Subutex Addiction

Subutex is a brand name drug that is used to treat dependence on and addiction to heroin and other types of opioid drugs. While it does allow many people to lead productive lives due to its ability to prevent drug cravings, it can also be addictive in its own right. Subutex addiction becomes a problem for people who abuse it or use it in the wrong way.

The drug contains buprenorphine which, according to the NLM, is “in a class of medications called opioid partial agonist-antagonists.” Subutex is one of the two medications used to treat opioid addiction; the other is called Suboxone and also contains naloxone in addition to buprenorphine.

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Subutex: An Addictive Addiction Treatment

Unfortunately, even though Subutex is meant to treat addiction and not to cause it, some people abuse the drug until they become addicted to it. According to the FDA, “Like other opioids commonly abused, buprenorphine is capable of producing significant euphoria.” Certain individuals may use the drug illicitly for this reason and become addicted to it. “Data from other countries indicate that buprenorphine has been abused by various routes of administration (sublingual, intranasal, and injection) and has gained popularity as a heroin substitute and as a primary drug of abuse.”

All of these methods of abuse can eventually cause an individual to become addicted to Subutex. Especially when a drug is injected, it is likely to lead to compulsive use more quickly. It is very possible for someone to become addicted to Subutex, especially if the drug is abused as their primary drug choice.

Buprenorphine is only a partial opioid agonist so it does not cause effects as intense as those caused by other, full agonists like heroin and methadone. However, if a person abuses the drug in high enough doses, it will cause euphoria, pain relief, and relaxation, all the effects for which opioid drugs are normally abused.

Subutex vs. Suboxone

Subutex Addiction

Subutex has a higher abuse and addiction potential than Suboxone.

Subutex is in more danger of this type of abuse than the other buprenorphine brand drug, Suboxone. The latter medication also contains naloxone which protects it from certain levels of abuse. When a person crushes a Suboxone tablet in order to snort or inject it, the naloxone inside precipitates the individual’s withdrawal syndrome. This keeps many people from trying to abuse Suboxone.

However, Subutex does not cause this result and, therefore, it is more often abused than its counterpart. According to the FDA, “Subutex is given during the first few days of treatment, while Suboxone is used during the maintenance phase of treatment.” The former drug is necessary when an individual is experiencing severe withdrawal and needs the full effects of buprenorphine alone which is why it is marketed this way. Still, it puts Subutex in more danger of being abused and increases the possibility of addiction to the drug.

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How Can I Avoid Subutex Addiction?

There are several actions you can take to help you avoid the possibility of addiction to Subutex. First, do not ever take the drug in higher doses or in more frequent doses than you were prescribed to. This is similar to abusing other opioid drugs and can lead to compulsive drug use over time. Subutex may only contain a partial opioid agonist, but it can cause addiction if abused over time. This is why you should only “take buprenorphine… exactly as directed” (NLM).

You should also attend addiction treatment while taking Subutex. The drug cannot cure your addiction to opioids; it can only treat and manage your symptoms. These symptoms include those caused by withdrawal and the cravings you feel for opioid drugs. You must also attend therapy sessions at a treatment center or with a drug counselor in order to more easily avoid abusing Subutex and to achieve a more stable and thorough recovery. According to SAMHSA, “This point is of such importance that physicians must attest to their capacity to refer patients for counseling when they submit their Notification of Intent… to begin prescribing buprenorphine products.”

The best way you can avoid Subutex addiction is to take the medication as directed and supplement its use with regular therapy sessions. However, you should also consider the following:

  • Talk to someone any time you feel tempted to abuse Subutex. It will be better to admit that you are struggling than to keep it to yourself.
  • Stay with a friend or family member during your Subutex treatment, especially for the first few weeks.
  • Avoid going places and seeing people who could trigger your drug abuse, especially in the beginning of your treatment.

How Do I Know if Someone is Addicted to Subutex?

It can be easy to determine whether or not someone’s Subutex use has fallen into the realm of abuse. But how do you know if it has become a full-blown addiction? Look for the signs listed below in order to discover just how dangerous your loved one’s Subutex use has become.

An addicted individual will

  • Take the drug more often than they were prescribed to
  • Make excuses in order to do so
  • Become extremely isolated from their loved ones
  • Feel that they cannot function without taking the drug
  • Possibly steal or forge prescriptions for Subutex in order to obtain more of the drug
  • Buy Subutex illegally
  • Become hostile when asked about their drug use
  • Experience extreme side effects as a result of their Subutex abuse including the opioid withdrawal syndrome which causes
    • Runny nose
    • Sweating
    • Insomnia
    • Fever
    • Irritability
    • Goosebumps
    • Muscle aches and pain

Why Don’t More Drug Addiction Treatment Centers Use Medication-Assisted Treatment?

A person who has become addicted to Subutex will also experience many of the same side effects they did when they were abusing opioids, including

  • Flushing
  • Constricted pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Pain relief
  • Confusion
  • Breathing problems

All addictions are dangerous, and when someone abuses Subutex, they can experience an addiction syndrome just as harmful as those associated with other commonly abused opioids. According to the FDA, “Buprenorphine and all products containing buprenorphine are controlled in Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act” (FDA 1). This is because, although they are meant to treat and help a person recover from an addiction syndrome, they can also be the cause of abuse and addiction. The misuse of Subutex is dangerous and can lead to compulsive drug seeking in the same way other opioids can.

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