Suboxone and Alcohol Abuse

Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol abuse is a different form of treatment than that commonly associated with the drug Suboxone. Suboxone is commonly used to treat patients who are struggling with opioid addiction. Drinking alcohol while taking Suboxone can be very dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

In this article, we will address the harms of combining alcohol with opioid medications and the potential risks that the combination poses to your health.

What is a Suboxone?

Suboxone is a combination of two drugs: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is an opioid agonist which means that it affects the brain like an opioid does, but with a minimalized effect. This means that it does not give off the same effects that heroin or a prescribed opioid may. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist which blocks the effects of opioid use. Buprenorphine is an agent which helps relieve withdrawal symptoms of opioid cessation and naloxone is an agent which attempts to prevent Suboxone from being abused.

Suboxone Treatment for Alcoholism

There are currently no programs which combine the use of Suboxone with alcohol addiction treatment. Because Suboxone affects the central nervous system in a similar way to alcohol, the combination of the drugs can pose life-threatening side-effects and place the patient at great risk of harm.

Can You Drink Alcohol on Suboxone?

No. Drinking alcohol while struggling with opioid addiction can be life-threatening. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, it is important that you get help as soon as possible. Suboxone is solely designed to aid in medication-assisted addiction treatment  associated with opioid abuse. It is only used as an agent that helps reduce the risks of life-threatening withdrawal symptoms a patient may experience during their drug abuse detox. Below we address the harms of combining Suboxone with alcohol.

Suboxone and Alcohol Abuse Inversion

Opiate drugs have warning labels that strongly advise against the use of alcohol with the use of these drugs. During your treatment for alcohol abuse, your doctor is required to instruct you on the harms of abusing Suboxone or other Buprenorphine medications in conjunction with alcohol. Although Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist, the same restrictions and precautions apply while taking the medication as with other opiate medications. Buprenorphine and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants. It has become a common practice in many cases of substance abuse involving Suboxone and alcohol that the two are taking in unison in order to heighten the effects of the other. Drinking alcohol with Suboxone can significantly increase the adverse side-effects of Suboxone. These dangerous side-effects can include but are not limited to:

  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Headaches, seizures
  • Impaired vision, dizziness, fainting
  • Sweating
  • Increased or decreased heart rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased risk for heart failure
  • Impaired motor function
  • Lack of bodily responsiveness
  • Impaired thinking and ability to reason, lack of judgement

Central nervous system depressants like alcohol and Suboxone can significantly decrease the activity of neurons in your brain and spinal cord. When used in unison, Suboxone and alcohol can contribute to a host of very serious conditions and side effects, especially when abused in unison for prolonged periods of time. These conditions and symptoms may include:

  • Serious conditions associated with respiratory suppression: respiratory infections, organ damage from hypoxia, and even brain damage
  • Decreased blood flow from fluctuations in blood pressure and heart rate. This can lead to organ and/or brain damage which can cut the natural flow of nutrients and oxygen to the body
  • Impaired brain and mobility functions that can increase the risk of accidents, self-harm, and depression
  • Coma: a result of vital neuron suppression due to impaired breathing and brain activity from abusing suboxone and alcohol. This can be fatal in many cases and/or cause serious damage to your body.

Prolong use of Suboxone drug abuse and alcohol addiction can lead to even more severe conditions such as:

  • Increased risk for kidney failure, liver cancer, and gastrointestinal cancer
  • Greater risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver and stomach ulcers
  • Increased risk of a stroke leading to irreversible brain damage
  • Greater risk for heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases
  • Weakened immune system due to prolonged abuse of drugs and alcohol or engaging in dangerous behaviors from impaired thinking
  • Physical dependence and substance abuse development caused from the combination of the substances

Does Suboxone Help with Alcohol Withdrawal?

As you can see, Suboxone cannot help with alcohol withdrawal. The warning labels on Suboxone warn against combining the medication with alcohol as it poses dangerous side-effects. Even if they are combined occasionally, the risks are great and can be detrimental to your health and continued recovery. If you are seeking help for alcohol addiction or substance abuse, talk with your doctor about what medications can be taken during your treatment and ensure that you are educated on potential harms combining alcohol and drugs can pose to your health.

What Medications Help with Alcohol Addiction?

Medication-assisted treatment is available for those suffering from alcohol addiction. When undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse, your doctor may recommend some form of medication-assisted treatment in order to help curb withdrawal symptoms and inhibit your desire to drink. There are a few drugs that have been approved by the FDA to help treat alcoholism.

These medications include:

  • Acamprosate calcium is suggested for the maintenance of abstinence from alcohol in clients based on alcohol who are abstinent at treatment initiation.
  • Disulfiram is an aid in the management of picked patients who want to remain in a state of enforced sobriety so that helpful and psychotherapeutic treatment might be applied to best benefit.
  • Oral naltrexone (naltrexone hydrochloride tablet) is suggested for the treatment of alcohol dependence.
  • Extended-release injectable naltrexone is shown for the treatment of alcohol dependence in clients who have been able to abstain from alcohol in an outpatient setting.

All of the medications should only be prescribed in unison with comprehensive outpatient or inpatient treatment programs that include other forms of treatment aside from medication-assistance. MAT is a joint practice that combines medications with counseling and psychiatric care while helping the patient build social support groups, whether outside of the treatment facility or in group therapy.

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