Last Updated: August 4, 2020

Although many former opioid users may find it counterintuitive, Subutex addiction is a serious health risk for those who take the medication. This seems illogical since doctors prescribe the drug to help treat dependency issues, but just like any other treatment that falls under the opioid class of drugs, the potential for abuse, withdrawal and even overdose exists. 

The generic name of Subutex is buprenorphine. Due to its morphine-like effects on pain regulation systems, the medication is also prescribed for pain management. Unlike the biological mechanisms that lead to oxycodone or heroin addiction, buprenorphine only acts as a partial opioid activator. This means it causes less activity in the pain regulation system.

Among buprenorphine products, Subutex addiction creates the most cause for concern. This is because it has no mechanism that dissuades improper usage such as snorting or injecting. If you believe you or a loved one may have developed an addiction to Subutex, it’s important to learn as much as possible about the drug to seek appropriate treatment. 

Subutex Addiction Symptoms

When taken as prescribed, the likelihood of becoming addicted to Subutex is minimal. People first starting the drug may experience drowsiness. This should subside, and if it doesn’t, a physician can change the dosage. If you don’t take the medication as prescribed – or if you take it purely for recreational use – serious Subutex addiction symptoms may occur. 

To avoid developing addictive behavior, it’s important to not cease usage of buprenorphine products without speaking to a doctor. Those taking the medication must taper off of it to avoid unpleasant and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is one sure sign that a dependency on Subutex has developed, but there are many other symptoms as well. 

If any of the following occur in your life, you may have a Subutex addiction: 

  • Using in an unprescribed way (e.g. snorting, injecting). 
  • Using for longer than prescribed. 
  • Mood swings or aggressiveness. 
  • Profuse sweating. 
  • Using without a doctor’s prescription. 
  • Taking higher doses than directed. 
  • Lying or hiding the fact that you’re using Subutex. 
  • Academic, career or relationship problems related to use. 
  • Continued use even after serious problems arise. 
  • Spending long periods of time acquiring, using or recovering from usage.
  • Previous failed attempts at stopping use.

Abusing alcohol or other drugs when using Subutex will not only exacerbate these issues, but it can also create life-threatening side effects. Patients are warned against usage within four hours of any narcotic use, and those with certain health issues are dissuaded from taking it altogether. Misuse via snorting or injecting the substance can also prove fatal after a single dosage. 

Subutex addiction is common among buprenorphine drugs because – unlike Suboxone – the drug doesn’t contain naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid reversal agent. This means it stymies the euphoric effects one could receive when snorting or injecting the drug. This is why Suboxone is typically prescribed for opioid withdrawal unless a patient is allergic to naloxone. 

In addition to the morphine-like side effects and general symptoms of misuse that can arise, experiencing withdrawal following discontinued use is a sign that you’ve developed a Subutex addiction. Take note of these withdrawal symptoms: 

  • Dilated pupils. 
  • Cold or clammy skin. 
  • Lack of temperature regulation. 
  • Diarrhea or loose stools. 
  • Runny nose and coughing. 
  • Yawning or restlessness. 
  • Goosebumps. 
  • Anxiety. 
  • Insomnia. 
  • Muscle aches. 
  • Salivating and tearing up. 
  • Vomiting and nausea. 
  • Digestive tract discomfort.

These symptoms are why you can’t stop taking Subutex abruptly. Your doctor will make a plan for tapering off usage. These effects could also arise if you take the drug when not experiencing withdrawal. This is because your body will try to accommodate buprenorphine by releasing other opioids, but since it’s only a partial opioid activator, brain chemicals will be imbalanced. 

Perhaps the worst part of Subutex addiction is that overdosing is a real threat. Even if you’re taking the medication to overcome opioid addiction, improper usage can be fatal. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms of buprenorphine overdose, seek medical help immediately: 

  • Weakness. 
  • Uncontrollable body movements. 
  • Discolored urine. 
  • Lethargy or confusion. 
  • Yellow tint to eyes or skin. 
  • Extreme drowsiness. 
  • Slowed heart rate. 
  • Pinpoint pupils. 
  • Weak pulse. 
  • Extremely slow breathing. 
  • Cold or clammy skin.

Even if used in the appropriate dosage, a buprenorphine overdose can occur when combined with other opioids or alcohol. Opioid withdrawal is rarely fatal, so a Subutex addiction could easily be more dangerous than simply going through withdrawal from other drugs. This is why it’s so essential to only use the medication as directed. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing problems due to dependency on Subutex, the time to seek help is now. Reach out to Transformations Treatment Center today to learn how we can help you develop a personalized plan to overcome addiction. 

Subutex Addiction Signs

One of the main signs of any substance abuse disorder is hiding the fact that abuse is occurring. This can make it difficult if you’re a friend or family member who just wants to help. Loved ones who develop a dependency on Subutex are unlikely to admit this fact, and if they have a prescription for the drug, it’s easy to rationalize misuse. 

Since a Subutex overdose can be just as deadly as abusing other narcotics, you need to recognize the signs that can’t be hidden. While the existence of any of these individual signs could point towards other problems – such as mental health issues – they could also be red flags that Subutex addiction is occurring. 

Keep an eye out for the following: 

  • Mood swings or aggressiveness. 
  • Flu-like symptoms. 
  • Neglecting activities they once enjoyed. 
  • Problems arising at school, home or work. 
  • Decreased sex drive. 
  • Sudden financial difficulties. 
  • Track marks, injection points or bruising. 
  • Nosebleeds. 
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • Multiple prescriptions from different doctors. 
  • Repeated claims that prescriptions were “lost.” 

Even though addiction to Subutex is less likely to prove fatal than other opioid abuse, it can still have significant impacts on the lives of those who suffer from the disorder. If you notice a loved one’s life is spinning out of control or experiencing unexpected and drastic changes, it’s important to find out why. Even if a Subutex addiction doesn’t exist, something is going on.

Reaching out to loved ones experiencing dependency issues can be tough. That’s why we’ve prepared a Family Member Support Guide to help you move forward. Learn what you can from this information, but always remember that you don’t have to go through this alone. 

Subutex Addiction Statistics

Subutex usage is meant to help overcome opioid addiction, so statistics related to its abuse are minimal. Since a loss of access to more dangerous opioids is often a precursor to buprenorphine misuse, though, it’s important that this public health concern be treated seriously. Even the few statistics we do have paint a bleak picture regarding Subutex addiction:

  • 76 percent of opioid users have obtained buprenorphine illicitly. 
  • Non-injection opioid users who illicitly obtained the drug listed “getting high” as their reason.
  • 74 percent of those who inject buprenorphine report misusing other drugs. 
  • Between 2005 and 2010, the number of yearly emergency department visits involving buprenorphine misuse increased from 3,161 to 30,135. 
  • 29 percent of those using buprenorphine illicitly cited “saving money” as their reason for use.
  • People injecting any type of drug make up around 10 percent of new HIV cases.

Perhaps the most important fact related to Subutex is that it reduces the risk of death after opioid overdoses. It is certainly a life-saving drug, and while it can produce euphoria similar to other opioids, diminishing returns occur after a certain dosage. The threat of Subutex addiction is still real, though, and this has led state authorities to issue warnings related to use.

Whether you or a loved one are experiencing dependency on buprenorphine medications, it’s important that you take the situation seriously. At Transformations Treatment Center, we’ve seen what addiction to seemingly helpful prescriptions can do. Contact us today and let our certified staff of professionals help you get on the right track. 

Subutex Addiction Treatment

Once you’ve developed a dependency on Subutex or other buprenorphine products, how you got started no longer matters. Whether you obtained the drug illicitly or with a doctor’s prescription, treatment will be necessary to overcome addiction. Withdrawal from Subutex or any opioid is unlikely to be fatal, but it can be harmful and physically distressing. 

Unfortunately, the physical effects of withdrawal often result in relapse. This is why most programs that treat Subutex addiction need to start with medical detoxification. This can be done in a controlled setting under physician monitoring when appropriate. Whether this is necessary and how long withdrawal lasts can depend on several factors:

  • How long the drug was used. 
  • How often the drug was used. 
  • Medical information (e.g. height, weight). 
  • Typical dosage.
  • Whether cross-addiction has occurred. 

Recovery cannot fully begin until a person’s body has completely ridden itself of Subutex. This process can vary greatly between patients, so it’s imperative that detox programs cater to the individual. Once you’ve overcome withdrawal, the real path to recovery can begin. 

Subutex Addiction Recovery

Just like the detoxification process, no two paths to recovery are the exact same. At Transformations Treatment Center, we focus on offering the tools and resources that provide holistic treatment catered to each individual. What works for one person may not work for another, so creating a focused Subutex recovery plan is essential.

The holistic approach focuses on treating the mind, body and spirit. It also accounts for the fact that family members are often a significant part of recovery, and this is something far too often overlooked in treatment plans. To ensure that there’s something for everyone going through recovery, Transformations offers a variety of services:

  • Partial hospitalization (PHP). 
  • Serenity Lounge. 
  • Individual and group therapy. 
  • Family therapy. 
  • Outpatient (OP) and intensive outpatient (IOP) services.
  • Mental health services. 
  • Experiential services. 

It’s also important that any co-occuring disorders – such as abusing other substances or mental health issues – are addressed during recovery. This can help target underlying causes that initially led to addictive behavior. Finally, since recovery is a lifelong process, an aftercare program that keeps in contact with former patients is absolutely essential. 

Don’t Suffer Alone

At Transformations Treatment Center, we understand just how difficult it can be to overcome substance abuse on your own. This is why we provide treatment and recovery options backed by science and research. Our certified staff of professionals and first-rate facilities are committed to helping you beat Subutex addiction. 

Contact us so we can get started on a personalized treatment and recovery plan today. 

 

References 

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/methadone-buprenorphine-reduce-risk-death-after-opioid-overdose

https://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/TR/Transcripts/2019_0078_0002_TSTMNY.pdf

https://www.tn.gov/health/news/2018/1/8/tdh-finds-some-overdose-deaths-associated-with-buprenorphine.html

https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma14-4442.pdf

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