Suboxone is a prescription medication that contains a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, and it’s used for the treatment of addictions to opioids. It’s part of a drug class called partial opioid agonists, and the primary objective of prescribing someone Suboxone is to alleviate symptoms of withdrawal from opiates, which can be incredibly uncomfortable and even dangerous. The naloxone component of Suboxone is meant to reverse narcotic effects.

The intended purpose of Suboxone is to pair it with a drug treatment program that includes a combination of approaches including therapy and counseling, as well as lifestyle changes, to provide the best chance of recovery from an addiction to opioids.

While there are many benefits to the use of Suboxone, it’s not entirely without its risks, which is why people often wonder what the signs of being on Suboxone are, or even how someone on Suboxone might act.

How Does Suboxone Work?

When someone is prescribed buprenorphine for an addiction to heroin or other opiates, it attaches to the brain receptors that are impacted by other opioids, but they block those receptors and stay there for a lot longer than something like heroin. Primarily, Suboxone will bind to the same receptors affected by opiates, but not as an exact match, so this drug doesn’t have the euphoric rush associated with other similar types of drugs.

This drug operates by tricking the brain into thinking it has the effect of opioids, without the very potent sense of euphoria.

Suboxone as a treatment for opioid addiction is meant to be given under close supervision and in small doses. Therapeutic low-dose suboxone can help people who are addicted to opioids avoid withdrawal symptoms, and it can be given any number of ways ranging from injection to a transdermal patch, and also as dissolvable tablets.

So how do you know if someone is on Suboxone and abusing it, or not following therapeutic directions for its use?

First, it can be helpful to have an understanding of how someone on Suboxone would act.

Signs Someone is On Suboxone

If someone takes suboxone in a carefully monitored setting and exactly as directed, they wouldn’t necessarily exhibit any evidence of use. The goal of Suboxone therapy is to help people with opioid addictions live their normal life, without experiencing the worst withdrawal symptoms of opioids.

However, if Suboxone is abused, there may be outward signs of use.

Some of the short-term signs someone is on Suboxone, and often that they have taken a larger dose than is recommended can include a powerful pain relief effect, a long-lasting but mild feeling of euphoria and calmness. People on Suboxone who have taken high doses may also feel an increased sense of well-being, lower anxiety levels, and general relaxation. Suboxone effects last for much longer than an opioid like heroin, so there could be mild signs of Suboxone use anywhere from eight hours or up to 72 hours.

While the above might be some of the more pleasant signs of Suboxone use, there are negative possibilities as well.

If someone were to take too much Suboxone in a short period of time, side effects could include drowsiness, nausea, confusion, and respiratory depression.

Other signs of being on Suboxone, particularly abusing it, include watery eyes, diarrhea, fever, insomnia, sweating, slurred speech, memory issues, small pupils and they may display a sense of apathy toward the people and events around them.

When someone is on Suboxone for a long period of time there is the potential for the individual using it to lose to ability to appropriately manage their emotions, they may lose interest in sex, and they may have strange responses to stress. When someone is on Suboxone for an extended period, they may also lose hair.

Can People Become Addicted to Suboxone?

Along with questions about the common signs someone is on Suboxone, another one of the top questions people have about this medication is whether or not it’s possible to become addicted to Suboxone. Each year there are millions of prescriptions written for Suboxone, and there is the potential for abuse and addiction when someone takes it.

Some of the biggest risk factors for someone to abuse Suboxone include people who are already using other narcotics, people that aren’t aware of the risk of Suboxone abuse, individuals who are addicted to heroin, and even people who are on a Suboxone program but have found themselves becoming physically dependent on it.

It’s also important to realize that anytime someone is taking Suboxone without a prescription or outside of the instructions of a doctor, that is a misuse of the drug, and that increases the chances of addiction significantly.

Suboxone Withdrawal

If you’re wondering whether someone around you is on Suboxone, or if someone is abusing Suboxone, one of the primary indicators is often dependence. Since Suboxone does have an opioid component, users can develop a tolerance to it as they would with any other opioid, particularly when they take large amounts. When that happens, if a person stops taking Suboxone suddenly, they can exhibit withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the common red flags someone is on Suboxone and also experiencing withdrawal from the drug can seem similar to the flu, and symptoms may last as long as a week.

Behavioral Signs Someone Is Abusing Suboxone

Along with some of the general signs someone is on Suboxone that tend to be particularly apparent if a person is abusing the drug, there might also be behavioral or lifestyle indicators that someone is on Suboxone.

One of the most common initial warning signs of Suboxone abuse is taking the drug when it’s not prescribed to you, or in a way that’s different from instructions provided by a doctor. When Suboxone is used as part of an opioid therapy program, it’s meant to be closely monitored, but if someone starts skipping doses in order to take a larger dose to get a more significant high, or taking it more often than they’re supposed to, they may have an abuse problem.

When people on Suboxone start doctor shopping for multiple prescriptions, it’s also a problem, or being deceitful or defensive about their use of the medication.

Unfortunately, if someone does start abusing Suboxone, even if they started using it as part of an opioid treatment plan, they may eventually start using other opiates again as well, which is why it’s important if you notice the signs someone is on Suboxone that you contact someone who’s experienced in addiction treatment.

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.