Like all medications, Suboxone use has a few negative side effects associated with long-term use. It is important to know which side effects to look out for, and when to consult with your doctor.
This guide covers:
- What Suboxone is, and how it works
- Whether Suboxone is safe to use long-term
- Physical long-term side effects
- Psychological long-term side effects
- Risks of addiction and withdrawal.
Let’s get into it.
Brief of Suboxone: What It Is and Why It’s Prescribed
Suboxone is an FDA-approved prescription medication designed for Medication Assisted Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder. It is used to treat dependence on prescription opioids, along with illegal opioids.
Suboxone contains two active ingredients buprenorphine and naloxone, which work together to effectively decrease opioid withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. It is available as a sublingual film or sublingual tablet, and comes in varying strengths.
How Suboxone Can Help
Suboxone is now widely prescribed as it is effective in helping people move away from abusing stronger opioids. It is used in conjunction with psychological therapy and social support. Evidence shows that Suboxone can have the following benefits:
- Reduces physical withdrawal symptoms
- Reducing drug cravings
- Has antianxiety and antidepressant effects
- Reduces drug-seeking behaviours
- Reduced overdose risk
- More likely to achieve sobriety
- Increased quality of life.
Is Suboxone Dangerous?
Suboxone is an FDA-approved medication that can only be prescribed by authorized doctors, which will ensure the medication is safe for you to use.
If Suboxone is misused (for example, if someone takes multiple doses that they are not prescribed) or is taken with other drugs that can interact with the Suboxone, there is a potential that it can become dangerous.
If you take high doses of the medication or use it with drugs such as benzodiazepines, you may be at risk of respiratory depression. It is therefore important to make sure Suboxone is only taken if you are prescribed the medication, and to regularly follow up with your doctor.
Should You Stay on Suboxone Long Term?
There is some debate about whether or not Suboxone should be used long-term. However, some studies show that people who stay on the medication longer than 12 months are less likely to end up in the hospital compared with people who only stay on the medication for a few months.
However, all medications have side effects when used over a long period. If you are experiencing strong side effects, or if your doctor thinks it is risky for you to stay on the medication long-term, they may try tapering you off the medication.
Suboxone Side Effects Long-term
The side effects of long-term Suboxone use vary significantly from person to person. Whilst some people will only experience mild side effects, some people will suffer from quite severe side effects. These more severe side effects are often associated with long-term Suboxone use.
Physical Side Effects
Because Suboxone contains an opioid agonist, the side effects are similar to other opioids. Physical effects of Suboxone include:
- Oral numbness
- Gum problems
- Blurred vision
- Risk of liver damage
- Allergic reactions
- Opioid-induced adrenal insufficiency
Suboxone can also pass the placenta, so should not be used if you think you are pregnant.
Psychological Side Effects
People who start Suboxone (or who come off Suboxone after long-term use) can experience psychological side effects. Psychological side effects can include:
- Opioid withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, and depression
- Insomnia and lethargy.
Dependence and Addiction
Because Suboxone contains an opioid antagonist, the risk of Suboxone addiction is low. However, because the medication contains buprenorphine that binds to opioid receptors, it is technically considered to be addictive.
Studies looking at opioid misuse have shown that medications such as buprenorphine and methadone combined appear to account for about 15% of all misuse cases.
People will often experience some degree of opioid withdrawal symptoms when they first start taking the medication.
If you stop taking Suboxone, it is also likely that you will experience (potentially severe) withdrawal symptoms. Potential side effects of withdrawal can include:
- Mood changes such as anxiety, depression, and irritability
- Nausea and vomiting
- Body aches
- Trouble sleeping and lethargy
- Drug cravings
- Fever, chills, and sweating.
Suboxone is a potent tool in the fight against opioid addiction. Although it can effectively treat opioid withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings, there are some common side effects that are important to be aware of.
It is important to take the medication under the guidance of a healthcare professional who can assess the risk of adverse effects and ensure the best possible treatment plan to help you regain control of your life.