What is Suboxone? An Overview of Its Use and Effects

Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, is a medication primarily used in the treatment of opioid addiction. Buprenorphine, an opioid partial agonist, produces weaker effects compared to full opioid agonists like methadone and heroin, while naloxone works as an opioid antagonist to counteract the effects of opioid drugs and prevent abuse (SAMHSA) . Prescribed as an oral film, Suboxone aims to reduce withdrawal symptoms and aid in the recovery process for those struggling with opioid dependence (Medical News Today) .

As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, Suboxone works effectively when combined with counseling and behavioral therapy. This approach, known as ‘medications for opioid use disorder’ (MOUD), has been shown to significantly lower the risk of fatal overdoses by about 50% (Harvard Health Blog) . Although Suboxone is considered to have a lower potential for abuse compared to methadone, it is essential to use it as prescribed by a healthcare professional to ensure its safe and effective application in the recovery process (Drugs.com) .

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a prescription medication used to treat opioid dependence. It is a combination of two key ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine, an opioid partial agonist, helps reduce withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing opioid drugs, while naloxone, an opioid antagonist, counters the effects of opioids and prevents abuse of the medication [source].

Taken as prescribed, Suboxone is both safe and effective for managing opioid dependence. Its unique pharmacological properties make it weaker than full opioid agonists, such as methadone and heroin, and thus it produces fewer side effects, such as euphoria or respiratory depression at low to moderate doses [source].

Suboxone is typically administered in the form of sublingual tablets, which dissolve under the tongue. It is crucial not to share Suboxone with another person, particularly individuals with a history of drug abuse or addiction. Misuse of Suboxone can lead to addiction, overdose, or even death [source].

Using medication-assisted treatments like Suboxone for opioid use disorder has shown promising results. In fact, this approach has proven to lower the risk of fatal overdoses by approximately 50% and also reduce the risk of nonfatal overdoses [source].

Components and Mechanism of Action

Suboxone is a combination medication used to treat opioid addiction and chronic pain management. It contains two main components, buprenorphine and naloxone, which work together to provide effective treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder.


Buprenorphine is a partial agonist at the mu-opioid receptor, meaning that it only partially activates opiate receptors. It is also a weak kappa receptor antagonist and delta receptor agonist. This compound acts as a potent analgesic that works on the central nervous system (CNS) by binding to opioid receptors and reducing pain signals (StatPearls). Its partial agonist property allows it to prevent cravings for opioids like heroin, morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl without producing the euphoria or severe side effects associated with these substances (Drugs.com).


Naloxone is a competitive opioid antagonist that is added to buprenorphine in Suboxone to prevent misuse. As a potent antagonist at mu-opioid receptors, it can produce opioid withdrawal signs and symptoms in individuals physically dependent on full agonist opioids (Drugs.com Package Insert). The presence of naloxone in Suboxone discourages people from dissolving and injecting the medication, as it would trigger withdrawal symptoms (PsychDB).

In combination, buprenorphine and naloxone provide a balanced approach to address the symptoms of opioid addiction and dependence while minimizing the potential for abuse. The partial agonist and antagonist components of Suboxone work together to offer a safer alternative to full agonist opioids, reducing cravings and providing relief from withdrawal symptoms for those struggling with opioid use disorder.

Uses and Indications

Suboxone is primarily used to treat narcotic (opiate) addiction. It is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone and works by reducing withdrawal symptoms when stopping opioids and for an extended period of time after cessation (source). Suboxone is not intended for use as a pain medication.

There are alternative drugs available to treat opioid use disorder, and patients are encouraged to discuss these options with their healthcare provider to determine which treatment option would be best suited for their needs (source).

Suboxone belongs to a class of drugs called Opioid Antagonists, Analgesics, and Opioid Partial Agonists (source). This medication is prescribed as an oral film, making it convenient for patients to take regularly as part of their treatment plan.

Some common side effects of Suboxone include constipation, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, sweating, and dry mouth, among others (source). More serious side effects, although less frequent, include respiratory distress, overdose, and adrenal insufficiency (source).

Side Effects and Risks

Common Side Effects

Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, is used to treat opioid addiction. However, it also has some side effects that users may experience. Common side effects of Suboxone include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Tooth decay
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Inability to sleep
  • Fever
  • Blurred vision or dilated pupils
  • Tremors
  • Palpitations

These side effects are generally mild and may not be experienced by all users. However, if any become a concern, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional (SAMHSAAmerican Addiction Centers).

Serious Side Effects

Some people may experience more severe side effects when using Suboxone. These can include:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Allergic reactions, such as hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Slow or stopped breathing, which can lead to death
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Coordination problems

These serious side effects require immediate medical attention (Drugs.comAddiction Group).

Addiction and Dependence

Suboxone is a medication designed to help mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings, but it is essential to remember it can cause addiction and dependence. Using Suboxone in higher doses than prescribed, for a longer duration, or without a proper prescription can potentially lead to dependence and addiction.

It is crucial to follow the prescribed treatment and dosage accurately and to work closely with a healthcare provider to monitor progress and any potential concerns that may arise during treatment (Drugs.com).

Precautions and Contraindications

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Suboxone is classified as a pregnancy category C medication, which means that its effects on the unborn baby are not entirely known. Pregnant women should consult with their healthcare providers before starting Suboxone treatment to assess potential benefits and risks. It is important to note that Suboxone may pass into breast milk and could have undesirable effects on a nursing infant. Mothers who are breastfeeding should discuss their options with their healthcare providers as well.

Drug Interactions

Suboxone can interact with several other medications and substances, including sedatives, tranquilizers, and alcohol. Combining large amounts of these substances with Suboxone can potentially result in overdose or death. Consequently, it is vital to avoid using illegal drugs, drinking alcohol, or taking medications that slow down breathing while on Suboxone treatment. Consult with your healthcare professional before taking any other medication along with Suboxone. As SAMHSA advises, always exercise caution and consult your doctor before using other medications alongside buprenorphine.

Medical Conditions

Before starting Suboxone therapy, individuals should disclose their entire medical history to their healthcare providers. Certain conditions might make Suboxone less safe or less effective for some patients. The following medical conditions may require extra caution or adjustments to Suboxone treatment:

  • Tooth problems, including a history of cavities
  • Breathing problems or sleep apnea
  • Enlarged prostate or urination problems
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Abnormal curvature of the spine that affects breathing
  • Problems with the gallbladder, adrenal gland, or thyroid

Always consult with a healthcare professional and provide a complete medical history before beginning Suboxone treatment, as doing so can help ensure that the medication is safe and effective for each individual.

Administration and Dosage

Forms and Strengths

Suboxone is a medication that contains a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. It is used to treat narcotic (opiate) addiction. The medication comes in various forms and strengths, including:

  • Sublingual film
  • Sublingual tablets (such as Zubsolv)
  • Buccal film (Bunavail)
  • Buprenorphine implants (Probuphine)
  • Buprenorphine extended-release injection (Sublocade)

Each form of Suboxone may have different dosage strengths, depending on the specific product. For example, Zubsolv comes in 11.4 mg buprenorphine/2.9 mg naloxone dosages, while the sublingual film is available in doses of 16 mg buprenorphine/4 mg naloxone (Mayo ClinicSAMHSA).

Dosage Guidelines

Suboxone should always be taken under the supervision of a healthcare professional, and the dosage should be adjusted according to the individual’s needs. The typical maintenance dosage for Suboxone ranges from 4 mg buprenorphine/1 mg naloxone up to 24 mg buprenorphine/6 mg naloxone, which is the maximum daily dose (Medical News Today).

The recommended target dosage for the sublingual film is 16 mg/4 mg buprenorphine/naloxone per day, taken as a single daily dose (Drugs.com). For Zubsolv, the recommended dosage is 11.4 mg buprenorphine/2.9 mg naloxone, also taken as a single dose once a day (Mayo Clinic).

Dosages higher than 24 mg/6 mg daily have not been proven to provide additional clinical benefits. It is essential to follow the prescribed dosage and method of administration, as misuse or overuse may lead to side effects or addiction (Drugs.com).

Overdose and Treatment

Suboxone is a medication primarily prescribed to treat opioid dependence. It contains a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, which work together to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings in individuals wishing to quit or reduce their opioid use. Overdoses on Suboxone can occur, but the likelihood is low when the medication is taken as directed by a doctor (Drugs.com).

An overdose on Suboxone can happen when a person ingests more than the recommended dose or mixes it with other substances, particularly other central nervous system depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines. Some symptoms of a Suboxone overdose may include difficulty breathing, extreme drowsiness or loss of consciousness, pinpoint pupils, and cold or clammy skin (Palm Beach Institute).

If an overdose is suspected, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention. Treatment for a Suboxone overdose often involves administering naloxone, which can reverse the effects of opioids and help restore normal breathing, stabilizing the patient’s condition (Harvard Health Blog). Depending on the severity of the overdose, other forms of treatment may include:

  • Supportive care, including monitoring vital signs and ensuring the person’s airways are clear.
  • Oxygen therapy, which may be necessary if the patient experiences difficulty breathing.
  • IV fluids, which can help maintain blood pressure and hydration levels.

Once the individual has been stabilized and the overdose symptoms have been addressed, further care may include counseling, therapy, and ongoing support through medication-assisted treatment programs, such as those involving Suboxone, to promote long-term recovery and reduce the risk of future overdoses.

Oxycodone FAQ’s

Is oxycodone addictive?

Oxycodone is a prescription pain medication and an opioid drug, similar to morphine, codeine, and methadone. It is found in products like Percocet, Oxycocet, and Endocet, as well as immediate-release (IR) products like Oxy-IR and controlled-release (CR) products like OxyContin (CAMH). Due to its opioid properties, oxycodone has a potential for addiction, especially when used improperly or over an extended period of time.

Long-term use of oxycodone can lead to dependency, and individuals may start to misuse the medication or seek it illicitly. Understanding the risks associated with oxycodone and taking the medication as prescribed can help reduce potential addiction and adverse effects.

Does oxycodone make you drowsy?

One of the common side effects of oxycodone is drowsiness. As an opioid analgesic, oxycodone suppresses pain signals in the nervous system, which can cause some additional side effects such as:

  • Drowsiness
  • Light-headedness
  • Increased sweating
  • Dizziness

These side effects are typically mild and may not be a cause for concern. However, if drowsiness or other side effects become severe or persistent, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for advice and possible adjustments to the medication.

It’s also essential to avoid undertaking tasks or engaging in activities that require alertness, like driving or operating heavy machinery, while taking oxycodone, as it may increase the risk of accidents due to its drowsiness-inducing effects.


Not all doctors have approval to prescribe this medication, and not all doctors provide counseling for addiction. Also, daily check-in at a treatment center can be helpful to recovery. Therefore, for most folks, a treatment center is the best place to receive medication for opioid addiction. People who say in a 90-day program have the best chance of success.

Be Careful

You need to be honest with your doctor, so you can get the correct dose. Your doctor will prescribe a low dose to start taking after you moderate withdrawal symptoms begin. Dose levels may be adjusted up as needed. Always take doses exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Suboxone can make you feel drowsy at first. Obviously, you should not drive or perform other high-risk tasks until you know how this medication affects you. You may take Suboxone for days, months, or years—as long as it is needed to prevent relapse. If you are stable in recovery and want to stop taking Suboxone, you must do it slowly, over time. This is called tapering. Tapering works best (with the help of your doctor or substance abuse counselor) after progress has been made in treatment.

Don’t skimp on the counseling and support

Medication is one part of treatment for opioid addiction. It’s important to have the opportunity to talk with a professional. You will learn about the motivations and behaviors that led to your opioid addiction. In group counseling, you connect with others in treatment and make new friends who don’t use drugs. You can get these benefits from support groups, too. These are informal meetings of people facing similar challenges. Support from family and friends is very important. Love and encouragement can help you make the decision to enter treatment and stick with it. Recovery is possible. But it takes work. After treatment is finished, everything is not automatically okay again. Recovery takes commitment every day, through treatment and beyond. Remember, addiction is a chronic brain disease. There is no medication that will “fix” you. Commit to a lifetime of recovery and a healthful lifestyle.

Suboxone. In high doses it works to treat people that are trying to kick their addiction with opiates. In lower doses, it can be prescribed to help with moderate chronic pain. Since it is prescribed to many people trying to overcome their opiate dependency, there are many individuals that have been taking this drug for extended periods of time.

Fast Facts

Suboxone What true and what is not

  • Suboxone helps with withdrawal symptoms so you can think and function normally. It is legal and taken under a doctor’s care. It is NOT just another drug to abuse.
  • Suboxone is produced under safe conditions and sold legally. There is no risk of getting tainted doses, which can happen with street drugs. Also, risk of overdose on this medication is very small.
  • You can stop taking Suboxone when you are ready.
  • You can become dependent on Suboxone, as with many medications taken over time. For this reason, if you wish to stop taking Suboxone, you should work with a substance abuse treatment provider to taper off. This prevents withdrawal symptoms from appearing.

Lifestyle Changes to get off of Suboxone

Change your diet – Medical Health Daily

  • A diet designed to boost endorphins and other mood enhancing chemicals can help the withdrawal process in addition to the emotional effects of ending an addiction.
  • High-quality proteins are important. You should aim to get in 20-30 grams of protein 3 times a day. Opt for lean proteins like chicken, fish, and turkey.
  • Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as heart healthy fats that are found in olive oils, canola oils, avocados, and nuts.
  • The consumption of sugar and processed foods should be limited, if not cut out altogether. Make sure to drink a lot of water. Most experts recommend eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but if you’re detoxing from suboxone you might need to drink a bit more.

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