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Can You Snort Suboxone? Myths & Dangers

You can't snort Suboxone without a lot of effort. The medication is typically sold as a dissolvable strip, not a powder. To snort it, you'd dissolve the strip in some kind of solution, heat the liquid, and snort up anything left behind.

Do all this work, and you're still unlikely to get high. Suboxone's two active ingredients come with built-in misuse protections.

Even though few people actually snort Suboxone strips, it's worth understanding why some people might try - usually unsuccessfully-  and how it could be dangerous. 

Why Do People Try Snorting Suboxone?

Years ago, pharmacists sold Suboxone in pill form. People would buy them, crush them, and smoke the powder.[1] Nowadays, most Suboxone is dispensed in a film or strip form, both because it is readily absorbed sublingually in this way but also because it is more difficult to misuse in strip form by snorting or smoking.

Suboxone's two ingredients make misuse difficult:[3]

  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. It attaches to opioid receptors, just like heroin. However, unlike heroin which is a full opioid agonist, Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist, thus it can provide only a small high even if taken in excess and has a much lower risk of overdose than heroin for that reason. 
  • Naloxone: Naloxone is not absorbed when a person takes the suboxone sublingually as prescribed. However, were the individual to attempt to inject the Suboxone, the Naloxone is absorbed along with the buprenorphine. It binds to receptors preferentially in the body over the buprenorphine and prevents the individual from getting high or overdosing. In this way, buprenorphine is included in Suboxone as a way of reducing misuse and risk for overdose. 

Suboxone is so safe that it's hard to overdose, even if snorted or injected. [4]

Side Effects of Snorting Buprenorphine 

People rarely attempt to snort Suboxone because generally it doesn’t work very well to “get high”. In addition, snorting can have some risky side effects, including: 

Interactions

People who sniff Suboxone often do so while taking other drugs. You could mix your Suboxone with something like crushed benzodiazepines or heroin in powdered form. Many people who overdose on buprenorphine are using other drugs at the same time. When doctors conduct autopsies, they find multiple drugs in their bodies.[5] Therefore the actual overdose is likely from other substances, although snorting the Suboxone can potentiate the effects of other substances and increase the risk of an overdose. 

Substitutions

Some people hope to skip the hassle of making powder from Suboxone strips, and they buy powder from dealers who tell them that it is Suboxone [6]. This is incredibly dangerous because, as explained above, Suboxone is hard to obtain in powder form, which means that the powder may not actually be Suboxone, but potentially something more dangerous like oxycodone, heroin or fentanyl. 

Tissue Damage

Drugs made for digestion aren't designed to touch your nasal passages. Snorting drugs can lead to the following:[7]

  • Sinus infections
  • Damaged nasal blood vessels
  • Infections like hepatitis C (if you share snorting implements)

What Should You Do If You Are Tempted To Misuse Your Suboxone?

If you have a prescription for Suboxone and you're tempted to misuse it, stop and talk with your treatment team. You may need a different form of therapy, or you may need a dose adjustment to keep cravings in check.

These cravings are a sign that something about your treatment plan needs adjustment. Recovery is a long-term process, and with the right support, you can keep your opioid use disorder managed.

If you don't have a prescription for Suboxone but you're tempted to misuse it, stop and talk with your doctor. You could benefit from addiction treatment to attain lasting sobriety.

References

  1. Intelligence Bulletin—Buprenorphine: Potential for Abuse. National Drug Intelligence Center. https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs10/10123/index.htm. September 2004. Accessed June 2022.
  1. Buprenorphine Sniffing as a Response to Inadequate Care in Substituted Patients: Results from the Subazur Survey in Southeastern France. Addiction Behaviors. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18775604/. August 2008. Accessed June 2022. 
  1. Prescribing Information: Suboxone. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.suboxone.com/pdfs/prescribing-information.pdf. March 2021. Accessed June 2022. 
  1. Buprenorphine: Toxicity and Overdose. Emergency Medicine News. https://journals.lww.com/em-news/fulltext/2009/01000/buprenorphine__toxicity_and_overdose.6.aspx. January 2009. Accessed June 2022. 
  1. TDH Finds Some Overdose Deaths Associated with Buprenorphine. Tennessee Department of Health. https://www.tn.gov/health/news/2018/1/8/tdh-finds-some-overdose-deaths-associated-with-buprenorphine.html. January 2018. Accessed June 2022. 
  1. Health Officials Warn of Rise in Deaths from Counterfeit Pills. Multnomah County Oregon. https://www.multco.us/multnomah-county/news/health-officials-warn-rise-deaths-counterfeit-pills. April 2020. Accessed June 2022. 
  1. Snorting. Dan. https://dan247.org.uk/snorting/. Accessed June 2022. 

Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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