Using Opiates While You’re on Buprenorphine
Some individuals may attempt to take opiates like heroin or prescription painkillers while they are actively taking buprenorphine or a similar opioid antagonist.
Buprenorphine is a prescription opioid used to treat opiate addiction and prescribed under its brand name, Subutex or Suboxone, among others. This drug is an opioid partial antagonist, producing an effect similar to narcotic opioids without getting the user high. Buprenorphine essentially tricks the brain into thinking that addictive chemical substances like heroin are being introduced into the bloodstream by binding to certain receptors within the brain. Some might try to take excessive buprenorphine to get high – this will not work for several reasons. The reasons are as follows:
- Buprenorphine has a much lower potential for abuse than addictive chemical substances like heroin and prescription painkillers.
- This prescription medication affects how opiates interact with the brain and body by putting a ceiling on the effects of opiates. This means that no matter how much opiates an individual takes while on buprenorphine, they will not experience a high past a certain point.
- It is much harder to become physically dependent on buprenorphine, and those who take this medication excessively will not experience the side effects they would experience when taking an addictive opiate like heroin, such as euphoria or central nervous system repression.
- Those who take this medication will experience less intense withdrawal symptoms upon ceased use.
When taken as prescribed, buprenorphine will result in the following:
- Reduced withdrawal symptoms, including physical symptoms like muscle cramping, stomach issues, profuse sweating, and sleep-related issues such as insomnia.
- Decreased opiate cravings. When an individual is undergoing heroin withdrawal, buprenorphine may be used to prevent relapse that would otherwise result from unmanageable and intense psychological cravings.
- A reduced propensity for illicit opiate abuse is usually based on reduced cravings.
- Increased propensity to stay engaged and active in addiction treatment.
Taking Opiates While on Buprenorphine
Some individuals may attempt to take opiates like heroin or prescription painkillers while they are actively taking buprenorphine or a similar opioid antagonist. They may do so thinking that the prescription medication will enhance the effects of the opiate they are ingesting. The drug is taken sublingually (meaning it is placed under the tongue and dissolved), so an individual may assume that taking another opiate via a different method of consumption (such as intravenous injection) will lead to a more intense high.
This is not true – as previously mentioned, buprenorphine reduces the effects of other opiates. If the two are taken in conjunction, an overdose is possible, seeing as the individual will take the addictive opiate and greater amounts in an attempt to combat the lack of a high. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to take this medication other than as prescribed or in conjunction with an opioid narcotic.
Absolute Awakenings and MAT
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is a proven and effective modality used in helping men and women of all ages overcome life-threatening opiate addictions and go on to lead happy and drug-free lives. At Absolute Awakenings, we provide each client with a thorough assessment which will help us determine whether or not MAT would be a beneficial addition to their individualized treatment plan.
We understand that buprenorphine might not be the best choice for everyone, and we take personal history and other underlying factors into close consideration. Some may mistakenly believe that MAT is merely “replacing one drug with another.” On the contrary, this modality has proven to reduce cravings, relapse, and mortality. If you or someone you love has been struggling with opiate addiction and needs help to stop, please feel free to reach out to us today. We understand how devastating opiate addiction can be and how important it is to provide quality clinical care to those who need and deserve a better life.
- Buprenorphine: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects. Drugs.com. Accessed January 20, 2023. https://www.drugs.com/buprenorphine.html
- Suboxone Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Warnings. Drugs.com. Accessed January 20, 2023. https://www.drugs.com/suboxone.html
- Oesterle TS, Thusius NJ, Rummans TA, Gold MS. Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid-Use Disorder. Mayo Clin Proc. 2019;94(10):2072-2086. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.03.029