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Snorting Suboxone: Is it Dangerous?

Elena Hill, MD, MPH profile image
Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH • Updated Sep 16, 2023 • 9 cited sources

Snorting Suboxone is dangerous. Ingredients inside Suboxone tablets aren’t made to connect with nasal tissues. Sniffing them can lead to burning, stinging, and tingling sensations, microvascular tears, nasal bleeding, infection, tissue damage, etc.

In addition, snorting Suboxone can also lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if you’re also using drugs like heroin and Vicodin.

If you’re tempted to misuse your Suboxone, talk to your treatment team. Your overall treatment plan may need some adjustment to ensure you stay on track. 

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is the brand name for a combination of a partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine, and an opioid receptor blocker, naloxone.[1]

Modern opioid use disorder treatment has been revolutionized with buprenorphine, which can bind to opioid receptors in the brain and prevent withdrawal and cravings without triggering strong feelings of being “high.”[2]

Buprenorphine also has a relatively low risk of overdose by respiratory depression. This helps people who are dealing with problematic use of opioids like heroin or fentanyl by easing cravings and other physical and mental sensations associated with withdrawal. Ultimately, it aids the recovery process.

Adding naloxone to buprenorphine reduces the risk that people will misuse Suboxone by taking it in ways that are not prescribed, such as by snorting it. When the medication is not taken sublingually — for example, when it is snorted —naloxone prevents the partial opioid agonist from binding to brain receptors and protects against an overdose. [3]

What Happens When You Snort Suboxone?

Crushing Suboxone tablets and then snorting them can lead to burning, stinging, and tingling sensations, microvascular tears, nasal bleeding, infection, tissue damage, etc. This can be quite dangerous.

Does Snorting Suboxone Get You High?

Snorting Suboxone won’t usually get you high. If snorted, the Naloxone component of buprenorphine will kick in and block the analgesic/euphoric effects of buprenorphine. This is designed this way intentionally to prevent people from attempting to misuse Suboxone by snorting or injecting it. 

Other Side Effects of Snorting Suboxone

Other than experiencing withdrawal symptoms and the overdose risk, potential side effects of snorting Suboxone include the following:

  • Burning sensation in the nose
  • Tingling in or around the nose
  • Stinging feelings in the sinus cavities and throat
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling thirsty

Long-term problems include the following:

  • Relapsing into drug misuse and all its associated negative consequences, including overdose and death
  • Damaging the tissues in the nose and throat

About Suboxone Misuse

Suboxone is formulated so that its misuse potential is low. Though it is still technically possible to misuse this substance, euphoric effects are minimal, especially in people who are using other opioids at high doses and are tolerant.

Other medications used to treat opioid use disorder have more misuse potential than Suboxone, including methadone.  Methadone, a full opioid agonist, has a much higher misuse potential than Suboxone. Because of the Naloxone component of Suboxone, it is less likely to be misused than buprenorphine alone. [6]

The Benefits of Suboxone Treatment

Suboxone is extremely important for the millions of people in the United States seeking to overcome substance use. In 2018, more people died from opioid overdoses than from the peaks of HIV, gun violence, or car accidents. [7]

Suboxone has been a game-changer in preventing relapse to opioid use. Peer-reviewed studies consistently show that medications for opioid use disorder, specifically Suboxone, reduce relapse rates and improve long-term recovery rates.[8,9]

Suboxone treatment is increasingly available as a prescription outpatient option through telemedicine services like Bicycle Health.

Treatment for Suboxone Misuse 

If you’re misusing your addiction treatment medications, talk to your team. You may need additional therapy to keep your substance use disorder under control, or you might benefit from a different type of medication.

If you don’t have a prescription for Suboxone and you’re misusing it, talk to your doctor about treatment. Buying Suboxone from dealers isn’t safe. A comprehensive treatment program that combines medications and therapy could be what you need to get your life back on track.

Medically Reviewed By 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 ... Read More

  1. Buprenorphine/Naloxone (Suboxone). National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). January 2021. Accessed December 2021. 
  2. Buprenorphine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). May 2021. Accessed December 2021. 
  3. Intelligence Bulletin: Buprenorphine: Potential for Abuse. National Drug Intelligence Center. September 2004. Accessed December 2021. 
  4. Tompkins CN, Wright NM, Waterman MG, Sheard L. Exploring prison buprenorphine misuse in the United Kingdom: a qualitative study of former prisoners. Int J Prison Health. 2009;5(2):71-87. doi:10.1080/17449200902880482. 
  5. Determination That SUBUTEX (Buprenorphine Hydrochloride) Sublingual Tablets, Equivalent 2 Milligrams Base and Equivalent 8 Milligrams Base, Were Not Withdrawn from Sale for Reasons of Safety or Effectiveness. Federal Register. February 2015. Accessed December 2021. 
  6. Jones JD, Sullivan MA, Vosburg SK, et al. Abuse potential of intranasal buprenorphine versus buprenorphine/naloxone in buprenorphine-maintained heroin users. Addict Biol. 2015;20(4):784-798. doi:10.1111/adb.12163. 
  7. Velander JR. Suboxone: Rationale, Science, Misconceptions. Ochsner J. 2018;18(1):23-29. PMID: 29559865. 
  8. Connery, Hilary Smith. Medication-Assisted Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder: Review of the Evidence and Future Directions. Harvard Review of Psychiatry. March/April 2015. Accessed January 2022.  
  9. Walsh, Sharon L.; Nuzzo, Paul A.; Babalonis, Shanna; Casselton, Victoria; Lofwall, Michelle R. Intranasal Buprenorphine Alone and in Combination With Naloxone: Abuse Liability and Reinforcing Efficacy in Physically Dependent Opioid Users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. May 2016. Accessed January 2022.
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