Yes. The majority of people taking Suboxone and similar medications are able to live full, productive lives. Just like any medication, Suboxone can have some side effects, but these shouldn’t be debilitating or cause major life disruptions. Most people who take Suboxone function normally and don’t have any noticeable effects in their everyday life.
What Is It Like to Take Suboxone?
Suboxone is a medication made up of two drugs: buprenorphine and naloxone. Of these two drugs, buprenorphine is the active ingredient.  The Naloxone is inactive unless the strip is injected, in which situation it serves to prevent overdose. If you take the Suboxone as prescribed (under the tongue), the naloxone is not absorbed, and your body only sees the buprenorphine.
Suboxone does have some side effects in the minority of patients. Suboxone may cause mild dizziness or sedation, at least at first. These effects are more likely in patients that are opioid naive. However, most patients taking Suboxone are doing so because they are already taking opioids, in which case the risk of dizziness or sedation is even less pronounced. In addition, because buprenorphine is a partial agonist, it does not continue to cause more and more sedation or dizziness at higher doses the way a full opioid agonist like methadone might. For this reason it is considered safer than other full opioids. This is referred to as the “ceiling effect” of Suboxone.
The major benefit to Suboxone is that it will diminish your physical dependence on opioids, reducing or eliminating withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Since you won’t be experiencing the discomfort of withdrawal, you’ll be able to focus on therapy and the other work you are doing toward your recovery.
Anecdotally, it seems the biggest complaints people taking Suboxone tend to have are in regard to its potential to cause drowsiness, fatigue, and dizziness. However, these symptoms typically shouldn’t be severe or greatly impact your ability to function. They also often lessen over time. At least at first, mild nausea or GI side effects are also possible.
If any side effect is a problem for you, talk to a healthcare professional and they may be able to help. Your doctor may adjust your dosage or suggest alternative approaches to manage any issues.
Side Effects of Suboxone
Some of the most common side effects associated with Suboxone and similar medications include the following:
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Dry mouth
- Nausea or GI upset
- Tooth decay
- Erectile dysfunction
Precautions to Take While Using Suboxone
Suboxone is widely considered by experts to be a safe drug, especially when considering its benefits. It is considered to have low misuse potential. At the same time, there are some precautions one should take when on Suboxone.
First, don’t mix Suboxone with any other substances unless told it is safe to do so by your doctor. On its own, the buprenorphine in Suboxone is generally safe, but it can put you more at risk for serious complications if you mix it with other drugs, like alcohol. Only use your Suboxone as prescribed.
Second, you may want to wait to see how Suboxone makes you feel before performing potentially risky activities, like driving. Suboxone can sometimes cause drowsiness and dizziness, especially when first taking the medication.
Many experts recommend caution for people on Suboxone regarding tasks like operating heavy machinery. With that said, the majority of people on Suboxone can safely drive. It’s a good idea to see how Suboxone makes you feel initially and determine if you are experiencing any side effects before you begin driving again.
Finally, be honest with the medical professionals guiding your treatment. If Suboxone is making you feel strange or you’re not sure it’s helping, tell them. They may need to change your dose or even try a different MAT for you, depending on your needs.
While very uncommon, some people can have a negative reaction to Suboxone. It’s important to alert your doctor to this as soon as possible if you think that might be occurring.
- What Is Buprenorphine? Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/buprenorphine. September 2022. Accessed January 2023.
- Suboxone: Rationale, Science, Misconceptions. The Ochsner Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5855417/. 2018. Accessed January 2023.
- Drug Interactions of Clinical Importance Among the Opioids, Methadone and Buprenorphine, and Other Frequently Prescribed Medications: A Review. The American Journal on Addictions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3334287/. January–February 2010. Accessed January 2023.
- An Adverse Reaction to Buprenorphine/Naloxone Induction in Prison: A Case Report. Addiction Disorders & Their Treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222590/. December 2011. Accessed January 2023.
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