What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a well-known medical prescription for the treatment of opioid addiction and painkiller abuse. It is given to individuals who are also getting medical, social, and psychological support. It is administered under the tongue or between the gums and taken once a day, or as prescribed.
Suboxone is a combination of two drugs called buprenorphine and naloxone. These drugs are both used to assist in dependency and overdoses. Suboxone contains 80% buprenorphine and 20% naloxone.
Buprenorphine is the main ingredient in Suboxone and it is a partial opioid agonist. It hides the strong side effects of opioids. It does not have an as strong impact as full opioids such as oxycodone, heroin, or methadone. Buprenorphine is one of the most commonly used drugs to treat opioid use disorder. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is very much safe to use. Buprenorphine may bring out feelings of euphoria and possible breathing disorders but only to moderate or low doses.
While Naloxone, the second half of Suboxone, is a drug that reverses overdose in people who have opioids. It is an opioid antagonist, most known as a “blocker”. This drug does not affect a body that has no opiates. Naloxone is extremely safe to take as well. Though it may cause discomfort, the drug is not life-threatening.
With these two combined, Suboxone is considered a powerful medication that can eliminate severe withdrawal symptoms. It is a great way to manage your cravings. On the other hand, Suboxone is not an alternative to one drug for another. It may also not be taken with another drug at the same time. Even though it has naloxone one should be very cautious in taking this drug as it can cause an overdose.
Suboxone is a sublingual film that is placed under the tongue so it can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream.
You must follow exactly what is instructed by your doctor or pharmacist when taking Suboxone. Your doctor will determine the best dose for you as it may be adjusted depending on your needs. Suboxone is a long-acting medication; it can be taken just once per day but can be continued for months or years.
Once Suboxone is taken, it will not work as quickly as you think. Usually, it will take 20 to 45 minutes before the medication takes effect. You will then have to wait for another 1 to 3 hours before taking your next drug dose. It is recommended to take Suboxone in the morning so the drug will kick in your body early, thus, helping you avoid any cravings for opioids throughout the day.
What Substances Can Cause Overdose if Taken with Suboxone?
If you have taken or will be taking other medicines aside from Suboxone you must advise your doctor. Below are substances that might result in adverse side effects and can be very risky when taken together with Suboxone.
- Alcohol: Alcohol has ethanol that can cause drowsiness, headache, and vomiting when taken with Suboxone. It can result in breathing difficulty, unconsciousness, and an increased risk of overdose, which can be fatal.
- Benzodiazepine: Combining Benzos and Suboxone may cause respiratory failure, impaired judgment or lack of coordination as these are both depressants
- Cocaine – Suboxone can lessen the effects of cocaine, which makes people incorrectly think that they can take more of it.
- Antidepressants: taking Suboxone and antidepressant drugs can cause involuntary muscle contractions, fever, anxiety, unconsciousness, excessive sweating, or exaggerated reflexes. These drugs include but are not limited to, moclobemide, tranylcypromine, citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, sertraline, or duloxetine.
- Antibiotics: There are many kinds of antibiotics that one should avoid when taking Suboxone such as erythromycin, levofloxacin, and linezolid. These antibiotics can surge the levels of Suboxone in your blood and can cause slow breathing or worse coma.
- Antifungal medications: fluconazole, ketoconazole, and fluconazole are only a few that can cause drowsiness, breathing difficulty, or confusion.
Other medications may increase or reduce the effects of Suboxone and can’t be taken simultaneously. Talk to your doctor and be sure to follow what is only prescribed.
Signs and Symptoms of Suboxone Overdose
An overdose happens when one takes too much of the drug all at once and becomes addicted to it. On the other hand, it can also happen to an individual who has a low tolerance to opioid medications.
Overdosing on Suboxone is like being overdosed on other opioid drugs but because it has a ceiling effect, it is less likely to be abused than other opioid medications. The ceiling effect means that the effect of taking the Suboxone levels off at a certain point and does not increase even when taking higher doses Here is the list of signs and symptoms that you have to watch out for.
- Swelling of face, redness of lips, tongue, or throat, or any signs of allergic reactions
- Difficulty in swallowing
- An intense feeling of tiredness or sleepiness
- Itching with yellow discoloration on the skin or eyes might be an indication of a live issue.
- Seeing or hearing things that are not real
- Anxiety, nervousness, and depression
- Weight loss or Diarrhea
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms or fever
- Loss of focus and abnormal thinking
- Joint pain, leg cramps, back pain, or shaking chills
- Low blood pressure
- Blurred vision
- Slowed heartbeat
Remember, like any other drug when abused, Suboxone can surely increase the risk of overdose and addiction. If you are unluckily one of them or witness someone, try to keep them awake and comfortable and immediately seek a medical condition.
What are the Things You Need to Be Aware of Before Taking Suboxone?
Suboxone can be very beneficial as long as it is used responsibly and appropriately. While it is very rare to get overdosed, one should still be cautious when taking the drug.
- Don’t take Suboxone when you are on other medication regardless if it’s just an over-the-counter medicine, vitamin, or herbal supplement.
- Make sure that your doctor is aware of any pre-existing conditions before taking the drug. These conditions may be low blood pressure, brain diseases, liver problems, kidney failure, etc.
- Do not use illegal drugs or take sedatives, tranquilizers, or other drugs that can slow breathing. Mixing large amounts of other medications with Suboxone can lead to overdose or death.
- Avoid drinking alcohol while you are being treated with this medicine. Alcohol may give you headaches, make you vomit, or increase drowsiness.
- Make sure that any liver-related health concerns that you may have will be monitored by a healthcare professional.
- Don’t take Suboxone when you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. The effect of Suboxone on a pregnant woman is still unknown. Your doctor can determine if you should take it or not.
- Do not breastfeed while taking this medication, as suboxone can be absorbed in breast milk. Speak with your doctor first.
- Do not give this medication to children below 15 years of age.
- Additional control is necessary if taken by adults that are over 65 years of age.
- In case of accidental ingestion or suspicion of ingestion, contact an emergency unit right away.
What Should Someone Do in the Case of a Suboxone Overdose?
If you or someone you know shows any signs of overdose, such as unconsciousness or trouble breathing, Naloxone should be administered. There are several ways to administer Naloxone. It can either be through a nasal spray or injection.
Naloxone is your first aid for a person who overdoses on Suboxone. But if Naloxone isn’t available on hand. It is advised to call 911 for emergency help.
Once with the 911 operator provide your location and all the vital information regarding the patient you are helping with. Make sure that you clearly state the reason for your call – to help with a Suboxone overdose.
In the worst-case scenario, if a person’s heart stopped or is not breathing anymore, you may begin doing CPR immediately. The operator can also guide you through it.
Suboxone is designed to be as safe as possible. It is very rare to overdose on it, but this does not necessarily mean it will not happen. An individual who misuses and abuses Suboxone can still overdose on it, especially if it is not taken as prescribed.
Suboxone Addiction Treatment at The Discovery Institute
If you know someone who is abusing heroin, opioids, or even Suboxone, there is hope. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at The Discovery Institute in New Jersey. We provide several treatment planning options for those who are suffering from substance use disorders. We believe it is possible to overcome addiction! Contact us today and get your life back on track!
Dr. Joseph Ranieri D.O. earned his BS in Pharmacy at Temple University School of Pharmacy in 1981 and His Doctorate Degree in Osteopathic Medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1991. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and a Diplomate of the American Board of Preventive Medicine Addiction Certification. Dr. Ranieri has lectured extensively to physicians, nurses, counselors and laypeople about the Disease of Addiction throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 2012.