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Subutex Abuse and Addiction – Symptoms, Side Effects & Treatments

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Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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Subutex is an opioid medication that can treat opioid withdrawal. The current opioid epidemic in Washington makes drugs like Subutex especially important at this time.

Subutex works by attaching to opioid receptors in the nervous system. Opioid receptors naturally occur on the membrane of cells, and they help regulate feelings of pain, which is why they are such effective painkillers.

In contrast to other opioids, Subutex is only partially attached to opioid receptors, which makes it great for treating opioid use disorder (OUD). Since it doesn’t fully attach, it can displace other opioids and prevent them from working. Subutex may cause the person to have fewer cravings for other opioids since they will not experience the full effects.

What Is Subutex?

Subutex is the brand name for buprenorphine, an opioid medication. It treats opiate addiction in medication-assisted therapy while a patient undergoes an opioid treatment program. It can also be used as a bridge to wean off methadone. In this case, patients take Subutex to replace the methadone, and then are tapered off of Subutex.

Although the medication is intended to treat opiate addiction, it can also be misused. It is also easy for people to become dependent on Subutex itself, even though it doesn’t produce the same effects as other opioid medications.

How Long Does Subutex Stay in Your System?

The length of time a substance stays in the body depends on different characteristics, like how much enters the bloodstream, the size and frequency of the dose, and how it’s metabolized.  Each drug has a half-life, which is the length of time it takes the drug to be eliminated from the system. Most drugs will be completely eliminated from the body in five half-lives.

Since the half-life of Subutex is 31–35 hours, it will leave the body in about 155–175 hours or 6–7 days. During this time, Subutex is detectable in the blood. Buprenorphine is also detectable in the urine for 2–6 days after the last use.

Subutex Dosage

Subutex is a sublingual medication that comes in 2mg and 8mg tablets. It is designed to be placed under the tongue, where it is slowly absorbed into the bloodstream. The usual dosage is 2–4 mg under the tongue once daily. The doctor may then increase the dosage up to 24 mg per day or more, depending on the severity of the addiction.

What Does Subutex Look Like?

There are several generic versions of Subutex, which may all look different. The tablet can vary from oval to oblong and is typically yellow, white or orange, but can come in many different colors. Ask your pharmacist if you need assistance identifying a tablet of Subutex. An online Pill Identifier is also available.

Subutex Side Effects

Every drug has the potential for side effects, including Subutex, whose side effects are similar to those of other opioids. Some common side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Mood swings
  • Dizziness
  • Body aches
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Signs and symptoms of withdrawal
  • Insomnia
  • Pain

Subutex can also cause significant liver damage. If you notice any of the following side effects, you should consult your doctor immediately:

  • Dark urine
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Yellow skin
  • Yellowing in the whites of the eyes
  • Light-colored bowel movements

Does Subutex Get You High?

Yes, Subutex can get a person high. However, it will not produce the same effects as other drugs like oxycodone, heroin and fentanyl since Subutex is not an opioid agonist. For people already taking these stronger opioids, Subutex will actually produce symptoms of withdrawal.

If a person has never taken Subutex or other opioids, then the active ingredient buprenorphine will get them high. It can cause feelings of euphoria, calmness and a sense of well-being.

Can You Overdose on Subutex?

Yes, but it is not as easy to overdose on buprenorphine as other opioids. Since buprenorphine is only a partial opioid agonist, it cannot fully activate opioid receptors as heroin or fentanyl do. Buprenorphine has a “ceiling effect” since it partially activates the receptors, but the risk of overdose is much higher when mixed with other drugs.

Subutex overdose would look the same as overdose on other opioids, and symptoms can include:

  • Limpness
  • Pale or clammy skin
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Inability to speak
  • Unconsciousness

If you suspect someone is overdosing on Subutex or another opioid, call 911. Opioid overdose is a medical emergency.

Subutex vs. Suboxone

Subutex and Suboxone are similar but have different active ingredients. While Subutex only contains buprenorphine, Suboxone contains both buprenorphine and naloxone.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the receptors where opioids like heroin, fentanyl, morphine, and buprenorphine would work. Combining buprenorphine and naloxone makes it harder for someone to misuse other opioids. The naloxone prevents the person from taking stronger opioids to get high, and it prevents the abuse of buprenorphine itself.

Subutex Withdrawal

Detox from Subutex may cause significant psychological and physical symptoms that could require medical assistance. You don’t need to suffer alone in this process. If you attend a detox center or a treatment center that offers detox, like The Recovery Village Ridgefield, healthcare professionals will assist you through detox and withdrawal.

Subutex Withdrawal Timeline

Since Subutex is a long-acting opioid, the withdrawal can be a long process. Symptoms will generally begin 12–48 hours after the last use and usually continue for 10–20 days. The length and duration of symptoms are dependent on how long the person has been taking Subutex and the amount of the dose.

Subutex Withdrawal Symptoms

Common symptoms of Subutex withdrawal can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Cold flushes
  • Diarrhea
  • Hot flashes
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Tearing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vomiting

Subutex Detox

Detox is the process of a substance leaving the body. Withdrawal symptoms are usually experienced during this time, as the body adjusts to the absence of the substance. After prolonged use, Subutex rewires the nervous system so that there are fewer opioid receptors. When stopping the drug, certain essential nerves will not be activated because there are not enough opioid receptors, and this is what leads to withdrawal symptoms. During this time, a person is especially vulnerable to cravings and relapse.

Detox can be extremely uncomfortable, but it is not usually fatal. However, it can become fatal if a person becomes dehydrated from diarrhea and does not drink enough water.

The safest way to go through Subutex detox is by entering an addiction treatment program. Medical professionals can help manage withdrawal symptoms to ensure the process is as comfortable as possible.

Subutex Addiction Treatment

Most people who take Subutex are doing so as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction, but some people may take it without a prescription and develop a Subtutex use disorder. As part of MAT, staying on Subutex can be ideal. It ensures the person will not use opioids, and it’s sometimes even prescribed for pain.

Other patients, however, may feel that they have just substituted one drug for another. Subutex cannot be compared to heroin or other opiates because it does not get the user high, and those who are taking Subutex are able to function in daily life.

If you have developed a Subutex use disorder, treatment is possible. Turn to a national treatment center like The Recovery Village Ridgefield, where you can begin medically-supervised detox before continuing your journey toward recovery. After detox, most people need inpatient treatmentpartial hospitalization or outpatient treatment. Many patients progress through all three programs during their care.

Convenient to Tacoma and Seattle in Washington and to Portland and Eugene in Oregon, The Recovery Village Ridgefield is a full-service national treatment facility with patients from all over the country being treated for drug and alcohol addiction, including Subutex addiction. Give us a call today and allow us to help you achieve long-term recovery.


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