Patients may choose to drink alcohol while on Suboxone, but doing so does have risks.
Alcohol acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, thereby depressing the body’s respiratory drive.
Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is also considered a CNS (central nervous system) depressant.
When buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) and alcohol are mixed, there is increased risk for sedation, decreased respiratory drive, overdose, and death.
When taken as prescribed and at the appropriate dose, buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) should not make patients feel overly tired or sedated. However, if combined with other CNS depressants — like alcohol or benzodiazepines, AKA “benzos” (like Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, or Valium) — it can increase the risk of sedation, respiratory depression, overdose and death.
For these reasons, it is recommended that buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) NOT be combined with alcohol or benzos unless done so under the supervision of a medical provider.
Buprenorphine, the active medication in Suboxone, and alcohol are both CNS depressants. There is a risk, when combined, of enhancing each other’s sedative effects. This may include the following:
Although a stable, daily dose of Suboxone should not put you at risk of breathing problems or overdose, alcohol can enhance the sedative qualities in buprenorphine and increase the risk of over-sedation or even overdose.
Alcohol use while taking Suboxone complicates the ability of buprenorphine to help you overcome substance abuse patterns. This is called polysubstance use. While alcohol can be used while on Suboxone, it should be done so sparingly, particularly at first, so that an individual can judge the amount of alcohol that is safe for them to consume while concurrently on Suboxone.
Attending counseling alongside Suboxone treatment is the best approach to overcoming addiction, but your rehabilitation program must know to provide counseling for AUD as well as OUD.
Anyone who struggles with alcohol use disorder or who experiences delirium tremens, a life-threatening form of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, might still be a candidate for Suboxone, and should talk with their doctor openly about the fact that they are using both medications simultaneously.
No, suboxone does not dampen the effects of alcohol. If anything, a person may have more sedation and intoxication with the same amount of alcohol they used to consume once they start taking Suboxone. It is recommended to avoid drinking all together while first starting Suboxone, and then re-initiating alcohol use slowly and carefully once a patient is stable on their Suboxone dose.
Strictly speaking, Suboxone is a treatment for opioid use disorder, not alcohol use disorder. However, some limited medical studies suggests that buprenorphine can reduce alcohol drinking through certain brain activity associated with some opioid receptors. In addition, we know that preventing use of one substance also helps prevent the use of others. Many individuals tend to use multiple drugs at the same time. Thus, if an individual is using Suboxone to prevent use of opioids, they may also spend less time drinking alcohol. Thus, Suboxone doesn’t directly treat alcohol use disorder, but may lend itself to preventing individuals from being in situations where they are drinking or consuming other substances.
Drinking “socially” (in low to moderate amounts) may cause you to feel sleepy or sedated more quickly than normal while on Suboxone. If you have started Suboxone, you should re-initiate drinking slowly to ensure that you do not become overly sedated. Drinking alcohol excessively puts you at greater risk of suppressed or irregular breathing, opioid overdose symptoms, coma, and death, and is never recommended, on or off Suboxone.
There is no amount of alcohol that is considered entirely “safe,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is especially true for those taking prescription medications with sedative effects like Suboxone. All prescription guidelines for Suboxone state that you should not drink while taking Suboxone. However, if you do decide to consume low or moderate amounts of alcohol while on Suboxone, alert your doctor so that the two of you can make the best decisions together about your health.