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What are the Common Suboxone Addiction Signs to Watch Out For?
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What are the Common Suboxone Addiction Signs to Watch Out For?

Written by Seth Fletcher on May 16, 2024
Medical editor Dr. Chintan Shah
Last update: May 16, 2024

Suboxone, a medication meant to fight opioid dependence, marks a step in recovery. Still, the chance of misuse of suboxone requires vigilance by users and healthcare providers. The ability to identify early suboxone addiction signs can make all the difference in treatment results. 

The misuse of this medication can, in subtle ways, blossom into a full-blown suboxone addiction, and users can experience a number of suboxone withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. In this article, we outline the subtleties of intended Suboxone use, detail the signs of addiction, and offer insight into the symptoms that may arise during withdrawal. As one seeking to use Suboxone safely and effectively, these considerations are essential in order for it to act as a way to recovery and not a barrier.

Key Takeaways

  • Suboxone Mechanism: Suboxone combines buprenorphine and naloxone to manage withdrawal symptoms and deter abuse, helping reduce opioid cravings and preventing misuse.
  • Signs of Addiction: Crucial indicators include loss of control over usage, withdrawal symptoms, social withdrawal, and continued use despite negative effects. Prompt detection is key for intervention.
  • Treatment Approaches: Suboxone addiction treatment involves counselling, support groups, and medication-assisted therapy, addressing both psychological and physical aspects to support recovery.
  • Program Duration and Structure: Treatment programs typically range from a few months to over a year and include phases of detoxification, maintenance, and managed tapering to support recovery stages.
  • Supervised Treatment Importance: Suboxone requires medical supervision to ensure it serves as a recovery aid, highlighting the need for strict adherence to treatment protocols.

How Does Suboxone Work?

Suboxone is a critical advancement in the treatment of opioid addiction because it is structured to bring a new approach that merges two pharmacologically active ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning it relieves withdrawal without opioid abuse and, therefore, acts to reduce craving and stabilize patients. Naloxone is added for abuse deterrence, meaning it blocks opioids in the brain, effectively reversing an overdose if the drug is taken improperly.

This nicely balanced interaction not only reduces the potential for abuse but also addresses the cardinal addiction signs in order to make the process of withdrawal more manageable. The unique mechanism of Suboxone helps people regain control over their lives in their struggle against opioid addiction.

How Long Does Suboxone Work?

Suboxone provides long-acting relief from opioid addiction, serving as a cornerstone in the long and challenging process of recovery. Suboxone’s effect lasts for approximately 24 to 36 hours, depending on the dosage and the patient's metabolic rate. This extended action allows more flexibility in treatment schedules, and the patient usually has to take Suboxone only once a day. Such a feature of Suboxone helps not only to keep a stable blood level of the medication but also makes it much easier to support patients once daily, not having to worry  about constant reminders or several daily dosages. This long-lasting effect of Suboxone is one of the main reasons why it is effective in helping individuals overcome opioid dependence.

How Fast Does Suboxone Start to Work?

It is known that Suboxone provides a rapid onset of action in relieving a person from the opioid addiction grip quickly and effectively. Usually, after sublingual administration, the effects of Suboxone start to manifest within half an hour to an hour. It provides immediate relief from the withdrawal symptoms and diminishes cravings almost immediately. This can be very critical in the early stages of recovery, where immediate relief often makes a significant difference in people adhering  to continued treatment. Not only does Suboxone diminish the physical symptoms associated with withdrawal by blocking the binding of opioids to the opioid receptors in the brain, but it also helps give psychological reassurance to the person that relief is possible, setting a tremendous positive tone for the recovery journey ahead.

How Does Suboxone Work in the Body?

The primary medication in the management of opioid addiction, Suboxone, functions at multiple levels in your body. Comprehensive effects include:

  • General Body Impact
  • Teeth and Oral Health
  • Hepatic function

By addressing these aspects, Suboxone not only helps curb an individual's addiction but also requires consideration as an all-around health maintenance medication in order to nullify the possible side effects of addiction. This is a holistic approach that is critical in ensuring safety and effectiveness of  the recovery process.

What Does Suboxone Do to Your Body?

Suboxone significantly eases the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and diminishes cravings by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain. This effect stabilizes the body during detoxification, averting severe physical discomfort without inducing the high that results from the abuse of opioids. The inclusion of naloxone, which blocks any possible high if opioids are misused, makes Suboxone a safe medicine to utilize in recovery from opioids.

What Does Suboxone Do to Your Teeth?

Suboxone can impact dental health indirectly, majorly due to the most common dry mouth as a result of taking the medicine. As the mouth is dry, saliva fails to wash food particles and minimize acids created by bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. To help counter these effects, it's recommended to stay hydrated, maintain good oral hygiene, and regularly visit the dentist. Simple measures like using sugar-free chewing gum to stimulate saliva production can be very helpful in protecting the teeth during Suboxone treatment.

What Does Suboxone Do to Your Liver?

Your liver processes suboxone, and while it's generally safe, it can stress the liver from time to time, especially if you already have problems. This may show as elevated liver enzymes - a sign that your liver is working harder than it should. Patients on Suboxone must be examined regularly to ensure that their liver is handling the medication. This is particularly important for people who have had liver problems in the past, as they need to be extra careful and keep a close watch on their liver health while on treatment with Suboxone.

How Does Suboxone Work in the Brain?

The buprenorphine component of Suboxone acts in the brain at the same sites as opioids.  It does not activate these receptors strongly, it quashes cravings and withdrawal symptoms but without producing a hard high, thus making it easier for a person to step down from opioid dependence. The drug also contains  naloxone, which,  if Suboxone or other opioids are misused,stops the opioids from having any effect.  This combination enables people to deal with their addiction more safely since the brain's response remains more controlled and steady during recovery.

What Does Suboxone Do to the Brain?

Suboxone acts on the brain by targeting opioid receptors with buprenorphine, a partial agonist that binds to these receptors without fully activating them, thus preventing the high associated with opioids. This helps reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, naloxone, included in Suboxone, blocks opioid effects when abused intravenously, safeguarding against misuse and supporting ongoing recovery efforts. This combination effectively stabilizes brain function and aids in managing addiction.

What Does Suboxone Do to You Mentally?

Suboxone has a significant effect on mental health, especially when it comes to helping those who are addicted to opioids. The cognitive  effects of Suboxone are varied and crucial in the recovery process:

  • Reduces Cravings
  • Stabilizes Mood
  • Decreases Anxiety
  • Improves Focus
  • Enhances Cognitive Function

These psychological consequences are important in therapy as they help the patients to reorganize their lives after addiction, hence engage more thoroughly in recovery.

How Addictive is Suboxone?

Although Suboxone helps people stop using more potent opioids, it can be addictive, too. It consists of buprenorphine, which is an opioid-like substance but does not produce strong “highs” or cravings. This is why the drug is less addictive and more safe, though the possibility of addiction still exists, especially if it is taken other than by prescription. Naloxone, the second ingredient of Suboxone, reduces this possibility by creating severe discomfort if taken in a manner not intended by the medicine. Suboxone is a very valuable drug during treatment for addiction, but it should be taken wisely and under the supervision of a healthcare professional to avoid dependence on the medication.

Why is Suboxone Addictive?

Since buprenorphine acts on the same receptors in the brain as other opioids, Suboxone is potentially addictive. If misused, it can still cause dependence, although doing so to a lesser degree than many other opioids since it gives just enough relief to avoid withdrawal without producing a significant high. The purpose of adding naloxone is to stop abuse of buprenorphine or other opioids, and when opioids are consumed, the naloxone causes painful withdrawal symptoms. However, there is a greater chance of addiction still remains if Suboxone is used contrary to the prescription, such as at larger doses or without a doctor's supervision. This emphasizes the necessity of cautious, supervised use in therapeutic environments.

Suboxone Addiction Signs

Identifying Suboxone addiction symptoms is very significant to act on the early stages and ensure treatment is effective. Here are some indicators that may signal a Suboxone addiction include:

  • Loss of control in dosage or frequency of Suboxone use despite the risks related to such compulsive use. The body starts developing tolerance towards the drug, so an increased amount of Suboxone is required to experience the same effects.
  • Withdrawal symptoms like nausea, agitation, or anxiety due to abrupt discontinuation of the use of the drug.
  • Social withdrawal as a result of drugs, including giving up or cutting down on activities and relationships that, once upon a time, held importance in the life of a person 
  • Continuing to use Suboxone despite physical harm, mental distress, or problems in relationships because of drug use.

Identification of these Symptoms of Suboxone Addiction will certainly help take a step forward to seek help and recover from substance dependency.

Suboxone Addiction Treatment

Suboxone addiction requires an all-encompassing strategy considering its psychological and physical components. A good treatment program for addiction to suboxone includes counselling, support groups, and medication-assisted therapy as complementary measures. This integrated treatment paradigm offers tools and methods for coping with the emotional and behavioural difficulties associated with addiction, hence reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms through the help of medicine. Peers with comparable experiences can be found in support groups, offering a network of understanding and encouragement. All of these components work together to create a robust recovery framework that aims to improve stability, restore health, and eventually guide people toward a drug-free existence. To successfully overcome Suboxone addiction over the long run, a comprehensive strategy is required.

Suboxone Treatment Program

A Suboxone treatment program employs Suboxone as the mainstay of the treatment plan in a specific manner to address opioid addiction. Suboxone is often given during the first phase of these programs' medically supervised detoxification to reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent the effects of opioids. The maintenance phase of treatment follows detox, during which the dosage of Suboxone is carefully modified to suit the patient's needs, assisting in stabilizing their condition and reducing cravings.

During concurrent group and individual therapy sessions, patients receive treatment for the psychological components of addiction. Instead of the mere treatment of symptoms, these programs try to equip participants with the knowledge and tools necessary for long-term recovery and going back to meaningful lives.

How Long is a Suboxone Treatment Program?

The duration of the Suboxone treatment program can range from a few months to over a year. During this period, the dosage is very well adjusted and continually monitored by healthcare providers to correspond with the patient's improvement and reaction to the medication. 

The first phase involves stabilizing the patient; then comes the maintenance phase, in which more concentration is put into sustaining recovery and preventing relapse. A tapering process, usually well-managed at the last stage, reduces dependence on the medication under medical control. This staged approach ensures that each phase of the recovery process is supported, hence making the path toward opioid independence as effective and sustaining as possible.

The risk of abuse notwithstanding, Suboxone remains an essential tool in the management of opiate addiction. Any stakeholder in the use or care of a person taking Suboxone needs to understand how it works, know the warning signs of addiction, and know what treatment options are available. If users and healthcare professionals are aware and vigilant, Suboxone can be a stepping stone on the road to recovery rather than another hurdle.


How does Suboxone function in treating opioid addiction?

Suboxone is a blend of buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist that curbs cravings and stabilizes patients, and naloxone, which prevents opioid effects in the brain if misused, thus reducing abuse potential.

What are the signs of Suboxone addiction to watch for?

Signs of addiction include a loss of control over Suboxone use, withdrawal symptoms like nausea or anxiety when stopping abruptly, social withdrawal, and continued use despite physical or mental distress. Early detection of these signs is essential for effective treatment.

What does Suboxone do to your body and brain?

Suboxone partially activates opioid receptors in the brain to reduce withdrawal symptoms without inducing a high. It also affects general body functions, dental health, and liver function, requiring regular health monitoring to manage any side effects effectively.

How long does a Suboxone treatment program typically last?

Suboxone treatment durations vary but can range from several months to over a year, depending on individual needs. The treatment includes phases of detoxification, maintenance, and a carefully managed tapering process to minimize dependency.

Why is supervised treatment important for Suboxone users?

Due to its potential for addiction, Suboxone treatment must be closely monitored by healthcare professionals. Supervision ensures the medication is used properly as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, helping prevent misuse and supporting the patient's path to recovery.

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

Dr. Chintan is a Board Certified Family Physician with an interest in holistic and preventative care as well as healthcare systems. Credentialed Physician with both American & Canadian Board of Family Medicine. Adjunct Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Telemedicine clinician.

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