Suboxone is a prescription medication commonly used to treat opioid dependence. It utilizes a combination of two active compounds (buprenorphine and naloxone) to reduce symptoms of withdrawal and cravings.
This clever little medication can help those with opioid dependence. However, as with all medications, it is not without its on set of side effects.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- The common (and less common) side effects of Suboxone
- The impact of Suboxone on allergies and mental health
- Possible long-term concerns of Suboxone
- The interaction of Suboxone with other medications
- Ways to minimize the side effects caused by Suboxone.
Let’s get straight into it!
Is Suboxone a Controlled Substance?
In the US, Suboxone is categorized as a Schedule III controlled substance. This is due to the fact that it contains buprenorphine, which has the potential for misuse and dependence.
Compared to Schedule I or Schedule II drugs, Suboxone has relatively low abuse potential. However, it is still recommended to be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
Common Side Effects of Suboxone
With great medical power comes great responsibility. Suboxone is a medication that needs to be taken correctly – and even when done so, it can produce certain side effects.
The following are common side effects of Suboxone:
- Drug withdrawal syndrome
- Fainting or dizziness
- Redness of the mouth
- Painful tongue
- Reduced attention
- Blurred vision.
Despite these possible side effects, it’s important to seek treatment for opioid dependence – and suboxone may be one of the best options for doing so.
Less Common, But Serious Side Effects of Suboxone
Although Suboxone has been deemed safe by the FDA, there is still a possibility of serious side effects occurring.
These are much less common and are often associated with pre-existing conditions. If you encounter any of the following, it’s important to contact emergency services immediately:
- Breathing problems
- Liver damage
- Hormonal deficiencies
- Severe withdrawal symptoms.
Suboxone and Allergic Reactions
Suboxone can also cause allergic reactions. The interaction of this drug with your body may cause the following symptoms:
- Runny nose, sneezing, coughing
- Cheek, eye, or forehead pain
- Itchy skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swollen lips or eyes.
. Contact 911 immediately if you experience the following:
- Breathing complications
- Rashing or hives
- Swelling of the tongue or throat.
Suboxone and Mental Health
Depending on its effectiveness, the presence of co-occurring disorders, and the patient’s environment, suboxone can have either a positive or negative impact on mental health.
If suboxone is effective in reducing dependence on opioids, this can have a significant positive impact on the patient’s mental health – meaning that the person may function better in relationships, at home, and at work.
As such, Suboxone can greatly help to stabilize mood and reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation.
Many patients with opioid dependence also experience co-existing mental health disorders which can be reduced by suboxone.
However, if the patient feels that the medication is not working or experiences side effects, it can exacerbate underlying conditions. The failure of Suboxone to work as expected can increase feelings of depression, hopelessness, and suicidality.
Possible Long-Term Effects and Concerns with Suboxone
The Potential For Developing A Physical Dependence
Physical dependence occurs when a drug is abused for a long period and tolerance occurs.
This means that the body begins to rely on the drug to function normally. Although suboxone is less addictive than other opioid drugs, physical dependence on suboxone is still possible and can include the following symptoms:
- Drug craving
- Shaking and poor coordination
- Shallowed breathing
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Poor memory, mood shifts, and erratic behavior
- Compulsive drug taking.
Always seek professional help if you feel you are becoming physically dependent on Suboxone!
Cognitive And Mental Health Effects
- Cognitive decline
- Higher pain sensitivity.
Potential Impact On The Liver With Prolonged Use
- Hepatotoxicity, associated with symptoms such as:
- Darkened urine
- Abdominal pain
- Pale stool.
- Reduced liver function, which often occurs in those with pre-existing liver conditions
- Elevated Liver Enzymes. Increases in certain liver enzymes can cause significant impairment of the organ.
Changes in Hormone Levels
Suboxone can also alter your body’s natural hormones. This can cause widespread and varied effects, including:
- Reductions in testosterone
- Increased stress hormones
- Alterations in a lactation-related hormone
- Alterations in thyroid hormones.
Suboxone Interactions with Other Drugs
Suboxone can have significant interactions with other opioids. This is because buprenorphine acts on the same receptors as other opioids, and this can increase sedation, respiratory depression, and risk for overdose.
Benzodiazepines and Sedatives
Similarly to suboxone’s interaction with other opioids, taking it in combination with sedatives and benzodiazepines can increase risks of respiratory depression, overdose, and sedation.
Combining suboxone with alcohol intake can seriously depress our central nervous system causing sedation, impaired judgment, and death. Professionals recommend avoiding alcohol completely if you are taking Suboxone.
Suboxone is known to interact with certain antidepressants, particularly serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
SSRIs and Suboxone can cause a patient to develop serotonin syndrome, which is where the body produces too much serotonin. This causes confusion, rapid heart rate, significantly increased body temperature, and agitation.
Any Medications Impacting Liver Enzymes
As mentioned previously, Suboxone is processed in the liver. Therefore, any other medications affecting the liver can affect how suboxone is processed as well.
If the drugs increase liver metabolism, Suboxone breaks down faster and may be less effective.
On the other hand, if the drugs reduce liver metabolism, Suboxone won’t be broken down as quickly – which reduces the risk of serious side effects.
Managing and Minimizing Side Effects of Suboxone
Regular Monitoring By A Healthcare Professional
As with any prescription medication. it is recommended you attend regular checkups with your healthcare provider to ensure that the medication is not producing any unwanted side effects.
It’s highly encouraged that you report any changes in health to your healthcare provider. This will ensure you are able to gain the best results from your treatment and minimize the risk of serious symptoms!
Honest and clear communication is key to recovery.
When To Seek Medical Attention
If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is suggested to seek immediate medical attention in the form of emergency services (call 911):
- Allergic reaction
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain
- Drowsiness or confusion
- Severe dizziness, headaches, or faintness.
Suboxone is an effective drug for treating opioid dependence, in combination with other talk and group therapies.
However, as with any medication, the benefits have to be balanced with a list of possible side effects.
If you currently suffer from opioid dependence, it’s always best to be honest and open with your healthcare provider so they can determine the right course of action for you.