Subutex Addiction, Abuse, Withdrawal & Treatment



SubutexSubutex is a combination of buprenorphine and hydrochloride. It is an opioid/ analgesia, sometimes referred to as a narcotic. Opioids are depressant psychoactive drugs that depress or slow the functioning of the brain hence slowing body processes.

Form and administration

Subutex is available in tablet/ pill form and should be taken orally. However, abusers of the medication, in an effort to increase the intensity and absorption into the body, grind subutex into a fine powder which they insufflate/ snort/ inhale or they dissolve into a liquid and then inject into the veins and into the blood stream.

Subutex Use 

Subutex is used for treatment of moderate to severe pain due its ability to bind with the CNS and brain receptacles, blocking pain perception from the brain. It is also used as a treatment for other opioids (specifically heroin) and opiate addictions since it binds more compactly with the receptacles of the brain/CNS, displacing the other opioids and opiates. It produces the effects of the other opioids/opiates in the body and brain and thus is used to manage withdrawal symptoms, as the absence of the other opioids/ opiates are not intensely felt by the body and brain as subutex caters to that.

Subutex abuse

Whereas subutex is primarily and medically used for treating pain and addictions to other opioids/opiates, there are people who use it for leisure. This is because in their working mechanism, opioids/ opiates enhance an increased production of endorphins, which are the ‘feel good’ chemical substances that also bind with the CNS/ brain receptacles to inhibit pain signals from reaching the brain.

In this sense, subutex slows the functions of brain, which in turn slow the transmission of signals to and from the body organs and brain causing the other organs to function slowly and generally slow all body processes. The slowed body processes and the good feelings make subutex a desirable drug for abuse – using the drug not for treatment purposes, but other reasons. The availability of this drug on the streets, at a cheaper price than other opioids and with less legal restrictions from the government also increases its chances of abuse.

Subutex side effects

• Headache
• Nausea
• Lack of sleep
• Kidney and liver problems shown by dark urine and pale stools
• Low respiration rate
• Sweating
• Slow breathing
• Stomach contractions that are painful
• Mood swings and depression
• Low blood pressure
• Slow heart beat
• Headaches
• Loss of consciousness such as fainting, caused by insufficient blood reaching the brain
• Fatigue and general bodily tiredness
• Inability to concentrate

Conditions that may amplify subutex side effects or make even a small amount of intake of subutex lethal to the body include:

• Dysfunctional liver
• Kidney problems
• People with gall bladder problems
• Buprenorphine allergies and allergies to other drugs such as sedatives, tranquilizers etc
• Regular use of or addiction to alcohol
• Spine curvatures that slow breathing
• Mental illnesses or psychological disorders
• Head injuries that might have induced pressure buildup inside the skull
• Urination problems
• Under active thyroid glands


All opioid and psychoactive drugs generally have the capacity to develop addiction and subutex is not left behind. Though it’s less addictive than heroin and morphine, it still contains thebaine and codeine, which have the capacity to develop changes in the brain and with prolonged use, develop irreversible brain changes. Addiction is a process that develops with time. It starts with tolerance – which is when the body needs increased quantities of the drug to reach the initial feeling, since the usual amounts no longer give the ‘usual high’.

Tolerance is succeeded by physical dependence, which is a need for the body to keep using the drug to function. Addiction succeeds dependence and it goes beyond the physical compulsion to the psychological perpetual craving for the drug. During addiction, the absence of subutex or intake of reduced amounts gives rise to withdrawal symptoms.

Subutex withdrawal symptoms

These could range from mild discomforts to life threatening symptoms and they are dependent on how much subutex and for how long it has been used/abused; that is the level of Subutex dependence or addiction.

Subutex withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:

• A fast heart beat
• High blood pressure
• Increased respiration rate
• Increased body temperature
• Distorted vision

Subutex overdose

A subutex overdose can occur when someone takes in too much at once, takes the medication in shorter intervals than prescribed, injects the medication directly into the bloodstream, or snorts too much powder.

Subutex overdose symptoms

Multiple organ failure (the heart, lungs, kidney, liver and the brain) is the most commonly experienced symptom when one overdoses and this ultimately leads to death. Individual organ failure may be exhibited in the following symptoms:

• Low blood pressure
• Very slow breathing or no breathing at all
• Blue skin and lips, indicating minimal blood flowing to the surface
• Black out or coma
• Heart attack
• Stroke
• Extreme dilation of pupils
• Death

Subutex rehabilitation

Addiction to any drug (including subutex) causes a lot of individual (physical and psychological) harm as well as social problems, and these call for treatment to end these problems.

Individual effects of subutex abuse/addiction

• Distorted thinking and anxiety
• Reduced energy and slowed body processes, making the person ineffective and suffering from pain

Social effects of subutex abuse/addiction

• Crimes might be committed by addicts who will do anything to fund their addiction, including stealing or doing illegal businesses.
• Society is forced to take care of the addicts since subutex disables their mental and physical capacities, or their neglected families.

Subutex abuse/ addiction treatment involves a comprehensive program that will have physical detoxification and therapy/ counseling as its pillars. Detoxification is helping the body eliminate all subutex from the body and treating withdrawal symptoms, whereas counseling helps the addicts address underlying factors.