Addiction   »   Prescription Drug Addiction   »   Side Effects   »   Suboxone   »   What is Suboxone? The Risks of Abuse

What is Suboxone? The Risks of Abuse

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

What is Suboxone?

What is Suboxone? The Risks of Abuse

Many called it a “wonder drug” when it received FDA approval in 2002—a panacea for the nearly 2.1 million people suffering from opioid dependence in the United States. Suboxone quickly became the preferred treatment medication for those looking to avoid the torment of opioid withdrawal, generating more than $1.5 billion in U.S. sales every year.

So, What is Suboxone and how is it abused now? For many, however, the drug remains an enigma. Is it the “savior” in the opioid epidemic many doctors and addicts claim it to be? Or is it simply a crutch with potentially greater risks than the drugs it replaces? Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is the brand name for a medication used to treat those addicted to opioids—be it heroin, fentanyl, or prescription pain relievers like OxyContin or Vicodin—by reducing the symptoms of withdrawal. It contains two key ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning it blocks opiate receptors in the brain and reduces cravings. Naloxone binds to receptors and helps reverse the effects of opioids. In other words, it is like taking an opioid without the intense high and euphoria that addicts crave.

Uses of Suboxone: What is Suboxone Used For

According to Dr. Adam Bisaga, professor of psychiatry at CUMC and researcher at New York State Psychiatric Institute, “When taken properly, individuals on Suboxone will have no cravings, have no withdrawal, and will feel ‘normal’…that’s why it’s so effective.”

So how does one become addicted to opioids in the first place and how does Suboxone come into play? Basically, the presence of an opioid drug in the brain causes a flood of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical messenger responsible for mood regulation, feelings of pleasure, anxiety minimization, and enhanced relaxation. These sensations result in a feeling of euphoria for the user, a feeling addicts chase each time they use.

If abused and taken regularly over a long period of time, opioids can permanently alter brain chemistry, resulting in physical dependence on the drug and severe withdrawal if abruptly removed from the body.

The symptoms of withdrawal for those addicted to opioids are often s and potentially dangerous. These symptoms include muscle pain, restlessness, sweating, extreme anxiety, insomnia, and even tremors.

Suboxone alleviates or eliminates these symptoms if taken properly and part of a comprehensive treatment program. It is essentially a long-acting opioid that stays in the bloodstream longer than most other opiates, so it can be given in lower doses less often to minimize withdrawal symptoms. The ingredient buprenorphine also contains a “celling effect,” meaning it limits any pleasurable feeling the user can experience, thereby curtailing its potential for abuse.

Doctors typically begin tapering down doses of Suboxone—which typically come in sublingual strips that are dissolved under the tongue—until the medication is no longer needed.

Suboxone Effects (Short-Term)

Suboxone is a depressant, meaning it lowers neurotransmission levels in the brain to reduce arousal or stimulation. Short-term effects can include headaches, slowed pulse, slowed breathing, sluggishness, dilated pupils, slurred speech, nausea, sweating, constipation, and dizziness, among others.

Dangers of Suboxone

Although Suboxone is intended to help addicts overcome opioid withdrawal, it nonetheless possesses its own risks for abuse and addiction. Keep in mind, it is still a partial opiate agonist, meaning it interacts with opioid receptors in the brain similar to any other narcotic. It is a Schedule III Controlled Substance—in the same category as codeine, ketamine, and anabolic steroids—meaning it may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

Data also indicates that the increasing availability of Suboxone led to higher cases of abuse. Emergency room visits related to Suboxone abuse increased by 255 percent in just a four-year span. Intentional abuse of the drug accounts for more than half of all emergency room visits.

Signs of Suboxone Abuse

Addicts who abuse Suboxone often do so by taking more than the recommended dose or by failing to properly taper off the drug, leading to withdrawal and the potential for long-term addiction. Withdrawal symptoms for Suboxone are similar to other opioids.

It is also possible to overdose on Suboxone. Some addicts mix sublingual strips with water and inject the drug directly into the bloodstream, leading to the most common form of overdose. However, an overdose is possible with any means of ingestion if taken in high enough doses. Symptoms of Suboxone overdose include small pupils, blurry vision, dizziness, fainting, slowed breathing, or even death.

Finding Recovery

If you or a loved one is struggling with suboxone addiction, it’s important to seek help and support. Recovery is a challenging journey, but with the right resources, it’s possible to overcome addiction and achieve lasting sobriety. For men in the Los Angeles area, a men’s sober living program in Los Angeles can be an invaluable tool on the path to recovery. These programs provide a safe and supportive environment where men can focus on their recovery and develop the skills and tools they need to maintain sobriety. With the help of experienced professionals and the camaraderie of other men in recovery, men’s sober living in Los Angeles can be a powerful and effective way to rebuild your life and achieve a brighter, healthier future. Remember, recovery is possible, and seeking help is a courageous step towards a better life.

Share this :



David moved to California from his hometown in North Carolina after multiple failed attempts to get sober. While living in an all-male sober living, David started to excel as a leader and mentor. These skills and tools ended up being the catalyst for his recovery and ultimately the foundation he has today. David has a passion for helping young men and sharing his experience. After working in the treatment industry he noticed a serious need for ethical sober living facilities. This prior work experience brought about David’s idea and drive to open Design For Recovery. He’s ambitious to promote growth and change within each individual client that enters the house. David has a strong presence in the house and continues to be part of mentoring young men on a daily basis.


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.

We Can Help

Design for Recovery - Locations Pages Contact Form

Read More

Addiction & Recovery

Sober Living in Los Angeles - Design for Recovery

About Us

Design for Recovery empowers men struggling with addiction by providing 24/7 support, mentorship, and teaches them how to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

Chat with us on Facebook
relapse prevention

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? We can help!

Our advisors are waiting for your call: 424-327-4614

Reach out to us today.

Design For Recovery is committed to helping you or your loved one live a fulfilling life free from alcohol and drug addiction. Below you can find out what to expect when you contact us for help.

Call us at (424) 327-4614 or fill out the form below and we will be in touch with you soon.

Send us a message below and we will reach out to you.
Design for Recovery Contact - Popup