Suboxone is a medical solution for many people with substance use disorders in their journey to sobriety. Thanks to the safety of this drug – especially in contrast to other treatments like Methadone – it tends to have a high success rate.
However, should its less ‘risky’ nature prompt patients to drink alcohol alongside treatment? Are there any serious side effects we should be concerned about?
This article will unpack the consequences of using both Suboxone and alcohol. We will discuss:
- What Suboxone is
- If you can mix Suboxone and alcohol
- What will happen if you mix these substances
- Potential long-term health issues of mixing Suboxone and alcohol
- Whether Suboxone blocks the effects of alcohol.
A Quick Overview of Suboxone
Suboxone is a medication used for the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder or OUD – a condition where individuals have a dependence on opioids.
When they discontinue these drugs, they subsequently experience severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Suboxone aims to combat these issues so that opioid use patients can become sober once more.
Suboxone contains Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Buprenorphine acts as a partial opioid agonist, which is what reduces withdrawals and cravings. On the other hand, naloxone is a partial opioid antagonist which reduces opioid overdose symptoms.
Can You Mix Suboxone and Alcohol?
It is strongly advised that opiate drugs should not be mixed with alcohol. Physicians should make this very clear to their patients when prescribing Suboxone to their patients.
Both drugs are central nervous system depressants, and when combined they can heighten the effects of one another. Buprenorphine is only a partial agonist to opioid receptors. However, it can still cause the same serious side effects when mixed with alcohol as other opiates that affect the central nervous system.
What Happens When You Mix Suboxone and Alcohol?
As mentioned above, alcohol and Suboxone are both central nervous system depressants. This means they will slow down the activity of the central nervous system, which results in sedative or calming effects.
However, there is potential for serious side effects when combined. This is because their effects become enhanced when taken together.
Side effects could include severe drowsiness, decreased awareness, breathing problems, impaired heart rate, coma, and death. Initial and more minor side effects like drowsiness and slurred speech are important to identify early on in order to prevent the risk of overdose.
The danger of mixing these two drugs is that the person will have no control over the effects they may experience.
Long-Term Health Issues from Suboxone and Alcohol
There are several long-term health consequences that can occur as a result of mixing alcohol with Suboxone.
For instance, a person may suffer a coma in serious cases. As mentioned earlier, mixing these two drugs can result in drowsiness and decreased awareness. Breathing consequently slows (respiratory suppression), and brain cells can starve from lack of oxygen – leading to a comatose state.
Another serious long-term health issue from using both Suboxone and alcohol is the increased chance of relapse.
Alcohol is a depressant, which creates the possibility for someone to develop depression when consuming it.
What we know is that some people (particularly drug abusers) who have poor mental health will turn back to drugs to ease this distress. Consequently, Suboxone treatment that should prevent relapse is rendered unsuccessful.
Various damage to the body is also a long-term health concern that relates to using Suboxone and alcohol simultaneously.
Alcohol addiction alone can lead to consequences such as cardiomyopathy, stroke, high blood pressure, cancers, and liver damage. There is significant concern around liver damage in particular due to the risk that already lies with taking one of these drugs, let alone both.
Using both drugs greatly increases the chance of diseases like cirrhosis or liver failure. Damage to the liver may become evident when a person starts to become yellow in their eyes and skin.
Does Suboxone Block the Effect of Alcohol?
As we have established, both alcohol and Suboxone are central nervous system depressants. They work by reducing the amount of neurons that fire in the spinal cord. When combining the two drugs, the effects of each heighten due to double the effect on the central nervous system.
So, does Suboxone block the effects of alcohol?
No. In fact, it does quite the opposite; it intensifies the effects. This means adverse effects like nausea, headaches, and poor motor coordination come on faster and more pronounced.
It is fair to say there is no safe way around consuming both alcohol and Suboxone at the same time. Not only does it put patients at risk of serious side effects, but it can also jeopardize the progress that someone has made in regards to avoiding drug abuse.
With Suboxone and alcohol both taking effect on the central nervous system, they only heighten how the body responds to these drugs when mixed together. Implications such as nausea and drowsiness, all the way up to a coma or overdose, are just some of the many negative consequences that can occur.
FAQs for Suboxone and Alcohol
How long should you wait to drink alcohol after taking Suboxone?
Buprenorphine has a half-life of 36 hours. However, it takes up to 8 days for it to completely clear from the body. As such, it is not recommended you have alcohol until 8 days after you have completed treatment to avoid side effects.
Can you drink alcohol with a buprenorphine patch?
A Buprenorphine patch is often used for the treatment of moderate to severe pain as a form of relief. Like other forms of Buprenorphine, alcohol should not be used at the same time due to the adverse risks associated with mixing the two drugs.
Can you eat or drink before taking Suboxone?
It is advised that you do not eat or drink before and after taking Suboxone. This is to ensure that the medication is dissolved effectively in the mouth. It can also prevent stomach upset or nausea from occurring.