Are There Dangerous Side Effects Connected with Use of Suboxone?

Suboxone Effects

If you’re not familiar with it, Suboxone is the brand name of a drug that is used in the treatment of opiate addiction. It was recently in the news because the young man who shot and killed several people in South Carolina had been recently arrested for possessing Suboxone that wasn’t prescribed for him. Could Suboxone have been involved in mental problems that contributed to his shooting these people? To determine this possibility, it’s necessary to take a closer look at this drug and its side effects.

What’s in Suboxone?

The primary drug in this formula is buprenorphine, a synthetic opioid (meaning “similar to opiate”). This drug prevents an opiate-addicted person from going into withdrawal but does not create as much euphoria as heroin or painkillers. So it is broadly used in the treatment of opiate addiction, enabling people to stop using heroin or painkillers without the sickness that would normally result. One report estimated that three million Americans have been treated with Suboxone.

Despite the high not being as potent as that of heroin, it’s still a popular drug of abuse, with many drug dealers offering their customers their choice of heroin or Suboxone. If there are any hazardous mental side effects of using or abusing Suboxone, all those people illicitly using this drug will not have the support of a doctor to cope with those effects.

Suboxone Side Effects

The website for the manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser of the UK, notes these side effects of the drug: Nausea, vomiting, headache, numb mouth, constipation, intoxication, disturbance in attention, irregular heartbeat, a decrease in sleep, back pain, fainting, and dizziness.

Pharmaceutical company Reckitt Benckiser lists no mental effects of this drug. Their website only states that there are “nervous system” effects such as: Anxiety, depression, dizziness, nervousness, and insomnia.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration notes this side effect: Dysphoria, defined as a state of depression, restlessness, or unpleasant dissatisfaction with life.

But What Do Actual Users Say about Suboxone?

Some recent news reports have ventured into online forums that permit drug users to discuss the effects of the drugs to find out what these actual users say about side effects. While these are not authoritative sites by any means, it might be useful in this circumstance to sample their comments.

In 2011, a woman described her experience using buprenorphine in a patch as prescribed for pain:
“I became extremely angry and irritable. I was having other problems with it and wound up taking the patch off. When I put a new one on last night, the same thing happened. Ten minutes and tears just started pouring. I couldn’t stop it! Half an hour after that I was high as a kite, not happy but talkative. Twenty minutes later I felt the need to punch someone in the face, and I’ve been irritable and bitchy ever since. I feel like gruesomely and meticulously dismembering every other person I come across, just because.”

This person stopped using Suboxone while he was taking 6 milligrams per day:
“On the fourth day I wanted to kill myself. Whoever says Suboxone is easy to come off is a better person then I am.”

In 2013, a fellow who was trying to get clean after using 2 mg Suboxone for six months said:
“I set a new world’s record, at least my personal best, 27 days with no sleep! On a 2 a.m. walk at night 26 I was seriously ready to jump out into traffic, I was hallucinating and could barely walk, and once you think you’re getting better, it comes back and kicks you in the ***!”

Person standing at 2am

In 2014, a person who had been taking Suboxone for two years and then went off it said: “The INSANE anxiety has settled in to stay. I make myself sick obsessing over what I need to be doing and what is about to go wrong and how in the world I am going to make it through. I sit and think and in the middle of everything I do, chores, driving, watching TV, suddenly my heart sinks as I sit and entertain one of my negative thoughts in my head.”

A man with the forum name of “Dan Steely” described the effect of taking one to two mg of buprenorphine a day for eight months:
“It took me months to figure out I had turned into a zombie. Like I said I could function pretty well but my life had become very flat. I no longer enjoyed or looked forward to the things that made my life fun.”

A person with the forum name “Shanellie” mentioned in 2012:

“Subs are just not for everyone. I tried that route and basically spent an entire year feeling weird, sick and miserable.”

“Subs are just not for everyone. I tried that route and basically spent an entire year feeling weird, sick and miserable.”

There’s no drug in the world that works for every single person which is why it’s vital for a patient to stay in touch with a doctor when starting treatment. When a person is abusing this drug or does not have a trusting relationship with his doctor, it’s possible for things to go very wrong, as these people have noted.

Was Suboxone Abuse Related to this Recent Tragedy?

This is a question that doctors and other qualified experts will need to answer. What does seem clear is that Suboxone and buprenorphine don’t work for every patient and have some serious mental side effects for some. When these drugs are being used without medical supervision, there’s no telling what could happen.

When a person is trying to get clean after drug addiction, it is possible to get completely sober so that one does not have to rely on methadone, buprenorphine or any other drug. The Narconon drug rehabilitation program uses no substitute drugs as part of its treatment. If a medical detox is required to ensure the person can safely step down off the drugs they are on, this would be arranged before starting the Narconon program. Then each person is helped through withdrawal from any drugs (other than those prescribed for a medical condition) with the use of generous doses of nutritional supplements and continuous one-on-one work with trained staff. Gentle physical techniques help with physical aches and relaxing mental procedures help ease anxiety.

Withdrawal is followed by a thorough sauna-based detoxification and an education in the life skills that will be needed to stay sober in the future.

The result is full sobriety. For the first time in decades for some people, they can enjoy life without any drugs or alcohol in their systems. They find themselves capable of truly feeling the joys of life for the first time. There’s nothing like that feeling.

Clinical Review by Claire Pinelli, LADC, CCS, ICAADC, MCAP
Reviewed October 15, 2018


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.