Does Suboxone Make You Itch?

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is the brand-name of a prescription drug commonly administered during treatment for opioid addiction. Suboxone most often comes in the form of a sublingual film. This means that it is placed under the tongue in order to dissolve in the mouth. Inside each sublingual film, there are two drugs: Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Suboxone is most commonly prescribed in four different doses:

  • 2 mg buprenorphine / 0.5 mg naloxone
  • 4 mg buprenorphine / 1 mg naloxone
  • 8 mg buprenorphine / 2 mg naloxone
  • 12 mg buprenorphine / 3 mg naloxone

Over the past few years, studies continue to show the effectiveness of Suboxone in treating opioid dependence. One of the greatest benefits of the drug is how it helps reduce the potentially painful and dangerous side-effects of opioid cessation. Over the course of 24 weeks to a year, many patients who have been prescribed the drug show increased signs of improvement in their treatment and many are able to remain sober indefinitely. Although long-term use is not recommended, short-term use of Suboxone can be one of the most instrumental elements in a successful rehabilitation.

What is in Suboxone?

 Suboxone contains two drugs known as Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Buprenorphine is an opioid which aids with withdrawal symptoms during the use of Suboxone. However, it is a weaker opioid that acts as a partial opioid agonist. This aids in preventing other opioids from latching onto the opioid receptors in the brain, affecting the central nervous system. Buprenorphine can help provide our clients with a safe and monitored way to slowly reduce their intake of opioids, minimizing withdrawal symptoms from opioid cessation. Unlike many opioids, Buprenorphine is very unlikely to sedate the patient or bring about a sense of euphoria or a “high” feeling if taken as prescribed. However, if someone is struggling with an opioid addiction, the drug can help satiate cravings and suppress a difficult withdrawal.

Naloxone is a drug which acts as an opioid antagonist. If taken uniformly, the drug will quickly interact with the brain’s opioid receptors, triggering an adverse response to the euphoria sought in opioid abuse. In many cases, Naloxone helps prevent opioid overdose by blocking these receptors. The purpose of Naloxone being in Suboxone is to help reduce the risk of abuse and overdose with Buprenorphine. This drug can also help reduce a relapse during treatment as well as preventing any adverse symptoms a patient is wanting to avoid while undergoing opioid dependence treatment.

What are the Side Effects of Suboxone?

Suboxone, as with any other drug, can share in its own side-effects. Below is a list of the common side-effects associated with Suboxone use.

Suboxone Side Effects

Common side-effects

  • constipation, difficulty performing bowel movements
  • bodily weakness or feelings or frailty
  • abdominal, stomach pain
  • restlessness, difficulty sleeping

Less common

  • lower back pain
  • diarrhea
  • cold like symptoms, runny nose, sneezing, congestion

Unlikely, but possible

  • Burning tongue or soreness in mouth
  • burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, “pins and needles”, or tingling feelings inside the mouth
  • reduce sexual desire or activity
  • irritability, anger
  • mood swings
  • loss of concentration or focus
  • redness, swelling, or soreness of the tongue or mouth
  • loss of muscle strength

Does Suboxone Cause Constipation?

Constipation is a side-effect of taking Suboxone. Some studies have shown that approximately 12% of people taking Suboxone may experience side-effects like constipation along with other bowel movement issues. If your constipation persists or becomes severe, seek medical advice and call your doctor for more information. They may recommend treatment options to help relieve your constipation.

Does Suboxone Cause Swelling?

Although rare, severe side-effects may include swelling of the tongue, mouth, lips, or throat while taking Suboxone. This can lead to impaired breathing, swallowing, or discoloration of the eyes and skin. Other severe symptoms of a Suboxone allergic reaction may include cloudy or darker urine, severe abdominal pain or cramping, loss of appetite, dizziness or fainting, and disorientation.

Allergic Reaction to Suboxone

It is uncommon to have an allergic reaction to Suboxone, but severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis can occur. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms while taking Suboxone, consult with you doctor and seek immediate medical attention:

  • impaired breathing
  • skin rash or hives
  • swelling of the lips, tongue, throat

These could be signs of a severe adverse reaction to Suboxone. Seek immediate medical advice, call 911, or rush to the nearest emergency room as quickly as possible.

Serious Side-Effects of Suboxone

Common serious-side effects

  • chills
  • cough
  • feeling faint, dizzy, or lightheaded
  • warming of the skin or feeling feverish
  • fever
  • flushing or redness of the face and neck
  • headache, migraine
  • soreness of throat or hoarseness
  • lower back or pained sides
  • difficulty urinating or painful urination
  • profuse sweating

Uncommon, potential severe side-effects

  • Agitation
  • bloating or swelling of the face, arms, hands, lower legs, or feet
  • skin discoloration
  • diarrhea
  • swollen throat, difficulty swallowing
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • rapid heart rate, palpitations
  • hives, itching, skin rash
  • loss of appetite
  • feelings of depression or suicide
  • nausea or vomiting
  • loss of motor skills, poor coordination
  • swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat, or tongue
  • rapid weight gain
  • restlessness shivering talking or acting with excitement you cannot control tightness in the chest
  • tingling of the hands or feet
  • trembling or shaking twitching
  • weight loss or gain
Suboxone Overdose

Seek immediate medical attention if any of the following symptoms occur while taking Suboxone:

Symptoms of overdose

  • blurred vision
  • confusion
  • difficulty breathing
  • dizziness, faintness, lightheadedness, loss of balance
  • extreme drowsiness
  • irregular, fast, slow, or shallow breathing
  • pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
  • pinpoint pupils
  • sleepiness
  • unusual tiredness or weakness

Suboxone and Withdrawal Symptoms

Suboxone is most often used to fight withdrawal symptoms during clinical medication-assisted treatment programs. However, there are times when Suboxone is prescribed as an off-label drug to help with opioid withdrawal symptoms outside of a moderated program. This can occur as treatment for pain management or substance abuse treatment.

Other times, Suboxone can be used short-term during a detoxification process. This is typically a week to two week inpatient plans to help wean patients off of hard drugs like heroin.

Opioid dependence treatment is a long-term, outpatient approach designed to reduce opioid dependence alongside counseling, medication management services, as well as life-skills training in order to holistically care for the patient being treated.

Withdrawal from Suboxone

Unfortunately, there are times when long-term use of Suboxone can lead to a physical and psychological dependence on the drug. If treatment with Suboxone is discontinued, mild symptoms may occur as a result. In order to prevent this, when the time comes for you to stop taking Suboxone, your doctor may decrease the dosage over time.

Suboxone withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • insomnia, restlessness
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • cravings
  • sweating

What are the effects of Long-Term Suboxone Use?

Long-term effects of Suboxone have yet to be researched thoroughly. Although many studies have shown Suboxone’s success rate in treatment programs, there have yet to be studies performed to determine whether or not Suboxone has negative health effects over extended periods of time. So far, the most common risk with long-term use is the development of a physical or psychological dependence on the drug which may lead to addiction.

Those who become physically dependent upon Suboxone may feel that it is necessary for them to take the drug in order to function properly. In this case, once Suboxone is no longer needed in their treatment, they may suffer Suboxone withdrawal. As a result, they may relapse into opioid addiction or begin abusing Suboxone as the dose decreases.

Withdrawal from Suboxone and other opioid-agonists can be quite unpleasant, but are usually non-threatening. The symptoms of withdrawal are like many other opiates which may include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
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