Suboxone Abuse

Suboxone Abuse

Girl Sits In A Depression On The Floor Near The WallOriginally used as a painkiller from the 1980s onward, Suboxone resurfaced in the United States in 2002 after the FDA approved its use as a drug in the treatment of opioid addicts. A Schedule III buprenorphine and naloxone cocktail, it is likely the most effective drug on the market of its kind. It paved the way for quite some time in the opioid treatment game until its patent ran out in 2009, making room for competitors to try to get a slice of the profits.

According to Bloomberg News, research is in the works for an injectable form of the drug that would treat schizophrenic patients too. Initially, the buprenorphine hydrochloride-only drug of choice was Subutex; Suboxone came along later with the addition of naloxone to hinder abuse of the drug, per the Food and Drug Administration.

Requirements to Prescribe Suboxone

Many addicts in need of serious and effective treatment are angered that so few doctors prescribe Suboxone. The reason being that docs need to be granted approval to do such, which requires a certification protocol involving a day of the doctor’s time in most cases – something many don’t seem to want to part with when there are other options available. Certification also requires that physicians adhere to having no more than 30 Suboxone patients and formally attest to their capability of referring patients to counselors, according to The New York Times. In addition, a lot of physicians don’t want to open their doors to addicts seeking the drug for the wrong reasons.

Some have concerns over the doctors prescribing Suboxone too. A Waismann Method study accounted for 66 percent of current Suboxone users claiming to be physically dependent on the drug; this is disconcerting news for the 47 percent who weren’t advised by their doctors that such a thing could happen.

Another deterrent in obtaining Suboxone is the price tag that comes with it. According to one study on young adults ages 18 to 34 published in Psychiatric Services, 66 percent of all participants were uninsured, and 72 percent of them drank alcohol or used drugs in the preceding year at the time of the study. Further, 12 percent of the subgroup participants were alcohol-dependent and 21 percent were drug-dependent. Of the dependent groups combined, 87 percent failed to receive any sort of treatment for their alcohol and drug problems. With statistics like these, it’s clear that addicts are less likely to have health insurance coverage. Likewise, the uninsured are paying $250 to $300 every month for their Suboxone supply, according to The Cap Times.

There are upsides to using Suboxone that other opioid treatment medications are lacking. For starters, Suboxone presents no euphoria during treatment, aiding in keeping the number of patients who become addicted to it lower. In addition, Suboxone can be prescribed by your doctor. This eliminates the need to enroll in federally run treatment programs and methadone clinics. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Addictions found that participants who failed to take replacement medications for their addiction were at a tenfold increase for relapse when compared to those who did take buprenorphine medications as directed.

Users and Abusers

Suboxone is used for the medicated treatment of opioid addiction. Like its counterparts naltrexone and methadone, it aids in decreasing the occurrence of drug cravings, as well as the side effects of withdrawal, per Psych Central. The majority of people taking Suboxone are doing so as part of a medically supervised treatment plan for opioid addiction.Of course, not everyone using Suboxone has a legitimate reason to. The drug hasn’t been without controversy. Some believe the pharmaceutical industry is aiming at profits more than effective treatment. The Trib Live reported that Suboxone sales grossed $1.4 billion in 2012. Many are worried that Suboxone will merely become a replacement for the opioid analgesics people are already abusing. With around 9 million Suboxone and buprenorphine products being prescribed in 2012, the concern may not be irrational, according to National Pain Report.

There is also concern for Suboxone users that many won’t be able to maintain a drug-free lifestyle after discontinuing the drug. The National Institutes of Health published the results of one study in which 49 percent of the 600 prescription opioid addicts participating showed decreased drug abuse during their minimum 12-week Suboxone treatment, but the rate dropped significantly to 8.6 percent after participants stopped taking the Suboxone.


Known as “subs,” “stop signs,” “sobos” and more, Suboxone is becoming easier for some to find on the streets than it is from a doctor. More often than not, those abusing the drug do so by crushing the tablets and snorting them. That being said, Suboxone is fortunately one of the lesser abused opioid treatment drugs. Though this could be due to difficulty accessing the drug, it is also known to deliver less of a high than other opiates. The naloxone component of the drug is actually used both to decrease the effects of withdrawal and to deter abuse of the drug. It should be noted that for those in treatment for opioid withdrawal, the naloxone is an opioid blocker that acts as an inhibitor when the substance is crushed or injected, preventing the user from feeling the effects they desire.
Who Is Abusing It?

One study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence accounted for 58.7 percent of buprenorphine users getting their supply from family and 31.6 percent from friends. The same study showed an increased risk of these types of diverted use of the drug in persons who had limited access to treatment.There is a lot of talk about Suboxone being virtually impossible to wean off of with success. Recovering addicts, like this person’s account published by The Fix, tells a tale of a lifelong commitment to Suboxone treatment, inclusive of opioid deficiency and touting that fewer than 2 percent of Suboxone users are capable of getting off the drug at some point. While many are concerned with the replacement of one addiction with another — as is the case for many opioid addicts in treatment programs — the alternative isn’t pretty.

Red Flags

Suboxone carries with it very little in the way of signs of abuse, namely because addiction to the drug isn’t terribly high so research on it is scant. The signs of Suboxone abuse you should be looking for in your loved one are similar to those of withdrawal from any drug, inclusive of:

  • Insomnia or excessive fatigue
  • Irritable mood
  • Sweating
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Jitteriness
  • Nausea that may or may not include vomiting
  • Tremors and/or shivers

Risks Involved

Suboxone can cause side effects such as:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed response times
  • Impaired cognition

Suboxone does carry a decreased likelihood of overdose, but it’s still possible and therefore a very dangerous drug to take more of than you are prescribed. Incidences of severe side effects or overdose are more probable if the user is also still taking other drugs, even if they are prescription medications. Alcohol use while on Suboxone also isn’t advised.

Treatment That Works


Generally, Suboxone is prescribed in conjunction with other treatment measures, including but not limited to therapy and addiction education.

During treatment, you will learn what triggers you to use and how to process those feelings and events in a healthy way. In addition, you’ll become educated on what addiction really means, why your body is biologically different from a non-addict’s body, and that recovery is truly possible. Your family can also receive counseling to assist them in learning many of the same things so they’re more prepared to help you manage your addiction.

Of those who attempt to quit without professional treatment interventions, more than 75 percent generally relapse within the first year, according to Psych Central. In order to address success rates, you must come to terms with what success often means for medicated opioid treatment. Is it the patient that never relapses? Probably not. We define success as the patient who tapers off from opioid abuse and remains free of illicit drug abuse for an extended period of time. Relapse isn’t a given, but it isn’t a sign of failure when it does happen either. Patients who previously completed a drug treatment program are more likely to seek help following a relapse that those who did not, and that’s important when success rates have been reported as high as 80 percent and as low as 10 percent, per The Toledo Blade.

At Axis, you’ll undergo extensive screenings for mental health disorders that may be influencing your decision to use drugs as a way of self-medicating.

We will map out your treatment plan while keeping in mind which environments and therapy techniques are likely to be most beneficial to you given your individual history. Over time, you will improve enough to segue to lesser-involved treatment formats.

Those who are enrolled in an inpatient treatment program will eventually leave and continue participation on an outpatient basis. The system we use is mapped out from day one to ensure that you will become dependent on yourself and the healthy resources we supply here, like support groups and talk therapy. Call us today for more information.