Subutex Addiction

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What is Subutex Addiction?

Subutex is a brand name for buprenorphine, which is used to treat addiction to heroin and other types of opioid drugs. While treatment with Subutex does allow many people to lead productive lives due to its ability to prevent drug cravings and suppress withdrawal symptoms, it can also be addictive in its own right.

Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist-antagonist. It relieves pain like other opioids and is capable of causing euphoria, but the effects are not as strong as those of methadone or heroin, and the effects also level off at moderate doses. This means that there is no increase in euphoria, sedation, or respiratory depression, even if the user takes higher and higher doses. This is called a “ceiling effect,” and it makes Subutex safer, and less likely to be abused by individuals recovering from addictions to more potent opioids like heroin.

Subutex is one of the two buprenorphine medications used to treat opioid addiction; the other is called Suboxone which contains naloxone in addition to buprenorphine. These medications are proven effective in the treatment of opioid addiction but are dangerous and addictive when misused.

What are the Risks of Subutex Addiction?

Unfortunately, even though Subutex is meant to treat addiction and not to cause it, Subutex is capable of producing significant euphoria, resulting in dependence, and addiction. Increased availability of the medication has led to a rise in emergency department visits involving buprenorphine between 2005 and 2010, from 3,161 to 30,135. A little over half of the 30,135 ER visits in 2010 were instances of misuse (52%), and 13% were adverse reactions, but some were patients who were attempting to detox themselves from opiates.

Subutex addiction risk increases when users inject the drug intravenously, which can lead to infections such as meningitis, cutaneous abscesses, and endocarditis, as well as blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis and HIV. Overdose does infrequently occur by taking high doses of Subutex alone, but most often fatal overdoses are caused by the combination of buprenorphine with alcohol or benzodiazepines, which can cause death by respiratory depression and failure.

What are the Symptoms of Subutex Addiction?

Buprenorphine is only a partial opioid agonist, so it does not cause effects as intense as those induced by other, full agonists like heroin and methadone. However, if a person without a severe opioid dependency abuses the drug in high enough doses, it will cause a feeling of well-being, pain relief, and relaxation, all the effects for which opioid drugs are typically abused.

When Subutex is injected, there is an increased chance it could lead to compulsive use. The speed of addiction onset is often faster when the use of Subutex is their main drug of choice. (is this true? I can’t find the info to back it up)

Symptoms can occur with Subutex, even when taken as prescribed, such as:

  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Constipation
  • A headache
  • Rash, hives, itching
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Slowed breathing
  • Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
  • Slurred speech
  • Sexual dysfunction

Subutex abuse can also lead to withdrawal symptoms if the user attempts to quit or cut down. These symptoms include:

  • A runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Goosebumps
  • Muscle aches and pain

What are the Signs of Subutex Addiction?

If you are concerned someone may be suffering from Subutex addiction, here are the signs to look for in their behavior.  

An addicted individual will:

  • Take the drug more often than prescribed
  • Hide how much they use or lie
  • Isolate themselves from friends and family
  • Prioritize getting Subutex over other activities
  • Feel as though they cannot function without Subutex
  • Steal, or forge prescriptions for Subutex
  • Become hostile or defensive about their use
  • Keep using even when problematic (e.g., health problems, financial problems)

What to do if Someone You Love is Abusing Subutex?

If someone is abusing Subutex, it is essential to open up a dialog about their usage. Avoid enabling by denying there is a problem, and be prepared for resistance on their end. You can talk to a doctor about dosages, if you are concerned about your usage, or talk to an addiction specialist who can help identify the signs of abuse, and treatment options available.

Treatment is more likely to be successful if the patient is willing, and accepts that they have a problem. Interventions are also available if a user continues to be in denial and use Subutex despite severe adverse consequences.

Which Treatment Options are Available for Subutex Addiction?

If you or a loved one are addicted to Subutex, you need to get professional addiction treatment. When Subutex, a treatment for opioid addiction, is your primary drug of use, you naturally cannot take Subutex to help you recover from your addiction. Instead, you will need to be gradually weaned off buprenorphine with medical guidance. It would be best to undergo this weaning process while attending an addiction treatment center where your symptoms can be treated for your comfort and safety, and where the structure and security of a 24/7 treatment environment can keep you focused on recovery and protect you from relapse.