Suboxone, a mixture of buprenorphine and naloxone, is a semi-synthetic mixed agonist-antagonist opioid receptor modulator primarily used to treat opioid addiction; however, it is also commonly used to treat acute or chronic pain. For individuals recovering from addiction to substances like heroin or other opioids, using Suboxone between doses helps to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.
Designed to be administered sublingually (a strip placed under the tongue), Suboxone can also be taken as an implant, skin patch, pills or as an injectable. Some individuals use Suboxone recreationally as a substitute for heroin and, in these instances, it is often injected or smoked. When people abuse Suboxone, they are seeking to produce the same euphoric effects on the same opioid receptors in the brain. The resulting high may last longer but it has less intensity, furthering the need to take more Suboxone. However, there is a point in which the intensity of the high levels off and taking more Suboxone will have no effect on increasing that.
Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from thebaine, a naturally occurring alkaloid of the opium poppy. It is analogous to heroin, morphine, or codeine. Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, among others, is the antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids.
Suboxone is meant to interact with the opioid receptors in the brain via buprenorphine, and then add a cap of naloxone to prevent abuse and the possibility of getting high.
Naloxone remains inactive if the pill stays in its original form. However, if crushed or dissolved, the naloxone becomes activated and this prevents the buprenorphine from working. This results in instant, intense withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, sweating, muscle aches or abdominal cramping, agitation, dilated pupils or tearing of the eyes, runny nose, and nausea and diarrhea. People have been known to become dangerously dehydrated from the sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting. It is also possible for them to become violent from the anxiety and agitation.
Because the chemical composition of the drug is adversely affected by the introduction of heat, smoking Suboxone is not very effective at achieving a high. The heat stops the effectiveness of the Naloxone, which then intensifies the withdrawal symptoms. This process is highly counterproductive for those seeking a high or those seeking opioid detoxification.
Have more questions about Suboxone abuse?Read the most frequently asked questions
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