Suboxone is composed of two active ingredients, Buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opiate agonist and it binds to the same receptors in the brain that drugs like heroin or narcotic pain pills do. Since the Buprenorphine binds to these same receptors, the brain doesn’t notice that you have stopped taking the drug of abuse, and you feel no withdrawal pains.
Suboxone is an drug that was developed to assist opiate users in recovery. It is comprised of two main ingredients, naloxone and Buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is a opiate agonist, meaning that while it binds to the same neurotransmitters that respond to opiates such as heroin. As a result of the Buprenorphine binding to the opiate receptors, the users brain and body will assume that it is getting its’ opiate fix, and therefore will not go into withdrawal. This can be life-changing medication for people with addiction, one that allows them to become clean and sober without the debilitating effects of withdrawal.
- Opiate withdrawal symptoms include:
- Body temperature regulation issues
- Runny nose
- Bodily aches that go down to the bone
Naloxone is the other active ingredient in Suboxone, and it was included in order to prevent the drug from having a high potential for abuse. Unlike Buprenorphine, it is an opiate antagonist. Buprenorphine is an opiate, albeit a mild one, but if injected in large amounts could still have enough of an effect to feed addiction. Consequently, Naloxone was included as a safeguard. When Naloxone is taken into the body, it blocks all opiate receptors. This has the effect of causing the brain to be unable to get the effects from opiates that are so pleasurable. It is so effective that it will also send anyone who ingests Naloxone or Suboxone into a state of immediate withdrawal, a very strong withdrawal, since as far as your brain is concerned, you have ZERO opiates in your system.
Naloxone is also used by itself as a tool for preventing deaths related to opiate overdose. As a nasal spray or a sublingual pill, it can bring someone back from the brink of death almost instantly, reversing the respiratory inhibitions. In small amounts, it only blocks the effects of the opiate. However, this is the reason that it is added to Suboxone: the amount of Buprenorphine a person would need to inject to get high from Suboxone would also be enough for the Naloxone to block any of the effects of the opiate—in fact, it would accomplish the opposite effect and send the user into immediate and very unpleasant withdrawals.
Possible Suboxone Abuse
One of the major issues with any kind of opiate addiction is that in order to manage the severe withdrawal symptoms, often a replacement opiate is used. This mitigates the harmful effects of intravenous drug use, but the fact remains that all opiates are addictive. With previous treatments such as methadone, some addicts simply trade addiction from one drug to another. The advantage of Suboxone is that the withdrawal symptoms are much less pronounced than with stronger opiates like methadone, making them a better candidate for treating addiction. There is always a risk, however, of an opiate user becoming addicted. Recently, new medical guidelines regarding the prescribing of Suboxone were released that suggest that the legal limit of 30 pills per patient was too high and contributing to an illicit market for the pills, which people still attempt to abuse. Suboxone may be safer than previous alternatives, but it should still be used cautiously and only as recommended by a physician.