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Is Buprenorphine (Suboxone) Addictive?
What's the difference between buprenorphine and Suboxone – and can you get addicted to these drugs?
Buprenorphine is a methadone like medication that has helped millions overcome addictions to opiates like heroin or opiate type pain pills, like oxycontin or vicodin.
Buprenorphine works similarly to methadone in that it substitutes for the drug of abuse. If you take buprenorphine (provided you are a suitable candidate) you can stop taking the drug you have been abusing and not feel any cravings to use, or pains of withdrawal.
Buprenorphine is preferred to methadone by many as it does not need to be taken under supervision. You can be prescribed a month's supply of buprenorphine and you do not need to visit a clinic every day as you would if you were taking methadone – which does need to be taken under supervision. Many people also report that buprenorphine has fewer side effects than methadone, and is easier to stop using.
Suboxone is an FDA approved medication for the treatment of opiate addiction. Suboxone contains Buprenorphine and Naloxone, in a 4:1 ratio. Buprenorphine therapy for the treatment of opiate addiction is most commonly given using Suboxone.
Subutex is a sublingual formulation of buprenorphine alone – with no nalexone added.
Is Suboxone Addictive?
Buprenorphine is considered a partial opiate agonist. It works in the brain on the opiate receptors and works just like other opiates. It can be understood as a very low powered opiate – and like all other opiates – it is addictive.
Because Suboxone contains buprenorphine, it is also an opiate, and is addictive like any other opiate.
By taking Suboxone – you are simply trading an addiction to a drug like heroin or oxycontin – for an addiction to buprenorphine.
Why is that a good idea?
Although buprenorphine is addictive, at recommended doses, it will not get you high, and even if you try to abuse it – it's not going to work very well. You can take suboxone and once again participate quite normally in society, without feeling cravings or withdrawal pains.
Also, although buprenorphine is physically addictive, and will cause a syndrome of withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop, these withdrawal symptoms are less severe than for other opiates, and far less severe than for long lasting methadone. Most people that taper down slowly off of suboxone will not suffer many symptoms of buprenorphine detox.
Symptoms can include:
- Muscle twitches
- Joint Pain'
- Leg restlessness
- Runny Nose
- Hot Flashes
- Goose pimples
Most people will experience only some of these symptoms, and many who taper off slowly enough do not complain that their withdrawal symptoms are that tough to bear.
Suboxone is just buprenorphine with an added medicinal ingredient.
Since buprenorphine is an opiate – Suboxone is also an opiate – and like all opiates – is addictive.
An addiction to buprenorphine is preferable to an addiction to a drug of abuse, as users of Suboxone will not get "high" and will be more easily able to taper down, if they choose. (Many people will use buprenorphine or Suboxone for years, or even indefinitely, in a long-term opiate maintenance program.
- SAMHSA Buprenorphine guidebook
The 200 page SAMHSA Buprenorphine info pack. PDF