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Why You Should Not Inject Suboxone: The Dangerous Side Effects

People might inject Suboxone in an attempt to get high, but it won’t work. Instead, it will likely cause other undesirable effects.

Tampering with Suboxone and injecting it means the medication will not work as intended and will likely cause withdrawal-like symptoms. It may also lead to dangerous complications such as blood clots, skin infections and vein damage.

The Dangerous Side Effects of Shooting Suboxone

“Shooting” Suboxone, or tampering with the medication to take it intravenously, is dangerous. Injecting it can result in:

  • Relapse. If your opioid use disorder was previously controlled on Suboxone, beginning to inject the medication indicates or will lead to a loss of that control and return to problematic opioid use.  Speak with your treatment provider immediately if feeling compelled to inject Suboxone.
  • Damage to the body. Suboxone is not designed to be injected. Tampering with the drug can cause blood clots, damage to your skin and veins, and even infection at the injection site.
  • Withdrawal-like Symptoms. Tampering with Suboxone is likely to make naloxone available to the body. This medication was designed to temporarily stop opioid overdoses. When it is added to buprenorphine in Suboxone, it hampers the medicine’s ability to be abused, which can cause withdrawal symptoms instead of a high.
  • No euphoric effect. If you inject Suboxone in an attempt to get high, it won’t work.

Is It Possible to Get High Injecting Suboxone?

No, you won’t get high from injecting Suboxone. The medication will not cause any euphoric effects in people with any opioid tolerance.

Suboxone is designed specifically to deter intravenous abuse. The presence of naloxone, along with the “ceiling effect” of buprenorphine, significantly reduces the abuse potential of the drug.

The naloxone in Suboxone means that you are likely to experience no more positive effects from injecting this drug than by taking it sublingually. Instead, you will likely experience uncomfortable withdrawal-like symptoms.

Suboxone Abuse

If you abuse Suboxone, you are more likely to experience uncomfortable side effects.[3]

  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia, trouble falling asleep, or problems staying asleep
  • Pain in the mouth or tongue
  • Blurry vision
  • Back pain

Overdose

Suboxone has no overdose potential when taken as prescribed. Even if abused, it is difficult to overdose on Suboxone. In fact, for a person with tolerance to the medication it only happens if the medication is mixed with benzodiazepines, alcohol, or other depressants. This is similar to how you can overdose on Benadryl if it is mixed with other drugs.

This is because it is very difficult to bypass the “ceiling effect” of Suboxone.

If you have opioid use disorder, it’s always important to be aware of opioid overdose symptoms, so you can recognize them and call 911. Symptoms include the following:

  • Extreme sleepiness, drowsiness, or grogginess
  • Dizziness and falling over
  • Blurry vision that does not improve
  • Trouble breathing or lack of breathing
  • Shallow or slowed breathing
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Becoming unresponsive after passing out

The Benefits of Suboxone

When taken as prescribed, Suboxone is a very effective and safe treatment for opioid use disorder.[4]

Since buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, this medication does not cause the feeling of being high, like more potent opioids do. Instead, buprenorphine binds to opioid receptors in the brain for a full day or more, reducing withdrawal symptoms that can include anxiety, intense cravings and physical discomfort.

By suppressing withdrawal symptoms, the individual taking Suboxone can focus on their treatment plan. Often, Suboxone is taken indefinitely since it is so effective at promoting long-term recovery.

Suboxone is designed to dissolve under the tongue or in the cheek because buprenorphine absorbs into the bloodstream best when taken in this way.[5]

Buprenorphine does not absorb as well through the stomach lining or small intestines. As a result, taking Suboxone in methods that aren’t prescribed won’t bring desired results.

SOURCES

  1. White N, Flaherty I, Higgs P, et al. Injecting buprenorphine-naloxone film: Findings from an explorative qualitative study. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2015;34(6):623-629. doi:10.1111/dar.12308.
  2. Martin, Judith, MD. Adherence, Diversion and Misuse of Sublingual Buprenorphine. Providers Clinical Support System (PCSS). https://pcssnow.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/PCSS-MATGuidanceAdherence-diversion-bup.Martin.pdf. January 2014. Accessed December 2021.
  3. Buprenorphine Sublingual and Buccal (opioid dependence). MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a605002.html. December 2020. Accessed December 2021.
  4. Frequently Asked Questions About ED-Initiated Buprenorphine. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). https://www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed-medical-health-professionals/discipline-specific-resources/emergency-physicians-first-responders/initiating-buprenorphine-treatment-in-emergency-department/frequently-asked-questions-about-ed-initiated-buprenorphine. September 2019. Accessed December 2021.
  5. Buprenorphine / Naloxone Buccal Film (BUNAVAIL)C-III. Pharmacy Benefits Management Services, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. https://www.pbm.va.gov/PBM/clinicalguidance/abbreviatedreviews/Buprenorphine_NX_Buccal_Film_BUNAVAIL_%20Abbreviated_Review.pdf. September 2014. Accessed December 2021.

Brian Clear, MD, FASAM — Medical Director

Brian Clear, MD, FASAM, is board certified in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, and he joined Bicycle Health in early 2020 as Medical Director and President of the Medical Provider Group.

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