Suboxone Side Effects: What to Expect When Taking Suboxone

Suboxone Side Effects

There are many different Suboxone side effects that you may experience when taking this medication. It is important to be aware of these before you begin taking the drug, so that you know what to expect. Some of the most common side effects include nausea, headache, and constipation. However, there are also a number of rarer side effects that can occur, so it is important to be vigilant and report any unusual symptoms to your doctor.

How Suboxone Works

Suboxone is a drug that doctors prescribe to treat opioid addiction. It contains both Naloxone, the active ingredient in Narcan, and Buprenorphine. The Buprenorphine blocks the opioid receptors in the cells in the brain and prevents the abused drug from having its normal effect. The key is that Suboxone prevents withdrawal when people quit the drug to which they are addicted. “Cold turkey” might prove detrimental or even deadly to the patient otherwise.

Suboxone even has a built-in safeguard against abuse. The Naloxone prevents the person from attempting to get high by abusing Buprenorphine. If the person takes the drug as directed, then it is remarkably effective at treating addiction. If the patient attempts to get high by increasing the dosage, then the interaction of the Naloxone and the Buprenorphine will chemically remove the latter from the opioid receptors and block any additional effect the patient seeks.

Suboxone Side Effects

Any medication comes with side effects. Even aspirin causes stomach upset. Suboxone has two sets of side effects. The first set occurs if the patient doesn’t take the medication correctly either by accident or on purpose. Those side effects are largely the same as those of opioid withdrawal.

Joint and/or muscle pains are the most common. The pain gradually subsides over a few weeks. The irritability occurs both naturally and because of the pain the patients suffer. They possibly won’t sleep well, and even if they don’t have insomnia, the patients might lose sleep because of suffering from diarrhea. In severe cases, the pupils might dilate.

Even if the patient takes Suboxone correctly, there still might be some side effects. One of the most common is a collection of flu-like symptoms: vomiting, stomach pain, and general malaise. Headache is less common, fortunately, but if the patient suffers headache, it can be severe.


Suboxone Withdrawal

The withdrawal from Subxone, if not properly controlled, is nearly as bad as that of the opioids it was designed to treat. As stated, the effects can last a month or more. Because patients must take Suboxone for long periods to combat their opioid addiction, it is imperative that they remain in constant communication with their primary care physicians so that they can respond to changes in the patients’ conditions.

Fortunately, the need to stop Suboxone completely is rare. Most often, the doctor will modify the dosage based on the patient’s status. Eventually, the idea is to wean off of Suboxone slowly and gradually so that the risk of withdrawal is minimized.

Suboxone Dosage

Suboxone emerged as an addiction treatment method in 2002. The dosages for the medication were amended in June 2022. It was always an opioid agonist and is a sublingual medication. The medication is buccal, too, so if a patient dissolves it in the cheek instead of under the tongue, then that is not an issue.

Suboxone should only be prescribed when there are obvious signs of withdrawal in the patient. Unfortunately, the medication is not preventative. The normal doses on Day One is 8 mg of Buprenorphine and 2 mg of Naloxone. When it comes to patients who are addicted to short-acting opioids, first doses should be divided throughout the day, usually in doses of 2 mg Buprenorphine and 0.5 mg Naloxone. On the second day of treatment, the doses should be double that.

For patients who are addicted to long-acting opioids, the dose should be single. Maintenance dosage should be the same as for patients who are addicted to long-acting opioids. The medication should not be chewed or swallowed, and the film should not be cut in any way.

All cases are different, and what works for one person might not work for another. If the dosage is too low, then the patient will suffer signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal. If the dosage is too high, then the patient will exhibit blurred vision, blue fingernails and toenails, and slurred speech among others.

Suboxone Drug Testing

Suboxone stays in your system in some capacity for months. The drug’s elimination half-life is 37 hours, which means that it takes longer than a week for the drug itself to leave the body. It is detectable in your hair up to 90 days later and up to two weeks in your urine. Therefore, it is detectable long after the drug itself leaves the body.

These are just guidelines, however. Someone’s characteristics can affect the general lengths of time. Such characteristics include body fat percentage, total weight, age, and liver health. How long someone has taken the medication also affects the speed with which the body dispenses with it.

Suboxone Overdose

Because Suboxone is an opioid, the symptoms of its overdose are similar to those of an overdose on any other opioid. “Coming down” from such an overdose is, the vast majority of the time, not dangerous. Rather, it is intensely uncomfortable. Still, there are cases of severe results up to and including death related to Suboxone overdose.

Also, the Naloxone in the medication reduces physical dependency, which is the reason that withdrawal from Suboxone overdose is generally not life-threatening in the same way as it is when it comes to withdrawal from harder opioids or from paradoxical withdrawal as happens with benzodiazepines.

Most often, Suboxone overdose happens after a person has tapered off the use of opioids. As a person detoxes, that person’s tolerance is reduced. Therefore, it’s possible to take a large dose of Suboxone to get high.


Suboxone and Alcohol

Never mix Suboxone with alcohol. As with any opioid, combining it with alcohol can lead to heart palpitations and dangerous arrhythmias, such as Torsade de Pointes. It can also lead to catastrophic drops in blood pressure at the same time, leading to sudden cardiac death. Even if the effects of mixing Suboxone and alcohol don’t cause heart attack, breathing issues can arise. In fact, the suppression of the breathing reflex can be so strong as to cause respiratory arrest.

Even if none of these awful things happen, mixing Suboxone and alcohol can elevate someone’s risk for cancer of the digestive system, liver, or pancreas. It cannot be stressed enough that you should never, ever mix Suboxone, or any other opioid, with alcohol.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

It is possible for a child born to someone who is assigned female at birth, or AFAB, to be born addicted to Suboxone. Because Suboxone’s effects on a fetus are much less than those of more powerful opioids, treating the addiction of a new baby is easier than when more powerful opioids are involved. Opinions differ about the long-term effects of Suboxone on a new baby. But, the opinions on whether or not those effects are mild compared to the effects caused by more powerful opioids are in total agreement.

If the pregnant AFAB person is addicted to something much stronger than Suboxone, then Suboxone treatment is almost mandatory as long as the person is not allergic to it. Of course, as with anything in medicine, specific cases might differ from the norm. So, it’s wise for anyone taking Suboxone to consult with a physician.

It is fortunate that breastfeeding while taking Suboxone is not a significant danger. The amount of Suboxone transferred through breast milk is negligible. However, it is both prudent and wise to monitor the baby’s condition to see if any signs of Suboxone appear. It must be noted, though, that if the AFAB person is still taking harder opioids, then that person should not breastfeed because harder opioids appear in much greater quantities in breast milk.


Suboxone side effects can be serious, but by being aware of them and reporting any problems to your doctor, you can minimize the risk of experiencing them. If you are taking this medication, it is important to stay vigilant and keep an eye out for any unusual symptoms. Thank you for reading!


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Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Long Island Treatment Center

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