Is Suboxone an Opioid?
Suboxone is a semi-synthetic opioid replacement used to treat addiction. It is made up of buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that is found in medical settings where it is used in the medication assisted treatment (MAT) of opioid use disorder (OUD). Buprenoprhine acts as an effective opioid supplement for patients undergoing treatment for opioid addiction.
While the drug does denote recreational effects, these effects are capped at approximately 8mg. This is due to the fact that buprenorphine has a ceiling effect and can obtain full occupancy of the opioid receptor at a low dose. See Can Suboxone Lead to Addiction? for more on Suboxone’s ‘ceiling effect.’ The partial opioid properties of the buprenorphine in Suboxone can alleviate cravings and provide stability but if more of the medication is taken then prescribed or if it is misused there is a risk of respiratory depression, overdose, and death.
It is very important that the patient has begun withdrawal before commencing Suboxone treatment. If Suboxone intercepts with other opioids in the patient’s system, it can cause precipitated withdrawal and overdose. The partial opioid properties of buprenorphine substitute the effect of full opioid agonists (e.g., fentanyl, morphine) in the brain. Buprenorphine can act more effectively to imitate the secretion of endorphins and experience of euphoria catalyzed by full opioid agonists at a more controlled level when the patient is in withdrawal. This is what makes Suboxone a great instrument in the medication assisted treatment of addiction. If the buprenorphine reacts with an opioid already present at the receptor site, it can lead to an overdose caused by extenuating respiratory depression. Respiratory depression is a fatal side effect of opioid use. See When to Take Suboxone; A Complete Guide for more. Suboxone overdose can also occur if the medication is misused, i.e., injected, snorted, and/or incorrectly dosed.