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Can You Snort Suboxone? What Happens?

Suboxone abuse is serious and should not be underestimated. You should never snort Suboxone, as the practice is incredibly dangerous. It will likely not produce the desired effects since the naloxone component will trigger withdrawal.

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is prescribed to treat opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction can be especially difficult to overcome due to the severity of withdrawal. A cold-turkey approach to quitting tends to be ineffective. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), some heroin users can show signs of withdrawal months after they stop using the drug.

As such, Suboxone plays the role of a replacement medication, taking the role Methadone has traditionally played in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). While Methadone is effected as a MAT, it requires that patients visit a clinic daily to get their dose, and it is subject to abuse. Suboxone offers more flexibility since it can be taken at home, and it has some abuse-deterrent properties.

The buprenorphine component is a partial opioid agonist. An opioid agonist is a drug that has the effects associated with opioids (euphoria and depressed breathing) like heroin and Methadone. As a partial agonist, buprenorphine has a weaker effect than these drugs. Importantly, the effects level off as the dose is increased, reducing the likelihood of abuse. 

Suboxone also contains naloxone, a medication that will activate if Suboxone is abused. Naloxone is normally used to reverse opioid overdoses, so it will quickly put the user into withdrawal. This further dissuades users from abusing Suboxone. 

As prescribed, Suboxone helps wean a patient off opioids, allowing them to face less severe symptoms than simply ceasing to take any drugs at all. It is less addictive and generally safer than Methadone.

Why Do People Snort Suboxone?

Snorting (or dissolving and then injecting) a drug allows an abuser to get the drug into the bloodstream more quickly. This, in turn, can intensify the drug’s effects producing a stronger high.

Woman snorting crushed up suboxone out of a straw

The idea behind such abuse is to use buprenorphine to replicate the effect of a true opioid agonist better. However, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) notes the naloxone in the drug will quickly lead to withdrawal. 

Opioid addiction is notoriously complex and difficult to overcome. While prescribing Suboxone is beneficial, it also puts a substance that can be abused in the hands of someone struggling with addiction. Even if taken correctly, it is still only a partial agonist.

Whether a user is prescribed the drug or not, Suboxone may be easier and cheaper for them to acquire than an opioid like heroin due to Suboxone’s less controlled nature compared to Methadone or heroin. Even though it is still a prescription medication, Suboxone may be used illegally.

Is This Type of Abuse Common?

Unfortunately, Suboxone abuse appears to be on the rise. According to a New York Times report, the drug is easily smuggled into prisons, particularly since Suboxone can come in the form of small strips.

It is also booming on the black market due to its relatively low availability. Though doctors need special approval to prescribe Suboxone, they are limited to treating 100 patients at a time.  

That same report notes that a high percentage of buprenorphine doctors, over 10 percent, has been sanctioned for serious misconduct. Considering the Suboxone demand on the black market, this primes the system for abuse.

What Are the Dangers of Snorting Suboxone?

Suboxone’s risks are generally manageable and mostly associated with the buprenorphine component when taken as prescribed. The risks abusers of the drug encounter come into play due to the naloxone component of the drug.

Naloxone impedes the ability to get an extreme effect from the drug, and it can quickly trigger withdrawal. Suboxone withdrawal is serious, even if the effects tend to be milder than withdrawal from true opioids. The Mayo Clinic notes that to avoid Suboxone withdrawal while ending legitimate use, one should slowly wean off the drug in consultation with a medical professional. 

Symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal include:

  • Mood swings and irritability.
  • Flu-like symptoms.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Aches and pains.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Shakiness and tremors.

Suboxone is difficult but not impossible to overdose on. Overdosing on the drug manifests in the same way as overdosing on opioids, with the most serious symptoms being depressed or lack of  breathing. 

As SAMHSA discusses, drugs like Suboxone should not be abused simply because they are safer than opioids like heroin. Its abuse can have deadly consequences if using other drugs while taking it.

The Dangers of Snorting Drugs

Snorting Suboxone, like snorting any drug, is a dangerous and addictive behavior. While snorting Suboxone is largely ineffective, some people are able to get their hands on pure buprenorphine and snort it. 

In addition to all the effects of buprenorphine abuse, snorting the drug can result in damage to the nasal cavity, chronic nosebleeds, and a perforated septum.

Abusing Suboxone taxes the body, risks overdose and negates the drug’s intended purpose of weaning a user off opioid addiction. If you have been prescribed Suboxone and are attempting to abuse it, seek help as soon as possible.

Sources

What is Suboxone Film? Indivior. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.suboxone.com/treatment/suboxone-film

Medication Guide Suboxone® (Sub‐OX‐own) (buprenorphine and naloxone) Sublingual Film for sublingual or buccal administration (CIII). Indivior. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.suboxone.com/content/pdfs/medication-guide.pdf

(June 2018). What Are The Long-term Effects Of Heroin Use? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-long-term-effects-heroin-use

(May 2016). Buprenorphine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/buprenorphine

(November 2013). Addiction Treatment With a Dark Side. The New York Times. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/health/in-demand-in-clinics-and-on-the-street-bupe-can-be-savior-or-menace.html?_r=0

(February 2019). Buprenorphine (Buccal Mucosa Route, Sublingual Route). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/buprenorphine-buccal-mucosa-route-sublingual-route/description/drg-20074237

(2009). The Facts About Buprenorphine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved February 2019 from https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4442.pdf

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