Does Suboxone make you tired?

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Suboxone can make you feel sleepy at first, but this is less common in people who have previously been taking opioids.

Side effects, like fatigue,  usually improve in the first few days as your body gets used to the medication. 

Suboxone & Fatigue

Tiredness, sedation, and drowsiness are listed as potential side effects of Suboxone and other medications that contain buprenorphine.[1] 

These effects are most common during the early days and weeks of treatment. 

When you start taking Suboxone, it’s recommended that you monitor your symptoms, observing how the medication affects you. You shouldn’t drive or operate other heavy machinery during this time. Wait until you know the effects of Suboxone for you.

Why Does Suboxone Make You Tired?

Suboxone activates the opioid receptors in the brain, so in some ways, it works similarly to opioids but without causing a high. 

As a partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine is weaker than full opioid agonists, such as heroin and methadone.[2] It won’t slow breathing and heart rate to the same degree as these full opioid agonist drugs, but it can still have a somewhat sedating effect. This is why you may feel a bit tired when you first start taking Suboxone.

As your body adjusts to the consistent presence of the medication, this side effect will lessen. After a few days or weeks, you likely will no longer feel tired due to Suboxone.

How Often Does This Happen?

Like all medications, Suboxone doesn’t affect everyone in exactly the same way. Genetics, age, sex, metabolism, and history of substance use (including the type of opioid used and the duration and intensity of use) all factor into which side effects may be experienced and their intensity. 

Some people experience little to no drowsiness or fatigue when they start Suboxone therapy, whereas others may feel quite tired in the first few days of treatment. 

If you are experiencing extreme fatigue, talk to your doctor. They may adjust your dosage in an attempt to lessen this symptom. In the first few weeks of treatment, your dosage schedule will likely change as your body adjusts to the medication and its effects are monitored.

How Can You Reduce Suboxone-Related Fatigue? 

Lower energy levels and sleepiness can be difficult to manage in the early phase of recovery. Remember that you are just starting your journey to recovery, and there is an early adjustment period. 

Here are some tips to help you manage Suboxone-related fatigue:

  • Be patient. When you first begin any new medication, including Suboxone, your body needs some time to adjust to it. Though you may feel tired now, this symptom is likely to lessen significantly within a few days or weeks.
  • Exercise. Though it can seem counterintuitive, exercise can help to combat fatigue. Even taking a gentle walk can help to offset some of the drowsiness you feel. In one study, study participants experienced a greater reduction in fatigue after a short exercise session than when they consumed 50 mg of caffeine.[3]
  • Meditate. Some deep breathing can also help you to feel refreshed, increasing energy levels and improving focus abilities.[4] Taking a few moments to breathe deeply can increase blood flow and reduce overall stress. Adding some gentle stretching, such as yoga poses, can increase the benefits.
  • Boost nutrition. Your treatment team can help you design a healthy eating plan that supports your overall health and recovery goals. A diet rich in nutrients will help you to feel better and boost energy levels.
  • Rest. While your body adjusts to Suboxone and life in recovery, sleep is incredibly important. A study on the effects of sleep in those in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) found that higher amounts of sleep were directly correlated to lower cravings for opioids.[5] 

Overall Improvement in Sleep

While you may feel tired in the first few days of Suboxone treatment, rest assured that this will likely improve with time. 

One study published in the Austin Journal of Drug Abuse and Addiction found that study participants experienced improvements in sleep quality and quantity after 90 days of buprenorphine treatment.[6]  For most people better sleep will help people feel more energetic during the day. 

If you are concerned about the possibility that Suboxone is causing you to feel over-sedated or fatigued, talk to your health care provider. They might be able to adjust your dosage schedule and will help you determine if a change in your treatment is needed.

SOURCES

  1. Does Subutex Make Your Sleepy? Drugs.com. https://www.drugs.com/medical-answers/subutex-make-you-sleepy-3558041/. May 2021. Accessed March 2022.
  2. Buprenorphine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/buprenorphine. March 2022. Accessed March 2022.
  3. Exercise Versus Caffeine: Which Is Your Best Ally to Fight Fatigue? Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/exercise-versus-caffeine-which-is-your-best-ally-to-fight-fatigue-2017060811843. July 2017. Accessed March 2022.
  4. Yoga, Meditation Improve Brain Function and Energy Levels, Study Shows. University of Waterloo. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170906103416.htm. September 20170. Accessed March 2020. 
  5. Sleep Quality and Emotions Affect Opioid Addiction Recovery. Penn State. https://www.psu.edu/news/research/story/sleep-quality-and-emotions-affect-opioid-addiction-recovery/. January 2017. Accessed March 2020.
  6. Self-Reported Sleep Improvement in Buprenorphine MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) Population. Austin Journal of Drug Abuse and Addiction. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5270620/. July 2016. Accessed March 2020.

Medically Reviewed By Claire Wilcox, MD

Claire Wilcox, MD, is a general and addiction psychiatrist in private practice and an associate professor of translational neuroscience at the Mind Research Network in New Mexico; and has completed an addictions fellowship, psychiatry residency, and internal medicine residency. Having done extensive research in the area, she is an expert in the neuroscience of substance use disorders. Although she is interested in several topics in medicine and psychiatry, with a particular focus on substance use disorders, obesity, eating disorders, and chronic pain, her primary career goal is to help promote recovery and wellbeing for people with a range of mental health challenges.

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