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Buprenorphine (Subutex) Abuse and Addiction: How is it Even Possible?

As strange as it may seem, buprenorphine abuse and addiction is happening in the United States. This is a medication that has been approved to treat opioid addiction. It’s absurd to think that it would be possible to abuse it, and even become dependent on it. However, it’s happening more and more with every passing year.

What is Buprenorphine and What Does it Do?

Buprenorphine is a drug that is sold under a number of brand names. It can be found as:

  • Subutex
  • Buprenex
  • Butrans
  • Bunavail
  • Zubsolv

Suboxone is another form of buprenorphine, but it is combined with Naloxone as well. In any form, this drug works by blocking the opioid receptors in the body. This is an effective way for people to stop abusing their opiate medications. The medication also helps to control their withdrawal symptoms when they quit.

Unfortunately, sometimes people remain on this drug for a long time. They can get addicted to it that way. Other times, there are individuals who will abuse buprenorphine for the euphoric high that it can give them. In either scenario, recovery is necessary, and it’s best to do this in a professional setting.

The abuse of buprenorphine is an issue that has only gotten worse since the drug’s release. According to SAMHSA’s Dawn Report:


In 2005, there were 3,161 ER visits because of this drug.


By 2010, the number of those visits had increased to 30,135.


This was a 255% increase. This is believed to have happened because the availability of the drug increased.

  • In 2005, there were about 100,000 prescriptions written for this medication.
  • That number had increased to 800,000 only five years later.
  • During 2010, most of these visits were classified under the nonmedical use of medications.
  • This accounted for 52% or 15,778 of these visits.
  • 24% of the visits were due to people seeking substance abuse detox and treatment.
  • 13% reported to the ER to complain of adverse reactions.
  • In 2010, 59% of these cases involved the use additional pharmaceutical drugs.

Further statistics tell us that Buprenorphine is commonly combined with:

  • Oxycodone and other narcotic pain relieving medications
  • Antianxiety medications
  • Insomnia drugs
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Marijuana
  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin

Alcohol was involved in 11% of ER visits. 11% involved marijuana, 9% involved heroin and 8% involved the use of cocaine.

This is a problem that experts aren’t exactly sure how to solve. On one hand, this medication is working well for so many people who need to recover from opioid addiction. On the other hand, it’s causing an increase in opioid addiction. It continues to be an ongoing issue, and most likely will for years to come.

What is Buprenorphine Abuse?

Buprenorphine abuse occurs any time this drug is taken in a contrary way. Most commonly, people begin using it because they have a prescription from a doctor. However, in most cases, they aren’t expected to stay on it for very long. Buprenorphine is most commonly prescribed for short-term use, and it’s discontinued after a few days. Once it is, people are usually placed on Suboxone, which has addiction risks of its own.

Sometimes people don’t tolerate Suboxone as well as Buprenorphine. In these cases, a patient can be switched back. When they’re taking this drug long-term, the addictive potential is there.

What commonly occurs is that people find that the medication doesn’t work as well for them after some time. They may increase how much they’re taking on their own. This drug can produce a euphoric feeling, which causes people to use more of it. Some people do use Buprenorphine recreationally as well, just for the purpose of getting high.

Subutex is a drug that can be abused in several different ways. Sometimes people will simply take more of the pills. However, this drug is equipped with a ceiling effect when people use too much of it. It becomes impossible to get high after using a certain dosage. With higher doses, it can also cause precipitated withdrawal symptoms.

To counteract this problem, people will manipulate the drug in a few different ways. They may chew the pills instead of just swallowing them. Some people may even smoke them, or crush the tablets and snort them. It’s also possible to dissolve them in water and inject them.

The method of injecting buprenorphine increases its bioavailability 100%. It’s not surprising that so many people are turning to this as a way to get high.

The Buprenex high is a sensation of euphoria and relaxation. Users state that it makes them feel extremely happy and calm. However, they also report that after some time, they’re no longer able to feel its effects. This is when they turn to other methods of abusing it.

This type of high is best suited for people with a low tolerance for other opioid drugs. For someone who is a veteran user, they’re not likely to feel it as much. They may need to take higher doses, or combine it with another drug or alcohol.

It may seem strange to you to think that you could accidentally abuse Buprenorphine. However, it’s much more common than you might think. You could be participating in the abuse of this drug if you:

  • Find that you’re taking more of it than you should.
  • Take it for a longer time than you should.
  • Purchase it on the street or online illegally.
  • Have visited multiple doctors in order to get new prescriptions. This is a practice known as doctor shopping.
  • Combine it with other substances because you like the way it makes you feel.

People frequently believe that they’re not able to get addicted to this drug. This is because they know that it was intended to treat addiction, not cause it. You need to know that this is a myth. It is possible to form an addiction to this drug, and if you continue abusing it, you will.

When people abuse this drug, they’re doing so for the euphoric high. However, they also experience a sensation of pain relief if they’re someone who suffers with pain. There are additional side effects that you may be experiencing if you are an abuser. These include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Body aches
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Excessive sweating
  • Bouts of constipation
  • Vomiting
  • The onset of vertigo

The more serious side effects of Buprenorphine abuse include:

  • Dark urine
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
  • Stomach pain
  • Bowel movements that are light in color
  • Abscesses if the drug is being injected

Is Subutex Addictive?

Yes, Subutex is an addictive drug, and it might not take long to form an addiction once abuse begins.

Unfortunately, once someone realizes that abusing it can cause them to get high, it’s hard to resist the temptation.

Once you’re addicted, it’s so important to get help. Professional buprenorphine rehab can assist you with your recovery. This is not a drug that you should just stop taking on your own.

There is a slight difference between dependence and addiction, but they are also similar. When you are dependent upon buprenorphine, you may notice that it doesn’t work as well as it once did. This is because you’re forming a tolerance to your dosage. This is the point where people usually increase how much they’re using.

When you’re addicted to it, you have a higher tolerance, but you also feel as though you need it. An addiction is both physical and psychological, whereas dependence is more physical. When someone is addicted, they are also dependent. However, the opposite isn’t necessarily true.

Both of these situations are serious and need to be dealt with immediately. If you’re only dependent on buprenorphine, you need to make your doctor aware. It may be time for you to stop taking it. Otherwise, you could eventually become an addict.

It’s possible that you have been abusing this drug for quite some time. However, you don’t know if you’re an addict or not. You may want to try and look for some of the more common signs of addiction in your own life. These can include:

  • Finding yourself obsessing over your medication
  • Carefully making sure you always have enough of it on hand
  • Problems or a breakdown in your personal relationships
  • Problems at work or at school
  • Medical issues that can be traced back to your abuse of this medication

Have you noticed any of these symptoms? If you have, it’s quite possible that you are addicted. An addiction isn’t something that you can ignore. You may be tempted to hope that it will go away on its own, but it doesn’t work that way. Buprenorphine treatment is required if you want to recover.

There are a few other ways that you can find out if you’re addicted to the Butrans drug. You could begin by taking an opiate addiction quiz. This might help you because it will force you to think about your drug use in a different way. You’ll answer a series of questions and then get your results right away.

You may also want to consider talking with a professional about your Butrans use. Many drug rehab centers offer free consultations over the phone for this purpose. It may put your mind at ease to explain your situation to someone who is an expert in this field. Either one of these methods will help you understand your situation with more certainly. At that point, you can make a decision about what you want to do.

The Short and Long Term Effects of Buprenorphine Addiction

One of the problems with this medication is that some of the short-term effects of it are desirable.

These are the reasons why people continue abusing this drug, and they include:

  • A mild sensation of euphoria
  • The relief of pain
  • A feeling of being calm
  • Lower stress levels and anxiety levels
  • Increased relaxation

However, once someone starts to increase their dosage to dangerous levels, more serious effects can result. These can include:

  • Feeling confused
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Breathing problems
  • Constipation and even intestinal blockages

When this drug is combined with alcohol or benzodiazepines, its use can even become fatal.

The long-term effects of Buprenorphine are even scarier. These include:

  • Becoming completely disoriented
  • A decreased tolerance to pain
  • Symptoms of depression, some of which may lead to suicidal thoughts
  • Problems with socialization and becoming isolated
  • Excessive gastrointestinal issues

How to Tell if Someone is on Subutex

It’s possible that you have a loved one who is abusing this medication, or you may suspect it. If so, it’s not always easy to tell. That person may be really good at hiding their drug use, as many addicts are.

As a concerned family member, you need to know the signs that you should look for. Certain Subutex behaviors may clue you in on what’s really going on behind the scenes. You can tell if someone is on buprenorphine if you notice:

  • That they’re displaying secretive behavior, or even lying
  • That you are finding hidden prescription bottles or containers
  • That they have an inflated sense of well-being
  • That they’re having trouble breathing
  • That they appear to be confused
  • Slurred speech
  • Problems with their memory
  • That their pupils are very tiny

If you notice any of the above signs, you’re right to be concerned. It’s possible that abusing Buprenorphine is the reason behind them.

It may help to talk with your loved one if you suspect Buprenorphine abuse. However, you need to be aware that this might not move them toward getting help. Sometimes addicts will make a lot of empty promises just to buy themselves some more time. If this happens in your situation, you may want to consider another approach.

Intervention services are available for you if you need them. This is a meeting between you, other friends and family and your addicted loved one. An interventionist will guide and oversee the meeting.

Most people find that interventions are extremely helpful. Addicts are often agreeable to getting treatment immediately afterwards. It’s definitely something that you may want to consider.

Buprenorphine Abuse and Addiction

Recovering When You Have a Buprenorphine Addiction

If you’re addicted to this drug, it’s time to think about recovering. This can be done safely in a professional setting. Buprenorphine addiction treatment can address every aspect of your addiction. It is both a physical and psychological problem that won’t go away on its own.

Even though buprenorphine is used to treat opioid withdrawal, it does have withdrawal symptoms of its own. This is something you need to be aware of when you decide you want to stop using it.

When you go through withdrawals, you should expect to experience:

  • Problems with concentration
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Aches all over the body
  • Increased anxiety symptoms
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • The onset of diarrhea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Irritability and anger
  • Headaches
  • Tense muscles
  • Feelings of restlessness

Most people find that these and other symptoms are hard for them to deal with on their own. This is why it’s recommended for addicts to go through buprenorphine detox. This can help them to manage their symptoms.

It’s quite common for people to attempt an at-home opioid detox before going to professional treatment. There are a lot of suggested methods for this online. Most home remedies for opioid withdrawal are not effective, and many may not be safe.

At the very least, if you want to recover from this addiction, talk with your doctor. They may be able to assist you with some methods that are proven to be effective. If not, they may offer you a referral to a resource where you can get some help.

There are a number of ways that you can get help for buprenorphine withdrawal. Many of these may be implemented if you choose to go into an approved treatment setting. You may be given:

  • Clonidine – This is a medication that can be used to treat high blood pressure. However, it is also used to help people through opioid withdrawal.
  • Benzodiazepines – Medications like Ativan and Librium may be given to you as well. These drugs are used to help people decrease their anxiety levels.
  • Gabapentin – This is a drug that is frequently used during opioid detoxification. It is an anticonvulsant, so it can help to guard against seizures. It’s also useful in helping to relieve pain and anxiety.
  • Imodium-AD – One of the chief complaints people have when stopping buprenorphine is diarrhea. This is an over the counter remedy that can help.
  • Over the counter pain relievers - Medications like Advil and Aleve can be very effective at treating pain for people going through opioid withdrawal.

Subutex Detox Programs and Their Benefits For You

When you stop the use of any drug, there are risks involved. This is because you’ve been using this substance for quite some time. Withdrawal occurs because – in a sense – you’re throwing your body into shock. It’s not used to not having the drug, and it can take some time to adjust. This is why withdrawal occurs.

Sometimes people experience complications when they stop using opioid drugs like buprenorphine. You could be someone who is at a risk for seizures or other problems. Detoxification can help to reduce your risk of complications. Overall, it makes the entire experience much more comfortable.

Recovery From Buprenorphine Addiction is Possible for You

Contrary to what you may believe, it is possible to recover when you have an addiction to buprenorphine. Right now, the situation may seem hopeless to you because, chances are, this isn’t your first addiction. Even so, with the right help, you can successfully stop taking it.

At Northpoint Washington, we want you to know we’re here for you. We understand how frustrating your addiction may be to you. You know that it’s time for you to recover, but you don’t know how to start the process. We can assist you with that. You’ll find that with our help, you can thrive in a state of long-term recovery.

Are you addicted to buprenorphine? If you are, all hope is not lost. Contact us today and let us answer any additional questions you may have. If you’re ready for treatment, we can make arrangements for that as well.

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