Signs, Symptoms And Side Effects Of Subsys Abuse

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Subsys is a prescription form of non-ionized fentanyl. Subsys is prescribed as a single-unit spray device, which delivers fentanyl into the mouth of the patient where the mucosal membranes rapidly absorb it. Specifically, Subsys is sprayed under the tongue for the rapid delivery of the powerful opioid fentanyl. Subsys is intended only to be prescribed to people suffering from breakthrough cancer pain that isn’t manageable in another way. A candidate for Subsys should be on an around-the-clock opioid medication such as morphine and be opioid-tolerant before using Subsys. Since Subsys is a sprayable version of fentanyl, it affects the central nervous system. Fentanyl binds to opioid receptors and changes pain signals and sensations. While Subsys does have powerful pain-relieving effects, it also has a risk of misuse and dependence. This can occur when someone is incorrectly prescribed Subsys, or it’s diverted from medical use. Illicit fentanyl is also manufactured and sold on the streets. Subsys is estimated to be 100 times more powerful than morphine. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl can be thousands of times stronger than morphine.
Signs, Symptoms And Side Effects Of Subsys Abuse
The symptoms of Subsys misuse are similar to other opioids. If someone is prescribed Subsys, they may start to use it more often than prescribed, or they may start creating symptoms to get more of the drug. Anytime a drug is used outside of how it’s intended and prescribed by a medical professional, it can be considered misuse. Stealing Subsys or diverting it from medical use in any way is misuse. There are certain behavioral symptoms and psychological symptoms that can be associated with opioid misuse in general. Someone who’s misusing Subsys or another opioid might seem to have rapid mood swings. They might go from seeming euphoric to depressed or irritable. Someone who’s misusing opioids might also start to lose interest in other activities, or have changed eating or sleeping habits. Physical symptoms of Subsys misuse can include:

  • Sensitivity to stimuli
  • Decreases in energy level
  • Weakness or problems walking
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itchiness
  • Shakiness
  • Small pupils
Whether it’s being misused or used as prescribed, there are certain side effects of Subsys that can be serious. Some of the side effects of Subsys are named above, such as nausea and vomiting. Other common Subsys side effects include constipation, feeling lightheaded or having shortness of breath, and bloating. Headache, confusion and disorientation can occur as well. Severe side effects that require medical attention include any kind of breathing problems and low blood pressure. Beyond these side effects, two of the most worrisome side effects of Subsys misuse are dependence and addiction. With dependence, when someone tries to stop using Subsys suddenly, they’ll experience opioid withdrawal. Addiction is a complex disease of the brain that also affects the physical health and lifestyle of the person struggling with it.
Addiction is a diagnosable disease with specific symptoms. A Subsys addiction can be characterized as mild, moderate or severe depending on how many symptoms a person exhibits. With opioids, addiction is almost always relatively severe just because of the potency of these drugs, and that’s particularly true of Subsys, which is sublingual fentanyl. Some of the signs of Subsys addiction to be aware of include:

  • Obsession with Subsys including its usage and how to obtain more
  • No concern for the harm done to oneself or loved ones because of the use of Subsys
  • Loss of control over drug use
  • Hiding the use of Subsys
  • Wanting to stop using Subsys but not being able to
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Loss of concern over appearance and personal hygiene
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Declines in performance at school or work
  • Failing with regard to responsibilities
  • Continuing to use Subsys even when there are negative side effects
The long-term effects of misusing an opioid like Subsys can be far-reaching. Long-term Subsys effects can include changes in cognitive function and new or worsening psychiatric symptoms, such as depression or anxiety. Someone who has been using opioids for a long time may experience increased sensitivity to pain and damage to various parts of the body, including the cardiac and respiratory systems. Long-term opioid use can deprive the brain of oxygen, which can lead to brain damage, and it can affect the nervous system negatively as well. There has been research showing long-term opioid misuse can cause damage to the nerve fibers in the brain, which can affect functions like decision-making and behavior control.

To learn more about how opioid addiction can be treated, and what the next step is for you or your loved one, contact our team at The Recovery Village.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.