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What Are the Dangers of Suboxone?

By Shelley Moore ; Updated August 14, 2017

Suboxone is a combination drug product useful for helping people addicted to opioid drugs to stop using these substances. The medication includes buprenorphine, classified as a partial opioid agonist, and the antagonist drug naloxone, which counteracts opioid overdose symptoms. Buprenorphine has a limited opioid effect. While it prevents withdrawal, it causes only mild euphoria compared to the intense euphoria associated with drugs such as oxycodone, morphine and heroin. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Suboxone tablets for long-term maintenance therapy, so opioid addicts can resume and maintain normal, productive lives. Nevertheless, some dangers are linked to Suboxone.

Drowsiness

Suboxone can cause drowsiness, dizziness, impaired thinking and slow reaction times. It also may increase the impact of drugs with similar effects, according to Drugs.com. These drugs include alcohol, anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, antihistamines, sedatives, tranquilizers, certain pain relievers and muscle relaxants. This can make driving or operating machinery dangerous.

Overdose

Suboxone.com, the official website for the drug product, recommends that doctors use an aggressive approach to dealing with opioid addiction when using Suboxone. The risk of severe negative effects, including overdose, is higher if the patient does not receive enough buprenorphine and continues to take other drugs. Suboxone overdose can be fatal, particularly if the patient injects this drug while also taking sedatives, tranquilizers or alcohol. Unconsciousness, severe respiratory depression and death can occur. Life-threatening overdose also can result from taking excessive amounts of Suboxone orally or combining oral Suboxone with alcohol, sedatives, tranquilizers, certain antidepressants and other opioid medications.

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Hepatitis

Some people receiving buprenorphine treatment for opioid addiction have developed hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, according to Suboxone.com. Symptoms include jaundice, dark urine, light-colored bowel movements, lack of appetite, nausea and stomach pain.

Allergic Reaction

Some people may experience an allergic reaction to either buprenorphine or naloxone. Signs as listed by Suboxone.com include hives, difficulty breathing, asthma and facial swelling. An allergic reaction to Suboxone should be considered a medical emergency, because it can lead to anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening reaction involving a severe drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness.

Considerations for Women

Buprenorphine and naloxone are both classified as FDA pregnancy category C, according to Drugs.com. This means research has either not determined whether the medication is harmful to an unborn baby or that animal research indicates this possibility. Using Suboxone during pregnancy also could cause withdrawal symptoms in a newborn baby. Additionally, breastfeeding women should not take Suboxone, because it transfers into breast milk and may harm the nursing baby.

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