Can you get high on Suboxone? Technically, yes, but it rarely happens. Suboxone is a combination prescription drug containing the opioid buprenorphine and naloxone, an opioid antagonist used to rescue opioid overdose victims from life-threatening opioid intoxication. Naloxone competes with opioids for a place on the brain’s opioid receptors, especially the mu receptor. Through this mechanism it restores breathing enough to sustain life until first responder help arrives. Although it’s possible to get high on any opioid, Suboxone’s unique formulation makes this extremely unlikely. This article will focus on the main reasons for this.
Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic opioid used mainly for the treatment of OUD or opioid use disorder. It’s sometimes prescribed to treat pain but not commonly. The drug is a very limited analgesic in humans. Its use as a painkiller is much more common in veterinary medicine. Cats appear to respond especially well to it.
Although a narcotic, buprenorphine is only what is called a partial agonist. This means it’s only able to activate the brain’s mu opioid receptor partially. It doesn’t have the much stronger euphoric and sedative effects of a full agonist like morphine.
However, it’s still able to greatly reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings for those with OUD. It typically does this without inducing euphoria. The OUD Suboxone user simply feels normal and not sick.
Tolerance to Opioids
People with OUD always have a significant opioid tolerance as well. This means that their bodies have built up a resistance to opioids called a tolerance. Although tolerance also occurs with other drugs of abuse, regular opioid use in particular can lead to an astoundingly high tolerance level, sometimes many tens or even hundreds the amount of a normal therapeutic dose. When a person’s opioid tolerance level is very high, they will require large doses of opioids to get any effect.
Someone with an opioid tolerance will typically not be able to get a high from buprenorphine or any other partial opioid agonist, either.
A third reason why Suboxone doesn’t cause a high when used for OUD is due to its other active ingredient naloxone. Known by its brand name Narcan, naloxone is sold without a prescription at pharmacies across the country for the treatment of opioid overdose. For example, someone with a loved one suspected or known to be abusing opioids may be rightly concerned about overdose. Keeping Narcan available at all times may well save a life. It’s easy to administer and will cause no problems if the person is unconscious for reasons other than opioid overdose. However, Narcan works only for opioid overdose, not those from other drug classes. This is because drugs from other classes don’t target the brain’s opioid re receptors.
Naloxone in Suboxone
Since many opioid abusers use drugs intravenously or nasally, Suboxone is formulated to prevent any high from those routes of administration. This is the primary reason for the naloxone ingredient. Naloxone is not active when taken orally, so when Suboxone is taken as directed sublingually or under the tongue, the narcotic buprenorphine is rapidly absorbed through the oral tissues while the naloxone is not. This is why the naloxone doesn’t block the buprenorphine as it otherwise would.
If someone tried to dissolve the Suboxone film in water and inject or snort it, the antagonist naloxone would become active and block any kind of narcotic high. Not only that, but it would also cause an instant and full blown opioid withdrawal syndrome in anyone physically dependent on opioids. The person would become extremely ill. Worse, nothing could be done to reverse the withdrawal symptoms at that point. It will be several miserable hours until the short-acting naloxone is metabolized and released from the opioid receptors.
We can Help
Suboxone has helped many people with OUD to stop abusing opioids. Today’s heroin and bootleg opioid pills are often laced with deadly fentanyl, a synthetic opioid some 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin. Using drugs purchased on the black market is more dangerous than ever. You have no way of knowing what you’re getting when you buy from a random street dealer. The dealer may not even know what he’s really selling.
Suboxone works for many people who try it. It can relieve withdrawal symptoms and quell drug cravings so you can get your life back together without an endless vicious cycle of drug use, drug seeking and brutal withdrawal symptoms.
We have professional drug counselors available 24 hours a day to serve you. Just call us anytime at 833-610-1174 for more information about Suboxone or any other substance abuse issue.