Suboxone is one of the most commonly used medications in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction. Whether you’ve just been prescribed it or have been taking it for quite a while, you’re probably wondering if a Suboxone overdose is something you should be worried about.
If so, you’ve come to the right place.
This article will not only answer the question “Can you overdose on Suboxone?” but also provide you with all the information you need to take it safely and break free from opioid dependence.
What is Suboxone?
- Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist commonly used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Naloxone, an opioid antagonist that can help reverse an opioid overdose
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Suboxone for opioid addiction treatment in 2002, alongside Subutex, an opioid medication that only contains buprenorphine.
While Suboxone is a brand name for buprenorphine/naloxone, it is also sold under its generic name and a couple of other brand names – Zubsolv and Cassipa. You might also hear it being referred to as “Subs,” which is a street name for this medication.
Suboxone is primarily prescribed to patients who are addicted to opioids and have a high tolerance to them. It is available in two forms, films and tablets, both of which should be dissolved under the tongue, usually once daily.
When taken as intended, Suboxone can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, and help people gradually stop taking stronger opioids.
That said, it is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance. As such, Suboxone has a lower potential for abuse and addiction than most other opioids, though it can still lead to physical dependence and addiction.
Can You Overdose on Suboxone?
Suboxone is designed to help people get off opioids more easily and carries a lower risk of overdose than most other opioids.
Still, you can overdose on Suboxone if you abuse it, especially if you have a low tolerance to opioids or mix it with other substances. As with any other opioid overdose, the effects of a Suboxone overdose can be potentially life-threatening.
The risk of Suboxone overdose is primarily associated with buprenorphine. However, compared to other opioids, overdosing on buprenorphine is fairly uncommon.
A study conducted between July 2019 and July 2021 found that only 2.6% of all opioid-related overdose deaths involved buprenorphine. Moreover, nearly 93% of these deaths involved the use of other substances besides buprenorphine.
Suboxone Overdose Signs & Symptoms
The most common early signs of a Suboxone overdose are:
- Constricted pupils
- Impaired vision
- Slurred speech
- Poor coordination
- Discolored lips, skin, and nails
In addition to these signs, some symptoms of a Suboxone overdose might include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Impaired memory
- Stomach ache
- Mood fluctuations
- Loss of consciousness
If you or someone you love is displaying any of these signs and symptoms, seek medical help immediately. If left untreated, a Suboxone overdose may result in death.
How Does Suboxone Affect Your Body?
Unlike most opioid medications, Suboxone is used to treat opioid addiction instead of pain.
Since Suboxone contains buprenorphine, it doesn’t typically produce the intense feeling of euphoria associated with opioids. Instead, it gradually releases buprenorphine into your system to reduce drug cravings and other withdrawal symptoms.
Due to buprenorphine being a partial opioid agonist, Suboxone activates opioid receptors to a lesser extent than most other opioids. This causes a “ceiling effect,” which means that taking the medication at larger doses or injecting it won’t intensify its effects.
On the contrary, if you inject or take Suboxone at a large dose, naloxone will block the effects of buprenorphine by attaching to opioid receptors and inducing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. This, coupled with the “ceiling effect,” explains why Suboxone carries a lower risk of abuse and overdose than other opioids.
How Long Do Suboxone Effects Last?
Depending on factors such as metabolism and liver function, the effects of Suboxone can last anywhere between 24 and 72 hours. This medication typically starts working within 20–45 minutes of ingestion and provides withdrawal symptom relief throughout the entire day.
Risk Factors Leading to Suboxone Overdose
Taking Suboxone as instructed by a doctor isn’t likely to cause an overdose. That said, certain factors can increase the risk of a Suboxone overdose, including:
- Having low opioid tolerance. Suboxone is usually prescribed for people who have developed a high tolerance to opioids. If a person who has little to no tolerance to opioids takes it, they might overdose.
- Abusing Suboxone. Dissolving and injecting Suboxone, taking it at very high doses, and otherwise abusing the medication can put you at risk of a Suboxone overdose.
- Suffering from other medical conditions. Diseases that affect liver, kidney, or heart function can increase the risk of a Suboxone overdose.
- Taking other substances. To minimize the risk of a Suboxone overdose, you should never take this medication with other substances without consulting your doctor. For example, taking other opioids with Suboxone can lead to a fatal opioid overdose once the effects of naloxone wear off.
Suboxone Interaction With Other Drugs
Some drugs that might exacerbate the risk of a Suboxone overdose include:
- Antifungal medication
- Barbiturates, including phenobarbital and other epilepsy medications
- Hormonal contraceptives
- Synthetic cannabinoids
As a general rule, don’t take Suboxone with any substances considered central nervous system (CNS) depressants, as this increases the risk of respiratory depression, coma, overdose, and death. More often than not, a Suboxone overdose is caused by mixing the medication with such substances.
Preventing Suboxone Overdose
To prevent a Suboxone overdose, follow these practical tips:
- Take Suboxone responsibly. Carefully follow your doctor’s instructions when taking Suboxone. Don’t take it if it’s prescribed for someone else and don’t increase your dosage without discussing it with your doctor.
- Stay in touch with your doctor. If you experience side effects, notice changes in your condition, or feel that your withdrawal symptoms are worsening, inform your doctor about this.
- Don’t mix Suboxone with other substances. If you’re taking any other medication, consult with your doctor before taking Suboxone. Never take it with alcohol, opioids, illegal drugs, and other substances that might interact with it.
- Safely store and dispose of unused Suboxone. Make sure to store Suboxone out of reach of children and pets. If you have any unused or expired medication, dispose of it safely by following the FDA guidelines.
Although Suboxone is supposed to treat opioid addiction, one of the most significant risks associated with it is developing an addiction to it.
While its potential for addiction is generally lower than that of full opioid agonists, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone, Suboxone is still an opioid. As such, it can alter the brain chemistry and lead to addiction, especially when abused (e.g., dissolved in water and injected instead of dissolved under the tongue).
For this reason, you should always take Suboxone as per your doctor’s instructions. Not only does this help avoid becoming addicted to the medication, but it also reduces the risk of a Suboxone overdose.
That being said, here are some warning signs that could indicate that you or your loved one is abusing Suboxone and might be addicted to it:
- Becoming secretive or isolated from loved ones
- Trying to obtain Suboxone by lying, stealing, doctor shopping, and other similar means
- Taking Suboxone in larger quantities or more often than prescribed
- Combining Suboxone with other substances, such as alcohol, to intensify its effects
Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms
Suboxone is no different from other opioids in that it can cause withdrawal symptoms when you quit taking it, especially if you do so abruptly.
These symptoms usually begin within the first three days after taking the last dose and subside within a couple of weeks. However, it’s not unusual for some symptoms, such as depression and sleep problems, to persist longer.
While Suboxone withdrawal symptoms may vary from one person to the other, the most common ones include:
- Appetite loss
- Muscle pain
- Digestive issues, such as diarrhea
- Mood fluctuations
Quitting Suboxone “cold turkey” may lead to even more intense withdrawal symptoms and make it difficult for you to stop taking opioids.
While tapering off Suboxone under medical supervision can help you manage these symptoms more easily, Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is the only treatment that can help you get off Suboxone without dealing with any of these uncomfortable symptoms.
ANR Treatment for Suboxone Dependence
Whether you’re considering taking Suboxone to treat opioid addiction or looking for ways to overcome Suboxone addiction, look no further!
Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is a groundbreaking opioid dependence treatment that can help you safely, quickly, and effectively return to your regular life opioid-free.
In contrast to traditional opioid addiction treatments, ANR returns your brain to its pre-addiction state by re-regulating the endorphin-receptor system.
Since it attacks opioid addiction at its roots, ANR negates the risk of relapse and eliminates withdrawal symptoms, including cravings!
Most importantly, the ANR treatment doesn’t involve the use of replacement-opioid drugs, such as Suboxone or methadone. For this reason, it doesn’t put you at risk of becoming addicted to these medications, unlike medication-assisted treatments (MAT).
Better yet, while MAT programs last for months or even years, the ANR treatment enables you to overcome opioid addiction within a matter of days. In most cases, the hospital stay for ANR lasts just 36 hours, whereas the procedure itself is carried out within 4–6 hours.
Performed in an ICU setting of an accredited hospital by highly skilled medical professionals, each ANR treatment is tailored to suit every patient’s individual needs. Thanks to this, it is safe even for those patients who have complex health issues!
While a Suboxone overdose isn’t a common occurrence, you shouldn’t forget that it can still happen, especially if you abuse Suboxone by taking it not as intended.
Since it can be fatal, it’s vital to seek medical attention as soon as you suspect that you or someone you love might be overdosing on Suboxone.
With that in mind, let’s reiterate the key points we covered:
- Suboxone is an opioid medication consisting of buprenorphine and naloxone that is commonly prescribed to treat opioid addiction.
- You can overdose on Suboxone if you mix it with other drugs, have a low tolerance to opioids, or abuse it.
- Some early signs of a Suboxone overdose are pinpoint pupils, skin discoloration, and slurred speech.
- The ANR treatment can help you effectively overcome opioid addiction without the risk of becoming addicted to Suboxone or other replacement drugs.
Dr. Waismann identified the biological roots of opioid dependency, Since then he has successfully treated more than 24,000 patients worldwide that are struggling with opioid addiction.
Throughout his career, he has lectured and educated health professionals in dozens of countries around the world to this day.