Does Suboxone get you high?
When you drive your car, do you get high from the gasoline in your tank? When you sit on your couch, does the glue that holds your furniture together get you high? While it is possible to get high huffing gas and glue, these substances do not get anyone high when used appropriately.
The same goes for Suboxone, an addiction treatment medication containing buprenorphine and naloxone. If you take your medication as directed by your doctor, it will not get you high. What it will do is prevent opioid withdrawal sickness and drug cravings.
Suboxone makes it possible to stop using opioids and start feeling normal again. Taking Suboxone to recover from heroin or pain pill use is not trading one drug for another. Patients who are prescribed Suboxone do not get addicted to Suboxone.
Can you get high off Suboxone if you abuse it?
What about when they smuggle Suboxone into prisons? Smugglers hide it in the spine of a book or under the postage stamp of a letter from home.
If no one gets high from Suboxone, why do drug dealers sell it on the streets? Why, during large drug busts, do the police often find Suboxone with the drugs?
There have been some interesting studies about what happens to diverted Suboxone or buprenorphine, the active ingredient in Suboxone. “Diverted” means that someone sells a prescription medication on the streets. Why would someone buy Suboxone from a drug dealer?
The outcome of studies that have followed the trail of diverted buprenorphine show that, overwhelmingly, the majority goes to people trying to quit opioids. They are not trying to get high; they are trying to get clean!
Why not go to a doctor to get a Suboxone prescription?
If you are using heroin or fentanyl on the streets and decide to get clean by taking Suboxone, why would you buy it from a drug dealer? Addiction carries a stigma in society, causing drug users to feel shame in seeking help. You may want to try to keep your recovery from opioids private.
Unfortunately, self-serve Suboxone treatment on the streets is rarely successful. It makes all the difference to have professional guidance from a caring, empathetic doctor, and therapist.
When you are ready to quit opioids, you will feel relief when you overcome your fear of walking into a doctor’s appointment. Doctors who prescribe buprenorphine for medication-assisted treatment want to help.
Suboxone doctors are not there to judge you or make things difficult. Your doctor only wants to see you get better.
During the first weeks of therapy, you are going to make dramatic improvements. The opioid cloud lifts from your mind, and you can think and function again. You will have the energy to get through the day and take better care of yourself.
You may improve so dramatically that your doctor will not recognize you when you walk back into the office! Doctors who work in Suboxone clinics often report feeling rewarded to see their patients recover and transform quickly.
If Suboxone does not get you high, why do some people shoot it up in a syringe? Can you get high on Suboxone if you inject it?
When someone shoots a drug into their vein with syringe and needle, it is called intravenous drug use, or IV drug use. If you use drugs by the intravenous route, it is highly dangerous. You risk serious health problems, some permanent and possibly deadly.
Hepatitis, HIV, and endocarditis, an infection on your heart valves, are some dangers of IV drug use. While it is possible to take antiviral meds or get surgery to replace a heart valve, these conditions are life-changing, resulting in long-term illness and sometimes death.
Are IV drug users not aware of these dangers? Often, a drug user is fully aware of the risks and still puts a needle in their arm, or between their toes or fingers, or wherever they can find a vein. If you are an expert IV drug user, you believe that you can do it safely. Or, you may get to a point where you don’t care anymore.
If you use your drugs IV, it is most likely because you can get high faster, and the drugs are more potent. You may have been taught long ago on the streets that crushing up and cooking your pain pills for injecting into a vein makes them twice as potent. You may even become adept enough at the process, that it is second nature to shoot up opioid tablets or even Suboxone strips.
The most commonly prescribed dosage form of Suboxone contains eight milligrams of buprenorphine. When you use it as directed, you put it under your tongue to dissolve. Possibly, about a third of the medication gets into your system.
People may shoot up Suboxone films in an attempt to get the full potency of the buprenorphine. But, do they get high from it?
Who gets high from buprenorphine?
Here is where there is some debate over the drug having high abuse potential or not. There are politicians and law enforcement officers in some states who believe that Suboxone clinics and doctors will fuel the next wave of pill mills.
They think that doctors are using the guise of addiction treatment to sneak in another addicting opioid to get patients hooked. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is possible that a person who is opioid-naive, meaning that they have not built up a tolerance to opioid drugs, can get a mild high feeling from buprenorphine. It is also likely that taking buprenorphine will make them physically ill.
Any high feeling that this person gets from the medication will be short-lived. Subsequent use will not have the same effect.
Does a person who injects Suboxone get high?
Suboxone contains naloxone as well as buprenorphine. Naloxone is an opioid blocker.
Manufacturers include naloxone as an abuse-deterrent. If you take your Suboxone as directed, the naloxone does nothing. However, if you try to shoot it up, the naloxone will make you physically sick.
IV drug users have found that when they shoot up Suboxone, the naloxone sickness does not last long. It wears off long before the effects of buprenorphine wear off. So, naloxone is not much of a deterrent after all. But, are these IV users getting high?
It is unlikely that Suboxone is getting an IV user high. Buprenorphine only partially activates the opioid receptors in the brain. It is relatively mild as an opiate. Any euphoric effect is minimal.
Additionally, it has a ceiling effect. If you take large doses, it stops doing anything at some point.
While we can argue that some users might be getting just a little bit high from Suboxone, it is a far cry from the drug high that they seek from street drugs, such as heroin, fentanyl, and diverted pills, such as Dilaudid, morphine, and oxycodone. The Suboxone high feeling is not likely something that most drug users are chasing.
Fortunately, IV opioid drug abuse, and especially IV Suboxone use, is relatively rare. In its well-known 2016 report on opioid prescribing, the CDC noted that the majority of prescription opioid substance abuse is by the oral route. People trying to get high from an opioid medication, usually swallow the tablets with water.
So, there are possibly fringe cases of people who should not be taking Suboxone attempting to get high from it. Overwhelmingly, the people who take prescription Suboxone as directed are not getting high at all. Not even a little bit high.
Why are we worried about our patients getting high?
There is more to the concern over patients getting high than just being the pleasure police, trying to ruin their fun. When someone addicted to opioids experiences an opioid high, even a mild one, it reinforces the addictive changes in the brain.
Addiction has reprogrammed the reward system of the brain. If you are addicted to opioids, you obsess over them all day long. You think of little else other than where you will get your next opioid from and how you will use it. You may even get an adrenaline rush from anticipating the high.
Suboxone, as part of an MAT program, treats addiction. It helps you feel better while your brain has a chance to heal and revert to the original programming. When they finally taper off of the medication and complete treatment, suboxone patients do not complain about obsessing over opioids. That is if they continued Suboxone treatment for a long enough period.
The recommended period for taking Suboxone is about 18 to 24 months. Some patients will benefit from more extended treatment. If you stop Suboxone treatment too soon, your brain will not have had the time to recover from opioid addiction.
The fact that patients report not feeling addicted to opioids when they complete treatment indicates that the Suboxone was not making them high during treatment. If it did, they would have opioid cravings after finishing Suboxone.
What about the withdrawal sickness after stopping Suboxone?
When it comes to addiction treatment, a significant source of confusion is mixing up physical withdrawal with addiction. If your doctor gradually tapers your Suboxone dose over months, at some point, you will likely stop taking it altogether.
Patients often refer to the last dose of Suboxone as being “the drop-off.” The last dose should be as low as possible, and it should have been arrived at gradually. Still, many patients complain about intermittent withdrawal symptoms that can persist for weeks and even months.
There are ways to make the transition off of Suboxone easier. Proper nutrition with supplements, such as amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, can help. Exercise and physical activity are also a good idea. Creative work or hobbies can make a difference, as well.
In addition to these activities, if needed, there are medications to help with physical withdrawal. Examples include clonidine or Lucemyra.
HBOT, or hyperbaric oxygen therapy, has been demonstrated to help with opioid withdrawal symptoms. As we learn more about assisting patients to complete Suboxone treatment, we will discover additional methods to make the transition smoother and more comfortable.
The critical point is that the withdrawal symptoms that patients experience when they stop taking Suboxone are not symptoms of addiction. Most patients who have completed a long-term Suboxone program report that they have no thoughts or interest in going back to opioids.
Of course, ongoing vigilance is critical. If you are recovering from opioid addiction and have stopped Suboxone after a couple of years of treatment, you should continue with psychotherapy. You may want to consider transitioning to naltrexone for long-term treatment.
Naltrexone is another MAT drug that helps prevent opioid cravings. The advantage of naltrexone is that it is a non-controlled medication that any doctor can prescribe. It may even be available over-the-counter soon.
Naltrexone is an opioid blocker. By blocking the opioid receptors, it is less likely that breakthrough cravings for opioids will occur.
While long-term Suboxone treatment gives the brain time to heal and recover from opioid addiction; it is possible to still have intermittent opioid cravings from time to time. Everybody is different, so continuing MAT is a decision best made between patient and doctor.
Why is there so much concern about Suboxone getting people high?
Suboxone, and other brands of buprenorphine approved for treating opioid dependence, is a life-saving drug. If more opioid users had access to it, We could save more lives. Why is there resistance to it and concern that patients might get high?
Unfortunately, sensational media stories about the opioid epidemic sell newspapers and get online clicks to sell ads. The media uses sensational headlines with terms such as “OxyContin Express,” “pill mill,” “rogue doctors,” and even “hillbilly heroin.” These terms can be misleading and, in some cases, highly offensive.
When a reporter learns that Suboxone contains a drug classified as an opioid, they see an opportunity for uncovering a scandal. They see the black and white picture of doctors doling out opioids to treat opioid addiction.
These media headlines and misleading stories are hurting our ability to help people to overcome opioid addiction. The stigma in society against people who suffer from addiction fuels the media to profit from their suffering.
Another issue is the entrenched 12-step philosophy of addiction treatment that started in the early 20th century. Rehab programs in the United States integrate 12-step teachings into their addiction treatment programs.
While the spiritual path of 12-step recovery, used by Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and many other groups, is right for some people, it is not for everyone. These programs are abstinence-based, with the belief that people should not take medication to treat addiction.
There has been significant progress in the world of medical science. It has been a long time since the founding of AA in 1935, or the founding of NA in 1952.
When it comes to treating opioid addiction, we have advanced medical tools that work. In the future, we will improve these tools and integrate new tools that currently show promise.
Its time that we take the focus off of the concern about people getting high from Suboxone. Buprenorphine medications, such as Suboxone, Subutex, Bunavail, ZubSolv, Probuphine, Sublocade, and Brixadi, are life-saving.
We can clear up the confusion and educate our patients and their families so they can make the best choices. Additionally, we can educate hospital emergency departments, mental health, and drug treatment facilities.
Successfully treating opioid addiction takes time, but it is possible. Medication-assisted treatment, especially treatment with buprenorphine, has a very high rate of success.