If Suboxone is taken in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol, it will amplify all of the potential medical related risk factors, including increasing the likelihood of a life-threatening interaction or overdose. In 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 30,135 Americans sought emergency medical treatment for buprenorphine-related causes, with 52% of these visits for the non-medical use, or abuse, of buprenorphine products, and 59% of these visits involved other drugs.
How Suboxone Works and Its Risk Factors
Opioids drugs attach to opioid receptors throughout the brain and body, blocking pain signals and stimulating the production of neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating moods and emotions – essentially the brain’s reward circuitry. Buprenorphine is an opioid drug. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that between 26.4 million and 36 million people are believed to misuse opioids worldwide, while the World Health Organization (WHO) further estimates that around 15 million opioid misusers suffer from an opioid dependency. Regular use or abuse of an opioid drug can create a psychological and physical dependence. The brain begins to depend on the drug in order to feel “normal” or balanced, and it ceases to function exactly as it did before the drugs. Brain chemistry is altered, and the brain relies on the opioid in order to provide certain chemicals that produce feelings of happiness, for instance. In addition to being habit-forming, Suboxone also can suppress breathing, or respiration, to dangerous levels when abused, as well as potentially induce drowsiness, lethargy, and vomiting.
Side Effects of Mixing Suboxone With Depressants
The manufacturers of Suboxone state that the drug can have dangerous, and even life-threatening, interactions when mixed with central nervous system depressants, such as benzodiazepines (benzos), alcohol, sedatives, muscle relaxers, or tranquilizers. Adverse reactions mostly include potentially fatal breathing problems, as central nervous system depressants also suppress respiration.
Motor control and functions may be impaired, which can lead to accidents or impaired driving. Suboxone and central nervous system depressants when used together also alter cognition levels as well as the ability to make rational decisions. They may affect impulse control and willpower, causing the individual to engage in potentially risky behavior. Opioids, as well as alcohol and benzodiazepines, stimulate the production of the brain’s chemical messenger gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA is a sort of natural tranquilizer that acts on the nervous system, calming things down and suppressing stress, anxiety, and panic as well as lowering heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and body temperature. When overstimulated, the overproduction of GABA can slow things down too much.
Similarly, alcohol inhibits the production of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, which is partially responsible for energy levels and increased brain activity. While Suboxone and opioid drugs are not technically considered central nervous system depressants, they do have many of the same effects as true depressants, and combining them can result in disastrous consequences. In addition to fostering addiction, higher doses also increase the likelihood of a potentially fatal overdose.
Since it’s primarily used to treat addiction, when Suboxone is coupled with other drugs or alcohol, it may actually increase addictive behaviors. Increasing dosage regularly greatly enhances the odds of becoming physically and psychologically dependent on each substance.
Signs of an Overdose
Suboxone is sometimes prescribed as a moderate pain reliever as it functions in much the same way as other opioid analgesics, just to a lesser extent. When surveying opioid pain reliever overdose fatalities, alcohol was involved 22.1% of the time, as published by the CDC. If you recognize any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention as an overdose from mixing Suboxone and other central nervous system depressants can be fatal without proper treatment:
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Loss of coordination
- Severe drowsiness
- Weak muscles or limp appendages
- Irregular heart rate
- Shallow or slowed breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Get Help Today
Brain chemistry altered through addiction and dependency can be reversed over time, and with the proper treatment. Physical stabilization is the first goal of addiction treatment and may require detox in a safe and secure facility that provides 24-hour medical care and supervision. Recovery, in order to be successful long-term, should also include psychotherapy, such as behavioral therapies and counseling sessions. In addition, support groups may be invaluable at preventing the severity, duration, and frequency of relapse.
At Futures, we offer a state-of-the-art treatment facility, providing evidence-based and comprehensive recovery plans in order to promote healing and long-term success. Contact Futures today to speak with a compassionate and highly trained admissions counselor for more detailed information on the specialized and unique treatment plans we have to offer.