Suboxone: What it is and What it Does

Suboxone is one of the most commonly used narcotic antagonist intended to block the effects of opiate receptors in the brain. Suboxone is actually a combination of two different drugs – buprenorphine and naloxone – that work synergistically to exert its effects particularly in negating the different issues seen in narcotic analgesics as well as other opioids. This negates the pain relief, euphoria, and relaxation that are provided by opioids.

A Word of Caution

Before taking Suboxone it is important to understand that it has the potential to slow down your rate of breathing or worse, stop it completely. It is thus, important to take Suboxone exactly as your doctor has instructed you to.

It is not surprising to know that Suboxone can be habit-forming simply because it also acts on the same receptors that are affected by opiates. As such, it should be kept out of reach especially of children as well as other individuals who do not have a clinical need for such medications. This is especially true for an individual who may have a history of substance abuse or addiction as the habit-forming effects of Suboxone may be construed as beneficial effects similar to those obtained from other addicting substances. More importantly, misuse of narcotic drugs can lead to overdose or addiction or, in worse cases, even death.

Precautions before Taking Suboxone

Since Suboxone is a very potent drug, it should be used with caution in the following conditions or circumstances.

  • History of mental illness
  • History of seizures, brain tumor, or head injuries
  • History of substance abuse including drugs and alcohol addiction
  • Kidney problems such as issues in urination and enlargement of the prostate
  • Known allergy to one or both of Suboxone’s components, naloxone and burprenorphine
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Problems in the backbone which may have an effect on breathing
  • Problems in the thyroid gland, the adrenal glands, and the gallbladder
  • Respiratory problems especially difficuly breathing

If you have any of the above conditions or circumstances, it is important to check with your doctor before taking Suboxone. It is also important to understand that selling or giving Suboxone to anyone else is illegal and is punishable by law.

Side Effects of Suboxone

As Suboxone acts on the central nervous system, it can produce a variety of side effects, the most common of which include the following.

  • Body pains
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Increased sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness or redness in the oral cavity
  • Pain in the tongue
  • Swelling of the limbs

Aside from these, Suboxone is also known to produce a severe allergic reaction to individuals who are hypersensitive to either buprenorphine or naloxone or both. In such cases, the individual may experience difficulty breathing, the emergence of hives or itchy rashes, and swelling in the face including the throat, the tongue, and the lips.

You should immediate see your doctor or, even better, visit the nearest emergency medical services if you suddenly develop any of the following.

  • Blurred vision
  • Clay-colored feces
  • Confusion
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Extreme weakness
  • Itching
  • Lightheadedness bordering passing out
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the upper abdominal area
  • Slurring of speech
  • Weak or shallow breathing
  • Withdrawal symptoms which can include diarrhea, muscle pain, shivering, vomiting, watery eyes, extreme temperatures, and runny nose
  • Yellowing of the mucus membranes especially the eyes and the skin

Taking Suboxone

Because of the misuse and habit-forming potential of Suboxone, there are very specific guidelines on how it should be taken.

  • Suboxone should only be taken as directed by medical professionals. However it is taken that is other than the doctor’s instructions is considered misuse and hence, has the potential for abuse. If misused, it can lead to overdose which can result in respiratory arrest and death.
  • Suboxone is taken sublingually, meaning it should be placed under the tongue. It should never be taken like a tablet and swallowed. It should also not be crushed nor chewed. To help in the sublingual administration, you can moisten your oral cavity by drinking a glass of water before placing Suboxone under the tongue.
  • If you have to stop taking Suboxone, do it gradually, usually by decreasing the amount of the dose over a period of time; lest, you also experience withdrawal symptoms. If you’re not sure how to taper your dose, ask your doctor for assistance. Never attempt to stop it abruptly.
  • Make sure to obtain frequent liver function tests to ascertain your liver is still healthy as Suboxone is considered toxic to the liver especially in higher doses.
  • Always bring with you an ID card which informs others that you’re taking Suboxone. An alternative is to wear some form of a medical alert tag. It is equally important to inform your family members about your taking Suboxone so they know what they need to say in case of an emergency.
  • Never tamper with the presentation of Suboxone. It should never be crushed or diluted and snorted or injected into your vein, respectively. These have been shown to result in death.
  • Always store your Suboxone in its foil pouch. Once the foil pouch has been opened, Suboxone must be used immediately. Always discard empty foil pouches in appropriate containers. Store your Suboxone at room temperature and away from heat and moisture.
  • Always keep a record of your Suboxone use including the number of pills you started and the remaining amount.
  • If you have unused Suboxone films or tablets, do not keep them. Instead, ask your pharmacist about drug take-back disposal programs. If such programs are unavailable, make sure to remove all unused films or tablets from their packaging and flush all of them down the toilet.
  • If you missed a dose, take the dose as soon as possible. However, if it’s almost time for your next dose, then skip it completely. Don’t add the missed dose to your next dose.
  • While on Suboxone treatment, don’t drink alcohol. Death can ensue when these two substances are mixed.
  • Avoid operating machinery including driving your vehicle while on Suboxone.

Suboxone can be an excellent drug for treating opiate addiction. However, because of its potential for abuse, it should be taken as directed.

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