription drugs but even OTC medicines and herbal supplements might have unforeseen interactions. 

It’s always prudent to discuss any medication or supplement intake with healthcare providers to ensure safety.

Common Questions About Suboxone Addiction and Abuse

Quitting Suboxone abruptly can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms; it’s recommended to taper off under medical supervision.

Combining Suboxone with alcohol or other drugs can be life-threatening, potentially leading to respiratory depression or overdose.

Suboxone is used to treat opioid dependence; however, misuse can contribute to ongoing substance abuse issues.

Suboxone contains buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, making its effects milder than full agonists like heroin, but addiction mechanisms are similar.

While less common, it’s possible to develop an addiction when using Suboxone as prescribed, especially without proper monitoring.

Suboxone can pose risks to the fetus and may pass into breast milk; pregnant or nursing mothers should consult a doctor before use.

Healthcare providers often use regular check-ups, urine tests, and evaluating patients’ behaviors and mental state to monitor and prevent Suboxone misuse.

Yes, addiction can lead to decreased job performance, absenteeism, or even job loss, and may pose challenges in seeking new employment.

Substance use disorders, including Suboxone addiction, are often comorbid with mental health conditions like depression or anxiety.

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Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

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

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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