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Common Side Effects Of Suboxone

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 23, 2019

Suboxone is a medication that is prescribed to assist individuals who are going through opioid withdrawal. Since Suboxone is also an opioid, it can produce many of the same side effects as other opioids, but to a lesser degree of intensity, allowing individuals to safely detox from other opioids.

Suboxone is a sublingual film or tablet. It contains the medications buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine has many properties similar to illicitly used opioid drugs, such as heroin and prescription painkillers. These characteristics allow it to be used as a treatment for opioid dependence by helping a person to reduce or quit opioid drug use. Suboxone may be used during detox to reduce cravings and symptoms of withdrawal. It may also be used as an ongoing maintenance therapy as managed by a certified doctor. The addition of naloxone deters intravenous drug abuse.

The opioid drug class contains some of the most highly abused and deadly drugs in our nation. These drugs are extremely addictive and difficult to overcome on your own. To address this, it’s imperative that effective and safe treatment medications are made available to those who struggle with addiction. Suboxone, like any other medication, has various side effects which you should consider before starting treatment. When used properly, under the guidance of a trained medical professional, Suboxone is safe and can be a valuable component of your treatment and recovery.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a group of drugs derived from the poppy plant that include heroin, prescription painkillers, and designer opioids. These drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Within abuse, users quickly form a physiological dependence. These drugs are able to access opioid receptors within your brain, pushing out those which occur naturally within your body.

Once this happens, your body and brain begin to believe that they don’t need to produce their own opiates. If opioid abuse continues and becomes chronic, this action is so pronounced that you actually become reliant on the abused substance.

When this occurs, you have become dependent on the drug. This essentially means your system cannot function properly without the illicit drug. This is also why a person goes into withdrawal should they abruptly stop or significantly decrease the dosage of the drug. In order to combat the unbearable and painful symptoms of withdrawal (including cravings), certain medications are used within detoxification.

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone comes in two forms, either as a sublingual film or tablet. This enables you to discreetly place it under your tongue where it dissolves without water. This area is rich in tiny blood vessels which allow the medication to be rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream. Suboxone works well to treat opioid dependence because it actually contains an opioid drug. Unlike other opioids, however, its action is more controlled and long-lasting, with limited potential for abuse.

Buprenorphine: This medication works on opioid receptors in your brain to reduce drug cravings and symptoms of withdrawal. These features make it vastly beneficial during detox and also within recovery when used as a maintenance treatment.

Buprenorphine has a long duration of action. It doesn’t produce the extreme highs associated with illicitly used opioids like heroin. It’s also safer than these medications due to its “ceiling effect.” This drug produces less respiratory depression and has a reduced potential for overdose.

Naloxone: Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it blocks and/or reverses the effects of opioid drugs. Within Suboxone, this drug is used as an abuse deterrent. If someone attempts to inject this drug, naloxone precipitates withdrawal.

To use Suboxone successfully and to achieve optimal results within treatment or recovery, this drug is best utilized within medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

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What Are The Side Effects Of Suboxone?

Most of Suboxone’s side effects are similar to other opioids, but again, many of them are less intense. Side effects may vary based on your unique physiology. As an opioid, Suboxone will produce analgesic (pain relieving) effects, a sense of relaxed calm, and mild euphoria. It is these effects which recreational drug abusers seek. But even prescribed use has side effects:

Common side effects include:

  • Back pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Cravings
  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Headache
  • Intoxication
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Lightheadedness
  • Mouth becomes numb or red
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Stomach ache
  • Sweating
  • Tongue pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Withdrawal

Suboxone may cause more serious side effects in some individuals, such as:

  • Confused or agitated states
  • Decreased energy
  • Fever
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Hallucinations
  • Intense fatigue
  • Poor coordination
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Respiratory distress
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Slurred speech

Should any of these appear, contact your prescriber immediately.

In addition to these, the manufacturer warns that other serious side effects could occur, such as:

  • Allergic reactions: If you’re allergic to Suboxone, you may develop a rash, hives, itching, or wheezing. Your face and/or throat may swell, which could make it difficult to breathe. Severe cases may cause your blood pressure to plummet and lead to unconsciousness. This situation requires emergency medical attention.
  • Dependency and/or abuse: Suboxone users can become dependent even within prescribed use. Even though the potential for abuse is less than with other, stronger opioids, Suboxone misuse can still cause abuse and addiction.
  • Liver complications: Some individuals may develop liver problems on Suboxone. Signs of these conditions include yellow skin and/or eyes (jaundice), pain in the upper right abdomen, nausea, and certain changes in the color of your stool or urine.

As we’ve noted, Suboxone as prescribed can be a safe and effective part of your treatment or recovery plan. Unfortunately, it can be abused. Should Suboxone be misused or abused, certain side effects may become more pronounced and harmful to your health.

What Other Complications Can Suboxone Cause?

Central Nervous System Depression: Suboxone, like other opioids, slows down your central nervous system (CNS) and creates a sedated state. This depression leads to decrease:

  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rates
  • Respiratory functions

Misuse and abuse compound these effects. In extreme cases, CNS depression can lead to unconsciousness, coma, overdose, or death.

Respiratory Depression: Due to the CNS depression, a person could experience acute respiratory depression. If this happens, a person’s breathing will become slow, irregular, or stopped. This can also lead to coma, overdose, or death. Using other CNS depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepine drugs can intensify this effect, increasing these life-threatening risks.

Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome: Prescribed or recreational use of Suboxone during pregnancy may lead to this condition. A baby born to a mother who used Suboxone at this time could experience withdrawal after birth. This is treatable, however, if ignored it could cause death.

Are There Withdrawal Symptoms Associated From Suboxone Use?

Since Suboxone can cause dependency, opioid withdrawal can happen after prolonged, prescribed use. It will also occur if a person chronically abuses this drug. Withdrawal happens when you suddenly stop or reduce your Suboxone intake. This state can cause great amounts of pain and become dangerous. Symptoms include:

  • Achy muscles
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Goose bumps
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Runny nose
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Teary eyes
  • Vomiting

It’s not safe to undergo withdrawal alone or to treat it on your own. If you think you’re in withdrawal, or if you’re concerned you might enter into this state, seek medical help as soon as possible.

Find Out If Suboxone Is Right For You

Suboxone, like any form of medicine or therapy, is best used within a good treatment program. If you’d like to learn more about how Suboxone therapy could help you to overcome an opioid addiction, let help. If you’ve begun to abuse or are currently addicted to Suboxone, we can guide you to the best treatment options today. Contact us now.

MedlinePlus - Buprenorphine Sublingual and Buccal (opioid dependence)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Buprenorphine

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