As an opioid used to address dependence and addiction on more powerful drugs, the function of Suboxone is comparable to that of methadone. However, methadone is strictly controlled by the government and only available at specialized treatment centers or maintenance programs. Conversely, Suboxone can be prescribed by doctors authorized to do so.
Suboxone consists of two substances—buprenorphine and naloxone (Narcan). Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that binds to brain receptors similar to other opioids, such as heroin, but does not activate these receptors to the full extent. As such, the user will not experience the intense feelings associated with most other opioids. Importantly, however, it works to reduce withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings, and this is why it is prescribed and used for treating opioid dependence.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses and is included in Suboxone as a method to deter abuse. It only becomes active when the medication is crushed or otherwise manipulated. In doing so, it mitigates most of the effects of buprenorphine. However, in some instances, the presence of naloxone may not wholly eliminate the effects of Suboxone that has been subject to tampering.
That said, a study from 2016 found that the combination of intranasal buprenorphine and naloxone does have abuse-deterrent properties related to temporary withdrawal effects. For this reason, it’s desirability for abuse compared to buprenorphine independently is reduced.
Suboxone is available in sublingual (under the tongue) tablets and buccal films intended to be placed between the cheek and gums.
Risks of Suboxone
Despite its relatively low potential for misuse, taking Suboxone can still be somewhat risky. Opioid abusers may use Suboxone in doses above those prescribed, without a prescription, or using alternative routes of administration such as snorting or injecting in an attempt to experience a high. Snorting any drug may be associated with an increased risk of side effects, dependence, and addiction, as well as damage to the nasal septum and surrounding tissues.
Can I Get High From Snorting Suboxone?
Despite the risks mentioned above, some people continue to abuse prescription opioids by manipulating the medication’s form and administering it in a way other than prescribed. Individuals may snort Suboxone in an attempt to induce a more intense high, and dissolvable tablets may be more likely to be misused by crushing and snorting.
As with many psychoactive substances, altering the method of administration will produce differences in effects. An individual that crushes and snorts an opioid tablet will likely feel effects faster and more intensely than someone who swallows it orally. The critical difference is associated with the drug’s ability to directly enter the bloodstream and brain rather than being first broken down by the liver.
Routes of administration that cause drugs to reach the brain faster, such as snorting, will typically induce a shorter, more intense high. Prescription opioids taken as directed will be processed more slowly and result in a more gradual and less severe set of effects. They will also be more prolonged than those associated with tampering and abuse.
As noted, individuals may attempt to snort Suboxone to induce euphoric feelings. Still, they will probably not achieve the desired effects as naloxone is included to deter abuse due to its opioid receptor blocking abilities. When used as directed, the presence of naloxone means little or nothing to the user. However, when Suboxone’s form is manipulated, the naloxone is released. This action discourages abuse and essentially neutralizes the few sought-after effects of buprenorphine.
While Suboxone’s formulation is intended to reduce intense feelings of well-being, and, therefore, it’s abuse potential, abuse can and does occur. People who misuse Suboxone report that they typically do so to increase it’s desirable effects.
Suboxone may be more likely to be misused by those addicted to relatively small doses of other opioids. So, although the inclusion of naloxone in Suboxone should reduce the prevalence of abuse, it appears that Suboxone has some limited potential to induce a high when snorted. That said, rewarding feelings may be more likely to occur in opioid-naive people who don’t use opioids regularly or have a significant tolerance.
Side Effects of Snorting Suboxone
Suboxone is considered relatively safe when used as prescribed, but as with many other prescription medications, there is the potential for side effects, which may include the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Sleep difficulties
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Sexual side effects
Suboxone, especially when combined with other substances that affect serotonin levels, can also trigger severe mental and physical health complications related to a temporary but potentially life-threatening condition known as serotonin syndrome. These include the following:
- Extreme agitation
- Muscle twitching
- Elevated heart rate
- Impaired motor skills
The naloxone in Suboxone may also promptly elicit opioid withdrawal symptoms when the drug is tampered with and snorted, smoked, or injected. These uncomfortable effects may include the following:
- Sleep disturbances
- Anxiety and depression
- Elevated heart rate
- Increased sweating
- Muscle spasms
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle and bone pain
Snorting an opioid medication has also been associated with several other harmful effects, such as the following:
- Bloody nose
- Nasal congestion or drainage
- Mouth ulcers
- Facial and ear pain
- Edema (swelling) in the face
- Difficulty speaking
- Problems with swallowing
- Damage to nose and mouth
Can Snorting Suboxone Result in an Overdose?
When using Suboxone, it is critical to always use the medication as prescribed by a licensed health provider. Although overdoses are uncommon due to the drug’s ceiling effects, they are possible. This may be especially true when Suboxone is combined with other potentially intoxicating substances, such as sedatives or alcohol.
Signs of an overdose related to Suboxone use include the following:
- Pinpoint pupils
- Severe dizziness
- Impaired coordination
- Vision problems
- Perilously depressed breathing
- Extreme drowsiness
- Unconsciousness or coma
Opioids come with the risk of respiratory depression when used in large doses. However, as a partial agonist, buprenorphine enacts a ceiling effect in which the risk of respiratory problems and other issues will not increase correspondingly as the dose is increased. Instead, effects will peak at a certain point, making overdose a much less likely occurrence in relation to this drug.
When a person mixes Suboxone with other substances, particularly those that depress the nervous system, he or she will face a higher risk of a life-threatening overdose. These substances include the following:
- Muscle relaxers
- Other opioids
- Other CNS depressants
Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction
Given buprenorphine’s delayed onset, relative minor effects, and long duration, the effects associated with the brain’s reward and pleasure centers are believed to be minimal, as is its potential for dependence and addiction. However, as noted, Suboxone abuse may lead to chemical dependence and addiction more rapidly than when used as directed.
When individuals become dependent on Suboxone, their bodies have adapted to its presence and will not function correctly without it. Once dependence has developed, without intervention, addiction will likely follow soon after. This condition is characterized by compulsive-seeking behavior despite the incurrence of adverse consequences.
Getting Professional Help for Suboxone Addiction
If you or a loved one is misusing or dependent on Suboxone, seeking professional treatment is the first essential step in breaking free from the cycle of abuse and addiction. Those struggling with dependence on Suboxone may face a challenging battle, but fortunately, assistance is available in the form of intensive, evidence-based services and activities.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer comprehensive programs facilitated by compassionate addiction professionals that include therapeutic modalities, including behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, substance abuse education, aftercare planning, and more.