Introduction

Suboxone is a medication used to treat dependence on heroin or other opioids. Opioids are medications that are typically used to treat moderate to severe pain. They can easily cause physical dependence and addiction.

Suboxone comes as a tablet you put under your tongue or as a film you put in your cheek or under your tongue. It’s a combination product made of the drugs buprenorphine and naloxone. Suboxone helps ease your body off of its opioid dependence or addiction. While Suboxone does this, it can cause side effects. Here’s what you need to know about the side effects you could experience while using Suboxone.

More common side effects

The more common side effects of Suboxone include:

  • lightheadedness or fainting
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • sleepiness
  • trouble sleeping
  • nausea and vomiting
  • constipation
  • upset stomach
  • sweating
  • numb mouth
  • swollen or painful tongue
  • redness inside your mouth
  • trouble paying attention
  • blurry vision
  • back pain

Many of these symptoms can also be the result of opioid withdrawal.

How to manage them

Many of these side effects will lessen over time. Until then, following these tips can help relieve your discomfort.

  • For upset stomach, take Suboxone after a meal or use an antacid.
  • For constipation, drink more fluids and eat more high-fiber foods. Exercise can also help.
  • For sleep problems, try limiting caffeine, avoiding naps, and keeping a regular bedtime.
  • For minor aches and pains, try over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen. Check with your doctor first.
  • For pain or redness in your mouth, try switching sides of your mouth each time you take the drug. For instance, let Suboxone dissolve on the right side of your mouth one day and on the left side the next.

If any side effects persist or bother you, talk to your doctor. They may be able to help by reducing your Suboxone dosage.

Serious side effects

Suboxone can also cause serious side effects. Some of these can result in severe harm and, in rare cases, death. If you have any of these side effects while taking Suboxone, call your doctor right away. If you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Serious side effects can include:

  • dependence, or feeling like you need to take Suboxone to feel normal
  • addiction, or lack of control of your use of Suboxone
  • slowed breathing
  • feeling faint, dizzy, or confused
  • problems with coordination, such as clumsiness
  • allergic reaction, with symptoms such as:
    • rash
    • hives
    • swelling of your face
    • wheezing
    • trouble breathing
    • loss of consciousness

Withdrawal from Suboxone

Suboxone can also cause negative effects if you stop taking it without your doctor’s guidance. Suddenly stopping the drug can cause withdrawal symptoms, which can include:

  • cravings for Suboxone
  • trouble sleeping
  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever, chills, and sweating
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • muscle and body aches
  • headache
  • trouble concentrating

Withdrawal symptoms can last for one month to several months after you stop taking Suboxone. The first 72 hours are generally the worst. This is when you would have the most physical symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting. If you’re concerned about your side effects, call your doctor. If you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Getting through withdrawal

It’s important to be in contact with your doctor when you stop Suboxone treatment. Your doctor will decrease your dosage over a period of time. This will make the withdrawal effects easier to handle and more tolerable. Your doctor can also suggest ways to reduce your withdrawal symptoms, such as treatments for pain or mood problems.

Precautions

Suboxone may cause certain health problems or make other health conditions worse. You should take the medication exactly as your doctor prescribes. Be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

Some health concerns to be aware of when taking Suboxone include:

Allergic reactions. You should not take Suboxone if you’re allergic to buprenorphine, naloxone, or any of the other ingredients in Suboxone. Taking a drug you’re allergic to can cause a serious reaction.

Misuse. Suboxone can be misused in the same way that opioids can be misused. Do not take Suboxone more often than your doctor prescribes. To keep you from having an unsafe amount of the drug, your doctor will only authorize a certain number of refills of the drug for you.

Respiratory depression. Suboxone can cause slowed breathing, which can lead to coma or death. You’re at increased risk of this problem if you combine Suboxone with alcohol or certain medications that can also affect your breathing. These include benzodiazepines and sedatives.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome. Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Using Suboxone while pregnant can cause withdrawal symptoms in your newborn baby called neonatal abstinence syndrome. Symptoms can include irritability, high-pitched crying, trouble sleeping, and trouble feeding. If you think your newborn may have this condition, tell your doctor right away.

Liver problems. Suboxone can cause liver damage. Your doctor will test your liver function before prescribing Suboxone to make sure it’s safe for you to take the drug. Your doctor may also do testing from time to time during your treatment to check your liver function.

Talk with your doctor

While Suboxone can help you kick your opioid addiction, it can also cause side effects. To help manage them, your doctor may reduce your Suboxone dosage. You can also help manage the side effects with home remedies such as using OTC pain relievers.

Be sure to stay in close contact with your doctor throughout your treatment with Suboxone. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Some questions you might want to ask include:

  • Am I at high risk of certain side effects from Suboxone?
  • How can I reduce my side effects? Would lowering my dosage help?
  • Am I taking any drugs that could cause problems with Suboxone?
  • Should I be concerned about becoming addicted to Suboxone?
  • When I’m ready to stop taking Suboxone, how should I do it?