Does Suboxone get you high? Suboxone contains a synthetic opioid called buprenorphine, and any opioid has the potential to cause a high to some degree. So yes, it’s possible for Suboxone to cause a high. However, this is extremely unlikely for several reasons:
- Suboxone is only a partial opioid agonist
- Suboxone is very slow-acting
- Suboxone contains naloxone and cannot be dissolved and injected
Buprenorphine isn’t a full opioid agonist. It’s only a partial one. This means that although it binds to the same opioid brain receptors that morphine does, it only activates the receptor partially. This produces a ceiling effect significantly limiting its ability to cause a high.
Buprenorphine moves slowly across the blood brain barrier. It doesn’t race across it like heroin does, limiting its potential to cause euphoria.
Suboxone is a combination product also containing naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote drug. It also attaches to the same opioid receptors as opioids do, but it can’t activate them. It has a higher preference, though, so it’s able to either kick an opioid molecule off the receptor or prevent it from binding at all. Only one molecule can occupy a receptor at a time, so if naloxone is present, it’s usually able to deactivate enough of the overdose opioid to revive the patient and restore breathing.
Naloxone: the Abuse Deterrent
The 2 milligrams of naloxone present in Suboxone isn’t enough to counteract the effects of buprenorphine or any other opioid when taken orally. However, if someone attempts to get high by dissolving the Suboxone film in water and injecting it, the 2 milligrams of naloxone will be more than enough by injection to stop any high from the injected buprenorphine. It’s also more than enough to cause untreatable and severe opioid withdrawal symptoms in an opioid addicted individual. When the Suboxone film is held and dissolved under the tongue as directed, it’s absorbed through the oral membranes with the buprenorphine, but the amount isn’t enough to counteract the effect of the buprenorphine. It’s Suboxone’s built-in abuse deterrent system, and it works very well.
Buprenorphine is not very active when swallowed, so it comes in preparations that are taken sublingually. These are tablets or films that are held under the tongue until they naturally dissolve. The drug diffuses rapidly into the system through the oral tissues, but its bioavailability or BA is still rather poor at about 38 to 44 percent. BA refers to the percentage of the ingested dose that actually reaches the brain. This lower BA is another factor limiting buprenorphine’s ability to induce a high.
Suboxone and Opioid Use Disorder
Opioid use disorder or OUD is most commonly treated with Suboxone because it’s effective for many people and doesn’t cause a high of its own. An opioid-addicted person taking Suboxone will just feel normal on average doses ranging from 8 to 16 milligrams daily. The legal daily limit for OUD in most states is 32 milligrams. Because of buprenorphine’s ceiling effect, daily doses in excess of 24 milligrams have not been shown to be of any further benefit than lower ones. The naloxone dose rises proportionately with the buprenorphine dose, always at one-quarter ratio. This further assures that even higher doses of buprenorphine cannot be intravenously abused.
It’s very difficult, if not impossible, for a person with OUD to get a high from buprenorphine. Their tolerance will be too elevated to allow any kind of high from a sublingual dose, and if they try to inject it, they will get nothing but very sick.
However, it is possible to someone who rarely uses opioids to catch a buzz from buprenorphine. Because it’s only a partial agonist, it’s unlikely and any high is probably going to be limited, but it’s not impossible for some people to abuse Suboxone and get high on it. It’s just not very likely. Compared to other opioids, especially oxycodone, oxymorphone and fentanyl, Suboxone’s abuse potential is limited on a good day. Most people aren’t going to go out of their way to seek it out.
Ready for More Information?
If you’re enmeshed in opioid abuse and feel that Suboxone may be able to help you, you may be right. It’s helped millions of people stop abusing both legal and illegal opioids and get their lives back on track. We’re a group of professional drug counselors here to help you with any substance abuse concerns you may have. Just call us anytime at 844-639-8371. We’re here to help.