Suboxone is a brand name for FDA-approved prescription medication used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder. It is a combination of two drugs: naloxone and buprenorphine.
Since it’s a partial opioid agonist, suboxone activates opioid receptors in the user’s brain, but much less than fentanyl or heroin, which are both full opioids. That explains why buprenorphine effectively eliminates withdrawals and cravings without producing a “high.”
Having been designed as a maintenance opioid addiction treatment to be used for a minimum of 1-2 years, questions about the risk of suboxone overdose are not uncommon. Here is what you should know about Suboxone.
The Risk of Suboxone Overdose
Buprenorphine is a long-acting opioid agonist, while naloxone is a drug designed to reverse the effects of opioid drugs on the brain. As such, individuals who do not have a high opioid tolerance are likely to experience some euphoria after taking suboxone.
Additionally, some medications may interfere with suboxone’s functioning. These problems can subsequently cause an overdose on Suboxone, even though the drug contains naloxone.
Low Opioid Tolerance and Suboxone Overdose
Drugs like methadone and buprenorphine were developed to aid people battling an addiction to narcotics, including prescription heroin and opioid. When someone receives a prescription for these medications, it is often assumed that they have a high tolerance for the drug and physical dependence.
Research shows that tolerance develops when the body gets used to a specific amount of drug in the system and thus ceases to respond to that level of the substance. Prescription opioids can also lead to tolerance because opioid receptors in the brain get used to receiving the synthetic painkiller and thus stops blocking pain signals as effectively.
Therefore, people who misuse drugs such as heroin in large doses end up developing tolerance to that amount of the drug and can no longer experience the same degree of euphoria as a consequence. This forces them to use more of the substance to achieve the same level of euphoria, thus leading to an overdose.
On the other hand, physical dependence is when the body needs a specific level of a substance like narcotics to reach equilibrium in the brain. Without the drugs, you start experiencing withdrawal symptoms, including cravings for the drugs.
How Dependence and Tolerance Correlate with Addiction
Individuals who have battled with opiate addiction for years require help tapering off these substances to allow their bodies to detox from long dependence gradually. Lowering dependence also means lowering tolerance, and the individual will become more sensitive to small doses of the substance.
After working on a taper for some time, some people may start taking a large dose of suboxone and experience a high from it. It’s, therefore, also possible for people using suboxone as prescribed to relapse back to their old addiction patterns.
Individuals who have struggled with opioid painkiller addiction or heroin for a long time may return to misusing these drugs even while still taking suboxone. This can potentially cause an overdose because there is too much opioid in the user’s body.
Additionally, patients who have not developed a tolerance to suboxone but still receive a prescription because of an addiction to narcotics may continue to get high on the drug. This could result in a similar drug-seeking behavior and cravings associated with addiction, including raising the Suboxone dosage, which can cause an overdose of Suboxone.
Symptoms of a Suboxone Overdose
The common signs and symptoms of a Suboxone overdose include, but are not limited to, the following:
If it is not certain whether someone is overdosing, even if they do not show all the signs listed above, it is better to assume they are in danger and be wrong than wait for more signs or a severe problem. For suboxone overdose, delay raises the risk of brain damage or death.
Drugs That Interact with Suboxone and Are Likely To Case Overdose
The following medications and substances interact with Suboxone, and they can increase the risk of overdose:
- Hormonal contraceptives
- Opiates such as hydroxycodone and heroin
- Synthetic cannabinoids
- Phenobarbital and other epilepsy treatment
What To Do In The Event Of A Suboxone Overdose
Suboxone overdoses are somewhat more complex than other opioid agonists because naloxone, the medication used to revert opioid overdoses, is present in Suboxone.
While administering naloxone for a Suboxone overdose does help in the short term, it can potentially lead to debilitating withdrawal effects once the patient comes to their senses.
Therefore, in the event of a Suboxone overdose, administer naloxone and call emergency services immediately. Emergency medical personnel are able to give the best care.
It is also worth noting that Suboxone overdoses are often linked to risky consumption behaviors. Cases of overdose caused by suboxone alone are rare, but individual differences can increase the risk. However, when taken appropriately, Suboxone is a safe prescription medication with potentially life-saving properties.
Treatment for Suboxone Addiction
Suboxone treatment is most effective when administered in combination with behavioral therapy. The objective of suboxone treatment is to lower cravings, ease withdrawals, and stabilize the brain’s chemistry by allowing the patient to taper off the substance gradually.
That means that you might still have some level of dependence on Suboxone as it remains in your system. However, proper medical supervision or monitoring can manage this dependence safely.
If you are addicted to suboxone and considering rehabilitation, it is imperative to understand the process. Rehab for Suboxone addiction varies from patient to patient and facility to facility. The treatment process is also unique because the drug is essentially a semi-synthetic opioid with distinct effects from other substances like cocaine or heroin.
Since detoxing from suboxone differs from other substances, the time it takes to complete treatment will vary. Nonetheless, the goal of rehab is the same; helping you get clean and stay clean.
Suboxone Addiction Help
We understand how difficult it can be to break free of addiction. Our staff is passionate about helping you or your loved one overcome the physical and psychological challenges associated with suboxone addiction.
At Crest View Recovery Center, we provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals struggling with substance use issues. We offer individualized treatment plans that are tailored to each client’s needs. Our integrated approach combines evidence-based therapies, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness techniques and holistic treatments such as yoga and acupuncture to promote long-term recovery.