Suboxone is a popular, prescription-only drug that effectively suppresses opioid cravings and reduces the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Although Suboxone has assisted thousands of individuals struggling with opioid addiction, the drug is not without its risks. While critics express concerns over the long-term risks of Suboxone, namely dependency, there is also a more immediate risk of use — the dangerous Suboxone drug interactions with other substances.
According to statistics gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), there were 30,135 buprenorphine-related emergency room visits in 2010. Not surprisingly, 59 percent of these hospitalizations involved additional drugs.
As Suboxone’s popularity increases, it’s crucial to understand the drug’s risk, especially the dangers of mixing Suboxone with other substances.
How Suboxone Works
A combination of the drugs buprenorphine and naloxone, Suboxone works to satiate the brain’s desire for opioids without offering the rewarding effects. Functioning as a partial opioid agonist, or weak opioid, the drug buprenorphine locks onto the brain’s opioid receptors, which alleviates withdrawal symptoms, diminishes cravings, and prevents other opioids from reacting with the brain’s receptors.
While buprenorphine “tricks” the brain into believing a full dose of an opioid was taken, naloxone then blocks the brain’s opioid receptors, immediately eliminating the pleasurable effects of the buprenorphine.
Since Suboxone does include an opioid, taking other drugs while on the medication can be life-threatening. If you are on a Suboxone regimen, it’s vital to avoid the following substances due to their dangerous interactions.
- Benzodiazepines (“Benzos”)Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin) are typically prescribed to alleviate anxiety and treat insomnia. Categorized as depressant drugs, or “downers,” benzodiazepines sedate the central nervous system, which slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and depresses breathing. The buprenorphine in Suboxone also functions as a depressant drug. When taken together, the effects of each drug are both exacerbated, and the combination can lead to severe lack of coordination, impaired judgement, unconsciousness, respiratory failure, and even death.
- CocaineBy counteracting the effects of the other, combining Suboxone and cocaine produces two dangerous effects for users. As a stimulant, or “upper,” cocaine has shown to reduce the amount of buprenorphine in the bloodstream of a Suboxone user, which may quickly lead to opioid withdrawal symptoms. Combining cocaine and Suboxone also increases the risk of a cocaine overdose. As a depressant, Suboxone reduces the effects of cocaine, giving the false sense to users that their body can handle more cocaine — even when it can’t.
- AlcoholMuch like benzodiazepines, alcohol is also classified as a depressant, affecting the body’s central nervous system. Due to its popularity and broad acceptance, alcohol may present the most danger to an uninformed Suboxone user. When someone begins Suboxone, he or she may not consider the risks of drinking alcohol. However, the combination of alcohol and Suboxone can produce the same dangerous (and sometimes fatal) effects as mixing benzodiazepines with Suboxone, including unconsciousness and respiratory failure.
Additional Reading: 3 Devastatingly Dangerous Alcohol-Drug Combos
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