Suboxone was developed as a replacement drug to help opioid addicts overcome addiction. However, Suboxone itself can be abused and even cause addiction. Whether or not a person is undergoing supervised Suboxone medical treatment, they can develop an addiction to the drug. When someone is abusing Suboxone, signs and symptoms are usually evident. These can be tangible, such as drug abuse tools you may find around their living space. Signs can also be physical, such as hair loss. Suboxone is a powerful drug that impacts mind and body alike, which means abuse indicators can also manifest emotionally.

Article at a Glance:  

  • Suboxone is used to help opioid addicts overcome their addictions.  
  • Signs of suboxone abuse include multiple prescriptions, paraphernalia, weight loss, and financial issues. 
  • Physical symptoms of suboxone abuse are dilated pupils, fever, sweating, and diarrhea. 
  • Psychological symptoms are poor memory, poor coordination, and depression. 
  • There are suboxone side effects that are perceived as both pleasurable and undesirable.  

Signs of Suboxone Abuse

Addicts often leave tangible signs of their addiction in visible places. If your loved one has been abusing Suboxone, you may notice signs of their drug abuse. If you are the person who may be struggling with Suboxone abuse, be honest with yourself about the presence of these signs.

  • Prescriptions in Excess – While a doctor may have initially prescribed Suboxone to your loved one, the prescription will likely not be enough to fuel their addiction. If your loved one is regularly receiving packages, they may be ordering Suboxone illicitly through the mail. They may also “doctor shop” to acquire several prescriptions at once. If you notice lots of empty drug packaging, frequent doctor visits and your loved one taking large doses of Suboxone, these are signs of likely abuse or addiction.
  • Paraphernalia – Injection is also among the most common Suboxone abuse methods. Addicts are able to inject Suboxone after crushing the medication and mixing it with water or another liquid to make an injectable solution. If you notice needles, powdery residue from crushed pills and belts or ropes that may be used for constriction, it’s a sign your loved one is abusing Suboxone.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss – You may notice your loved one’s wardrobe change. Their old or existing clothes may look baggy or ill-fitted, or they may be sporting new, tighter-fitting clothing. Suboxone abuse can cause a lack of appetite, which in turn can lead to weight loss. If your loved one is avoiding eating or doesn’t have many groceries in the house, this may be another sign they are using Suboxone.
  • Financial Troubles – Drug addiction is a medical disease that rewires the brain into thinking it needs Suboxone to survive. Once addiction begins, the abuser feels as though they need Suboxone to survive, and will do almost anything to get the drug and have their next high or avoid withdrawal symptoms. Between constantly paying for more drugs, as well as skipping work to get high and possibly getting into trouble with the law, it’s likely an abuser will run into financial trouble. If they are constantly asking you for money, or have stolen money from your wallet, car or home, your loved one may have a Suboxone problem.
  • Disinterest in Hobbies – Once addiction sets in, most abusers can only think about one thing — Suboxone. Focused on how and when they will get more of the drug, abusers often let favorite activities or hobbies fall by the wayside. If your loved one was previously passionate about attending church, dance class or spending time with grandchildren and has suddenly lost interest, they may be addicted to Suboxone.

Physical Symptoms of Suboxone Abuse

Medications and abuse paraphernalia are not the only indicators of Suboxone abuse. This drug impacts both the body and mind, so intangible hints are often evident as well. Again, you can take note of these whether you are struggling personally or you are concerned about someone you love. Some of the physical symptoms of Suboxone abuse include:

Dilated pupils
Appetite loss
Impaired or slurred speech
Sleep trouble
Muscle aches
Increased blood pressure

Psychological Signs and Symptoms of Suboxone Abuse

Psychological symptoms of Suboxone abuse can be just as dangerous as physical symptoms, if not more. In the case of impaired cognition, a person’s reduced memory and inability to focus could lead to problems at work or school. It may seem like the person is less able to process conversations or data, and is less able to learn new facts or retain information. Some common psychological symptoms of Suboxone use include:

  • Poor coordination
  • Poor memory
  • Apathetic mood
  • Depression
  • Impaired cognition
  • Erratic behavior

Erratic behavior can also lead to challenges interpersonally. Many Suboxone abusers lose interest in existing relationships because all they can think about is Suboxone. In order to obtain more of the drug, they may lie to loved ones, ask for or steal money from friends or family, and “doctor shop” to find multiple doctors who will give them a prescription.

Additionally, emotional flatness can make it difficult to maintain relationships. One 2013 study found that people who used Suboxone for a long period of time had significantly less emotional self-awareness of feeling happy, sad and anxious. Rather, the users often displayed an apathetic mood (defined as an aloof or disinterested demeanor).

Suboxone Abuse Side-Effects

Stopping using Suboxone isn’t easy — detox from the drug can lead to sometimes painful withdrawal symptoms. However, the temporary pain of these symptoms is nothing compared to a life of struggling and poor health that awaits Suboxone addicts. If you or a loved one are abusing or addicted to Suboxone, it’s crucial you seek medical help now to get your life back on track. Facilities such as The Recovery Village offer a full staff of experienced addiction professionals and a nurturing environment to help Suboxone addicts detox from the drug and begin working on their recovery.

Like other medications, Suboxone comes with its own set of side effects. This drug has a powerful impact on the brain, causing side effects to manifest both physically and mentally. For some, the side effects are why they begin using Suboxone. Those who use Suboxone often find pleasure in these side effects:

  • A sense of well-being
  • Euphoria or Calmness
  • Confidence or no stress
  • Relaxation
  • Pain relief

But the negative side effects in both the short-term and the long-term far outweigh the positive ones. Undesirable short-term Suboxone effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Blurry vision
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing or Respiratory or lung problems

Undesirable long-term Suboxone effects include:

  • Hair loss / Loss of libido
  • Poor stress management / Addiction
  • Loss of control over emotions

Suboxone and Drug Addiction

Addiction can be the most debilitating of these effects, as the disease alters a person’s brain and makes Suboxone their sole focus. A previously family-oriented person with a thriving career, substantial savings and active hobbies can lose interest in all of the above, instead solely focusing on Suboxone, how they will obtain Suboxone and their next Suboxone high. If left untouched, addiction can cause its own side effects, including:

  • Legal trouble
  • Financial problems or bankruptcy
  • Home foreclosure
  • Loss of child custody / Divorce
  • Loss of relationships with family or friends
  • Homelessness / Loss of job
  • Failing out of or expulsion from school

There may be additional side effects of Suboxone use if the abuser was first addicted to another substance before using Suboxone. For example, if an abuser was addicted to heroin before using Suboxone and developing a second addiction, they may be more likely to develop addiction to another drug, less likely to want to try another cessation drug like methadone, and less likely to want to attend rehab due to past bad experiences. Suboxone also presents certain side effects based on the abuser’s gender. For example, a 2012 study showed that about 83 percent of men who used buprenorphine (an active ingredient in Suboxone) experienced low sexual satisfaction and some form of sexual dysfunction, including premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and low sex drive.

On the female side, clinicians previously believed methadone treatment to be the only option for opioid-addicted pregnant women. However, new evidence shows that it is medically acceptable to use Suboxone during pregnancy. The FDA considers Suboxone a Class C drug, which means that Suboxone may pose risks to the mother or fetus, but a doctor may deem it medically necessary. Essentially, using Suboxone is better for mother and baby than if she were to continue using heroin or another opioid drug of abuse. The good news is, many of these side effects can be reversed if the person stops abusing Suboxone and begins a life of sobriety.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.