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.

Suboxone Abuse

its original state, Suboxone is made by combining buprenorphine and naloxone. The purpose of this is to produce a low-dose opioid that, when coupled with an opioid receptor blocker, allows a patient to gradually wean off of opioids and experience lessened withdrawal symptoms.

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.

Smoking Suboxone

As with other opioids, smoking or inhaling suboxone is possible. Suboxone pills are first crushed then the powder is placed on foil, heated, and the vapors are inhaled through a straw-like instrument. People also dissolve Suboxone strips into water, heat the liquid, and inhale the vapors. In either case, a high may be achieved, however, it is not reported to be very intense.

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.

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.