Close to half of all American adults struggle with obesity. Weight gain is often associated with serious health problems, including diabetes and heart disease. If you quit using drugs and see shifting numbers on the bathroom scale, you could grow concerned.
Researchers track side effects of prescription medications, and they don’t connect Suboxone with weight gain. But some people in recovery do gain weight.
If you’re concerned about your weight and health while using Suboxone, talk with your doctor. But know that your medication probably isn’t to blame for weight changes.
What Are Some Negative Effects of Suboxone on the Body?
Weight gain is not listed as a typical side effect of Suboxone. But you could experience other issues while taking this medication.
Common adverse effects include the following:
- Excessive sweating
- Stomach cramps
If taken while other opioids are present in the body, Suboxone can trigger opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, diarrhea, aches, and restlessness. To avoid this, patients should only take the drug under the supervision of a healthcare provider.
Why Do People Gain Weight in Recovery?
Studies suggest that people in recovery do gain weight, especially in the early days of their treatment. While Suboxone may not be to blame, other aspects of your recovery could change your body.
Suboxone can cause fluid to accumulate in your lower limbs. As you retain water, your body can grow heavier, and you’ll notice the change on your bathroom scale.
Water retention issues caused by Suboxone tend to be mild, and many people take the medication without experiencing this issue at all. But if you do notice swelling in your legs and feet, talk with your doctor about adjusting your dose.
Long-term opioid use can change chemical activity in your brain, and researchers suggest some of those changes can alter your dietary preferences. Some people develop a sweet tooth while they’re using drugs, and this problem can persist while you’re using Suboxone.
Combatting a sweet tooth can be as easy as stocking your cupboards with healthier alternatives, such as these:
- Chewing gum
When you’re tempted to snack on sweets, these alternate choices can quench your cravings and keep your weight in a healthy range.
Maintaining an opioid use disorder isn’t easy, and many people struggle to create healthy routines during active addiction. You might skip meals for days at a time while on a binge, and withdrawal symptoms like diarrhea could deplete stored energy. This may be why people with an active opioid use disorder are less likely to be overweight than the general population.
When you enter treatment, you might be underweight. Gaining weight could be a sign that your body is healing.
What do you do with your hands and mouth when you’re not preparing drugs or using them? How do you handle cravings for drugs? For many people, food works as a great drug substitute. You might be eating more to keep yourself from relapsing.
What to Do Next
If you’re worried about your weight while using Suboxone, talk with your doctor. Dose adjustments might help with side effects like water retention, and therapy could help you handle cravings without overeating. Ask your doctor to help you find a healthy way forward.
- Attempts to Lose Weight Among Adults in the United States, 2013 to 2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm. July 2018. Accessed January 2023.
- Suboxone Prescribing Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2021/022410s042lbl.pdf. March 2021. Accessed January 2023.
- The Effects of Buprenorphine/Naloxone Maintenance Treatment on Sexual Dysfunction, Sleep, and Weight in Opioid Use Disorder Patients. Psychiatry Research. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165178118308163?via%3Dihub. February 2019. Accessed January 2023.
- FDA Approves First Generic Version of Suboxone Film, Which May Increase Access to Treatment for Opioid Dependence. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-generic-versions-suboxone-sublingual-film-which-may-increase-access-treatment. June 2018. Accessed January 2023.
- The Relationship Between Opioid and Sugar Intake: Review of Evidence and Clinical Applications. Journal of Opioid Management. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3109725/. June 2011. Accessed January 2023.
- Prevalence of obesity for opioid-and stimulant-dependent participants in substance use treatment clinical trials. Drug and alcohol Dependence. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30077926/. September 2018. Accessed January 2023.
Reviewed By: Peter Manza, PhD
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