What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a prescription medication used in the treatment of opioid addiction. It comes in the form of tablets and dissolvable films.

Suboxone is composed of two active ingredients, the opioid antagonist naloxone, and the opioid buprenorphine.

Opioid antagonists block opioid receptors and therefore work against the effects of opioids. For that purpose, naloxone alone is used in emergencies to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Buprenorphine, an opioid, is used to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and induce a measure of euphoria, while still blocking the mechanism of any other opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl. Without the presence of naloxone to block opioid receptors, however, buprenorphine would function the same as other opioids and carries the same risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose as all opioid medications do.

How Does Suboxone Work?

In combination, as suboxone, buprenorphine, and naloxone are believed to mitigate withdrawal symptoms while also providing some pain relief and reducing severe cravings induced by other opioids, such as fentanyl, oxycodone, or morphine.

Suboxone is given to people in treatment for opioid addiction to help manage the symptoms and dangers of withdrawals during opioid detoxification. Not infrequently, people seeking to recover from opioid addiction may continue the medication past detox as a way to try to curb cravings and the worst of the withdrawal symptoms so that they are stable enough to participate in their rehabilitation program.

In extreme cases where a person’s drug of choice is far more dangerous than suboxone, this harm reduction-minded approach may have some value.

It is important to understand that at best, suboxone should be used only in the very short term and that total abstinence from any form of opiates is necessary to recover fully. As long as some kind of opioid is still in the body, a person will not be able to begin a path of health, stability, and sobriety.

Understanding the Two Ingredients of Suboxone: Buprenorphine and Naloxone

Buprenorphine is a potent opioid. It is held that it behaves sometimes as an agonist, sometimes as a partial agonist, and sometimes as an antagonist, depending on which opioid receptors in the body are affected.

Buprenorphine’s main role is to get in the way of the mechanism of other, more dangerous opioids and to prevent the body from going into severe withdrawal reactions to the reduction of opioid levels.

Because it is an opioid, buprenorphine is a potentially dangerous substance and has significant side effects including the following:

  • Decreased breathing
  • Intestinal impacts
  • Low blood pressure
  • Opioid addiction

Buprenorphine has been touted as a safer way to taper off of high intake of opioids without such severity of withdrawals. Purportedly buprenorphine will suppress cravings and minimize withdrawal symptoms but without intense euphoria and sedation.

In suboxone, naloxone is paired with buprenorphine to further block the effects of opioids on the nervous system. The addition of naloxone is intended to be a safeguard against buprenorphine abuse and overdose, since as an opioid antagonist, naloxone blocks and counteracts the more dangerous effects of opioids. By limiting the amount of euphoria achievable through suboxone use, naloxone is meant to discourage relapse.

Through the combined mechanism of an opioid and an opioid antagonist, suboxone is supposed to reduce cravings and mitigate withdrawal symptoms, but not deliver a high to the user.

Is Suboxone Addiction Possible?

Yes, suboxone addiction is very much possible. Suboxone is less addictive than pure opioids due to its partially-antagonist aspects. The counteractive effects of naloxone make suboxone less addictive than buprenorphine alone. Nevertheless, any pharmaceutical product with an opioid ingredient carries the risk of opioid addiction.

Discontinuation of suboxone induces withdrawals in the form of nausea, pain, and headaches. It is deemed less likely to induce cravings as a part of the withdrawal process than other opioids. Proponents of suboxone believe that it has a so-called “ceiling”, by which they mean that increasing the amount and frequency of suboxone beyond a certain stage will not create a stronger euphoric effect, therefore patients are less likely to abuse it. It is possible, however, to develop tolerance, such that suboxone stops working for an individual.

How Addictive Is Suboxone?

Because of the operation of its opioid antagonist ingredient naloxone, suboxone is widely believed to be much less addictive than other opioids.

Nevertheless, suboxone has a prominent place in the illegal drug market, where opioid addicts are believed to use it in part to reduce their withdrawal symptoms, if not for its euphoric properties. In this application, a heroin or other opioid addict make take suboxone to manage withdrawals and side effects of their ongoing heroin use.

Long-term use of suboxone leads to tolerance, the phenomenon in which the same amount and frequency of dosage fail to do its “job” of pain management and withdrawal postponement. When discontinued suddenly, suboxone induces serious side effects, including the following:

  • Physical pain
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

What Are the Symptoms of Suboxone Overdose?

Like all opioids, suboxone carries a serious risk of lethal overdose. When used in high concentrations and/or in combination with other substances, suboxone becomes significantly more dangerous.

Signs of a suboxone overdose include the following:

  • Collapsing
  • Blurred vision
  • Tiny pupils (pupil constriction)
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Shallow slow or stopped breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of physical coordination
  • Sweating and chills
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Disorientation and anxiety

A serious suboxone overdose can also cause respiratory depression, meaning that the breath stops entirely, leading to brain damage, coma, and/or death.

What Are the Physical Symptoms of Suboxone Addiction?

Suboxone addiction is signaled, like all addictions, by the presence of dependence and tolerance. If using suboxone over time, and especially in combination with other substances, the chance of addiction is very high.

Signs That Suboxone Use Has Become Problematic Include

  • using suboxone in a way that is not prescribed by a physician
  • procuring suboxone without a prescription
  • using suboxone in a dosage that creates side effects for you, such as blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty thinking, drowsiness, shallow breathing, stomach pains, loss of appetite, and heart palpitations
  • psychological effects of suboxone use, such as poor memory, moodiness, erratic behavior, insomnia, and depression

What Are the Behavioral Symptoms of Suboxone Addiction?

Behavioral symptoms of suboxone addiction are similar to other addiction-based behaviors. In a medical context, lying to doctors to get suboxone and doctor shopping (going to many different doctors) in order to get more suboxone than you’re supposed to be taking, indicate the presence of addiction.

If seeking suboxone outside of a medical setting, including using suboxone prescribed to someone else, or procuring suboxone illegally, addiction is underway.

Beyond these drug-seeking behaviors, typical addiction behaviors include lying about one’s use, dependence, amount, and frequency of use, and returning to overusing after sincerely intending to get off the substance.

What Is the Difference Between Addiction and Compulsion?

Although the terms are used sometimes interchangeably, addictions and compulsions are different phenomena.

Addictions have compulsions associated with them, which are explained by the addiction itself. In service of the need to get high, addicted people have compulsive behaviors, which are behaviors over which they feel they have no control. For example, an addict compulsively ingests her substance, without being able to stop herself from the destructive behavior.

Compulsions can also exist outside of the context of addiction, however, as in the case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, when one may suffer from compulsive behaviors, without addiction. For instance, one may have an unwanted compulsion to check that the front door is locked multiple times before one is able to leave for work.

While compulsion and addiction are similar concepts, the distinction is generally made that the compulsions associated with addiction are driven by a need to experience a payoff state, a high or euphoria. By contrast, compulsions alone are largely joyless experiences, more centered on warding off states of extreme dread and fear than on experiencing pleasure per se.

What Are Some Suboxone Side Effects?

Suboxone has many side effects. Even when used according to a doctor’s advisement, suboxone side effects are identified as the following:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Side effects are more severe when suboxone is abused and/or used in combination with other substances, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines. Because interactions between substances are often not studied in clinical trials, some of these negative effects were only discovered in practice. For example, when combining suboxone with alcohol or another sedative, difficulty breathing and throat closing can occur as an allergic reaction to the combination of the substances.

What Are the Suboxone Treatment Phases?

Suboxone treatment when used to address opioid addiction has four stages.
The first stage, the induction stage, is the introduction of suboxone into your system.


It is necessary to be in a state of moderate opiate withdrawal before beginning suboxone, otherwise, there is a risk of severe and sudden withdrawal. The length of time, before it is safe to begin suboxone treatment, is determined by the opioid or opiate from which you are withdrawing.

Substances that exit the body more quickly, like heroin and oxycodone, allow you to begin suboxone within 24 hours after stopping use. Other opioids, like methadone, require a longer waiting period before suboxone use can begin, because of the longer time it takes for methadone to exit your system and induce opioid withdrawal. The induction phase begins when suboxone is introduced to the body.


The stabilization phase is a one to two-month phase in which a patient undergoing suboxone treatment steadies around a stable dose of suboxone. Stabilization is suggested to last until the patient feels strong and able to resist the urge to use any other opiates.


In the maintenance stage, patients are intended to receive a steady dose of suboxone designed to support them as they continue to improve and repair their life circumstances, participate in therapy, and make positive behavioral changes. No time limit is given for this stage, so it is important to balance any positive effects of suboxone maintenance over the considerable risks of continued opioid use.

Ending Treatment

Ending suboxone use requires tapering down to avoid the severe effects of withdrawals. The ending treatment phase ends when suboxone has been completely discontinued, without a return to any other opioid.

Is Suboxone Safe?

Suboxone is not safe for ongoing, permanent use. Suboxone has serious side effects and health risks, including addictiveness. Overdose can be lethal, and damages to the body and brain induced by suboxone abuse are significant.

In the short term, suboxone might be a helpful assist for some people in the context of a medically supervised detoxification protocol with the goal of getting off of opioids entirely.

Suboxone is a Schedule 3 controlled substance, requiring a special kind of prescription from a physician meeting certain requirements. That means it is not as dangerous as Schedule 1 and 2 drugs, but it is still more dangerous than Schedule 4 and 5 class substances.

How Can I Find Treatment for Suboxone Addiction?

Participate in therapy for suboxone addictionWhile some addiction treatment centers may specialize in suboxone addiction recovery, any qualified addiction treatment center should be able to help you become abstinent from suboxone. Suboxone addiction is almost identical to other opioid addictions and can be treated in the same way.

It is important to seek a medically assisted detox in the case of suboxone addiction, rather than going cold turkey and suddenly discontinuing on your own. This is so that any potentially severe or life-threatening withdrawals are mitigated and monitored by professionals.

You will need to attend some form of treatment for your addiction, as well, residential if possible (checking into a rehab), or outpatient as the next best choice, depending on the seriousness of your case.

Some psychologists specialize in opioid addiction, and more and more treatment centers offer suboxone-specific support. You may like to use the SAMHSA online treatment finder to find the treatment closest to you: Find Treatment

Villa Kali Ma Provides Suboxone Addiction Treatment for Women

illa Kali Ma Provides Suboxone Addiction Treatment for WomenAt Villa Kali Ma, we welcome women who are seeking relief from addiction to suboxone and any/all other substances. We are equipped to provide you with medically supervised detox, residential treatment, and a complete package of outpatient and aftercare services. Everything you need from start to finish will be provided as part of your treatment.

We are a unique healing environment that combines the best of the Western medical model with alternative health, indigenous practices, and wisdom teachings from around the world. Through deep lifestyle changes of body, mind, and spirit, we help put you back on your feet for a new, different way of living your life.

Villa Kali Ma Outpatient Treatment for Women

3790 Via De La Valle # 313
Del Mar, CA 92014

(760) 903-5758


Call Villa Kali Ma at (760) 350-3131 or contact us to learn about our Intensive Outpatient Program for women.


It was the best 30 days of my life.


Villa Kali Ma provides a holistic, supportive, therapeutic retreat for women to recover from trauma & substance disorders. The intensive and comprehensive approach provides a compassionate path of learning, awareness, and self-love for healing. I am grateful for the sacred space provided for my reflection, my mind-body-spirit work, and my opportunity to connect with other women in this process.


Villa Kali Ma changed my life in every single aspect. Not only did the experience help me get sober and stay sober for over a year now, but I was finally able to work on my past trauma in a safe and stable environment. Not a day goes by that I’m not using a healthy tool they taught me. I am forever grateful to the staff and strong women I spent my time with there. Truly the most profound life changing month of my life.





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Licensed by the State of California: Department of Health Care Services

Villa Kali Ma is an in-network provider with Anthem BCBS, Multiplan, First Health, Healthnet, and currently accepts most
PPO plans with out-of-network benefits. Call (760) 350-3131 for information on cost and payment options.