Can Subutex Get You High? Buprenorphine Abuse, Addiction and Treatment

Drugs & Alcohol

Can Subutex Get You High? Buprenorphine Abuse, Addiction and Treatment

One question that addicts often ask themselves is this one: Can Subutex get you high? The answer to that question is yes, it can. This is surprising to many because this is a drug that was meant to help them stop getting high.

The fact is that not only can Subutex get you high, but it can also lead to abuse and addiction.

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Subutex is frequently prescribed during drug detox; particularly for opiate addicts. Unfortunately, people often get more than they bargained for while taking it. Let’s talk in more detail about how Subutex works, and how people use it to get high.

What is Subutex

What is Subutex?

Brand Names:

  • Butrans
  • Belbuca
  • Buprenex
  • Suboxone
  • Buprine

Subutex is a brand name for the drug, Buprenorphine. It is intended to help people who have opioid addictions. Many times, people with heroin or oxycodone addictions will be given Subutex during detox.

opioid replacement therapy

For many people, Subutex has been a wonderful addition to their treatment plan. This is because it can help to lessen their opioid withdrawal symptoms. It reduces cravings substantially.

Even so, there are others for whom Subutex ends up serving an entirely different purpose. When it is not taken as directed, it is possible to get high on Subutex. This can eventually lead to an addiction to this drug.

The Side Effects of Subutex

Like other medications, Subutex does carry some side effects you should be aware of. For those who take this drug as prescribed, it’s possible to show signs of an allergic reaction. These signs can include:

allergic reactions to subutex

  • Developing hives
  • Forming a skin rash
  • Having problems with breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips or tongue
  • Issues with the throat closing up

These are generally pretty rare. However, they are a cause for concern and should be made known to your doctor if they occur.

The Side Effects of Subutex

Some side effects are to be expected, just like with any medication. The more common side effects with Subutex include:

  • Increased sweating or chills, alternating
  • Pain in the back, or other areas of the body
  • Insomnia or other sleep issues
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mild constipation
  • Occasional headaches
  • Feeling warm and tingly
  • Physical weakness
  • Feeling anxious or depressed

Sometimes side effects can become more severe. You should talk with your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Shallow or slower breathing than normal
  • Feelings of confusion
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Pain in the upper part of the stomach
  • Itching
  • Loss of appetite

Buprenorphine in the News

In September of 2018, buprenorphine and Subutex made the news many times over. The drug became a hot topic when Purdue Pharma received a patent for a new form of Subutex.

This new form of the drug is a wafer, and is placed under the tongue, where it dissolves within seconds.

The controversy behind this new form of the drug is that Purdue Pharma is often cited as the reason for the U.S. opioid crisis in the first place. The Pharmaceutical company is the creator of OxyContin, a highly addictive opioid that was marketed as non-addictive and completely safe for quite some time.

Upon hearing the news of the new patent, many wondered if Purdue Pharma should be allowed to profit from a problem that many think they helped to create. Regardless, the company continues in their research and experimentation process with the new form of Subutex.

Warning Signs for This Drug

Buprenorphine actually comes with quite a long list of warnings. It is a drug that certainly shouldn’t be given to just anyone. People who take it need to be very clear on its warnings, and what can happen with short or long-term use.

When you are taking Buprenorphine, you need to be aware that:

  • With long-term use, this drug may become habit-forming. It carries a strong risk of abuse and addiction.
  • This medication can lead to severe and even fatal breathing problems.
  • If someone other than the person for whom it is prescribed takes Buprenorphine, it may be deadly.
  • Buprenorphine should never be combined with alcohol for any reason.
  • Certain medications may not be safe to take with this drug. Talk with your doctor about all of your medications before you begin using it.
  • If Buprenorphine is used during pregnancy, it may result in withdrawal for the newborn.
  • Misusing Subutex in any way can lead to a fatal overdose.
  • This medication may not be safe for women who are breastfeeding. Talk with your doctor first about the risks and benefits.

While Buprenorphine can be extremely beneficial, it can also be harmful. It’s important that you weigh the dangers of it before you start. Talking with your doctor will help you understand whether or not it’s the right choice for you.

How is Subutex Taken During Drug Detox?

When patients are given Subutex during drug detox, they usually take it as a pill. It is a sublingual tablet that will dissolve under the tongue. When taking this drug detox medication, the buprenorphine in the drug will bind to opioid receptors. This blocks the effects of heroin and other opiate drugs in the body.

The reason this works so well is because it will keep other opiates from having their full effects. Even so, it does produce a sensation of euphoria. It can do this even when it is being taken as directed. This in itself can lead people to abuse the drug in order to get high.

Subutex vs. Methadone and Suboxone for Drug Detox

There are many drugs that doctors and detox centers will use to help with opiate withdrawal symptoms. Subutex is just one of them. The question is, how does Subutex compare with drugs like Methadone and Suboxone?

Methadone is another opioid medication that blocks the effects of opiate drugs. Like Subutex, it can produce a sensation of euphoria when it is taken. For those who take Methadone, that sensation is enhanced. Like other opioid blockers, Methadone can also lead to abuse and addiction.

Suboxone is a drug that contains both Buprenorphine and Naloxone. This is primarily what makes it different from Subutex. Many experts believe that the addition of Naloxone makes Suboxone much more difficult to abuse than Subutex. Even so, people who are desperate to get high will usually find a way.

is subutex addictive

What do People Experience During a Subutex High?

When people take Subutex to get high, they will experience a sensation of euphoria. These individuals are more at risk the longer they take this drug. This is because the original opiate that they were addicted to eventually leaves the system. Taking more Subutex than prescribed can result in getting high. However, this drug does have a ceiling effect built in. That means that after a certain point, taking more of it won’t enhance the high.

When people who abuse Subutex reach this ceiling, they will often take a different approach. They may dissolve the tablet in water and inject it to increase the intensity of the high.

Why do Individuals Use Buprenorphine to Get High?

Someone may use Subutex to get high for any number of reasons. They may:

  • Start to crave the mild euphoria that Subutex gives them.
  • Have breakthrough cravings because of their opiate addiction.
  • Want to experiment with Subutex out of curiosity.
  • Be suffering from a co-occurring disorder and want relief from any type of drug.
  • Become afraid of going through withdrawal and turn to Subutex for relief.

Even though Subutex can have therapeutic benefits, most experts believe that it might just be too risky. For someone who is already an addict, Subutex presents them with another way to get high. It often doesn’t take long for Subutex patients to realize that this is a possibility.

What is Subutex Abuse?

Subutex abuse is defined as any time the drug is being used against doctor’s advice. Some would argue that this could even mean using Subutex for a long time, even with a prescription. Ideally, it is a drug that should only be used under strict medical supervision. Otherwise, the risk of abuse is very high.

Subutex abuse can be identified in a number of ways. These can include:

  • Taking doses that are too high
  • Dissolving the pills in water and injecting the solution
  • Taking Subutex without a prescription
  • Purchasing Subutex online to use illegally
  • Lying about losing a prescription for Subutex in order to get more of the drug

Signs of Buprenorphine Abuse

Signs of Buprenorphine Abuse

If you abuse Subutex for a period of time, you are likely to show some signs of abuse. Keep in mind that this is a dangerous drug when it is abused. You may begin to notice some of the following signs and symptoms of Subutex abuse:

  • Frequent mood swings
  • Changes in your sleeping habits and patterns
  • Nosebleeds or even damage to your sinuses
  • Bruising at the injection site if you are injecting the drug
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed

Is a Subutex Addiction a Possibility?

The longer you take Subutex against doctor’s orders, the more likely you are to form an addiction to it. Yes, a Subutex addiction is a very real possibility. Not everyone who abuses Subutex will form an addiction to the drug. Even so, unless they stop using it in appropriately, they put themselves at risk for addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of a Buprenorphine Addiction

People can become addicted to Subutex very quickly. Quite often, people form addictions to this detox drug without realizing they’re addicted. This might be because the drug is supposed to help with addiction, not cause it. Lack of education on the dangers of Subutex is often to blame for dependence.

If you’re addicted to Subutex, you’ll probably show some symptoms of dependence. These Subutex addiction signs can include:

  • Yellowing of your skin and possibly your eyes
  • Experiencing flu-like symptoms
  • Losing interest in sex
  • Spending time with a different group of friends
  • Financial problems because of money spent on Subutex
  • Problems in relationships and at work
  • Difficulties keeping up with your responsibilities

Do any of these sound familiar to you? If they do, you may be a Subutex addict.

signs of a buprenorphine addiction

What Happens Once You’re Addicted to Subutex?

Once you have formed an addiction to Subutex, you most likely can’t just stop taking it. Doing so can be very dangerous for you. It will probably result in a relapse, which could lead to an overdose.

If you do have an addiction to Buprenorphine, this will need to be treated. This is very similar to when you went to treatment for your opiate addiction. Subutex can be a highly addictive drug when it is misused. This means that professional treatment is the best option for recovery.

You may be disappointed at the thought that you need Subutex rehab. After all, this was a drug that was supposed to help you get through rehab. You may not have been aware of the addictive potential of Subutex. However, if you do have an addiction, treatment for Subutex addiction is the only way to recover.

Are You a Subutex Addict? Find Out

Are you a Subutex addict? Maybe you’ve looked over the above signs and symptoms of Subutex addiction, but you’re not sure. You still think you might be only abusing the drug. It is really important for you to find out for sure.

It can be helpful to take an addiction quiz. A quiz will dig a little bit deeper into your Subutex use. It will ask you some questions that may be difficult. In the end, it should give you more information about your Subutex use. You’ll get your results right away, and you’ll know how you should proceed.

Subutex Withdrawal

If you do find that you’re addicted to Subutex, you shouldn’t quit suddenly. Like with any addiction or dependence, you will need to be weaned off of Subutex slowly to avoid the symptoms of Subutex withdrawal.

If you stop using Subutex too quickly, the withdrawal symptoms could be similar to the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, including:

  • Anxiety, aggression, or irritability
  • Achy muscles
  • Difficulty concentrating, restlessness, or hyperactivity
  • Digestion issues, stomach pain, or nausea
  • Depression
  • Paranoia

These symptoms are potentially very dangerous, so it’s best to seek outside help to avoid them. The timeline for Subutex withdrawal is different for each user, depending on how dependent their body is and how long they’ve been using.

Usually, the symptoms of withdrawal will be worst within the first 72 hours after stopping use. Then, in the following week, you’ll likely be moody and unable to sleep. Your muscles will likely ache, too.

In the second week, you may begin to experience depression. By the fourth week, your cravings for Subutex will get much stronger, perhaps unbearably so if you aren’t tapering off of Subutex properly and/or coupling this detox process with other therapy.

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Subutex Tapering

It’s also possible to succumb to the withdrawal symptoms of Subutex if you aren’t addicted, yet your body is dependent because you’ve been getting Subutex as a treatment for so long. If that’s the case, you’ll need to stop using Subutex slowly over time. This is called tapering.

It’s best to taper off of Subutex under the supervision of a doctor. You can read here for a suggested tapering schedule, but you should also run this past your doctor to be sure it’s the right plan for you.

As you taper, remember that it’s okay to go more slowly than the schedule suggests. Taking your time makes you less likely to relapse to Subutex or a stronger opioid when the withdrawal symptoms get too strong.

You should also be sure not to get too overconfident and skip tapering stages. Making too big of a jump between doses can increase or intensify withdrawal symptoms.

There’s no shame in a tapering process that takes a long time. You may think that a long tapering process for Subutex means you are weak; to the contrary, a longer tapering process could mean that you are covering all your bases and making sure that you will not relapse.

A Non-Addictive Alternative: Vivitrol

Because of the addictive qualities of Subutex, many addicts, doctors, and insurance companies are now opting for a non-addictive treatment for opioid and alcohol abuse. This alternative is called Vivitrol and takes the form of an injection administered directly into the muscle.

Vivitrol can be used to suppress cravings in addicts who have been clean from opioids and alcohol for at least 7-10 days.

There are 10 main reasons why Vivitrol is one of the safest and most effective drugs used in addiction treatment. These are:

  1. Vivitrol is non-addictive. The active ingredient in Vivitrol is Naltrexone. Naltrexone is completely non-addictive and actually prevents the user from getting any euphoria or high from opioids or alcohol.

Other drugs used in treatment often have the opposite effect – they replace the drug abused by the patient by taking its place and creating the same high or euphoria the user would usually experience. These kinds of drugs are very strong. Buprenorphine, the main ingredient in Subutex, can be 30 times stronger than morphine. That is why such drugs so often cause patients to become addicted to the drugs used in treatment; they’re experiencing the same pleasure response as they would to the original drug.

Vivitrol, however, carries no such risk. It is medically impossible to form a dependence on Vivitrol, and it has no side effects that make anyone want to abuse it.

  1. The goal of Vivitrol use is total abstinence. If you are being treated for addiction using Vivitrol, your doctor is working to ensure that drug or alcohol use is no longer pleasurable. For most addicts, this keeps them from continuing use. If there’s no high or euphoria or any other effect, most see no reason to use drugs or alcohol.

In contrast, those being treated for addiction with drugs like Subutex can still get high or drunk. The goal is to slowly decrease drug dependence and use over time, but treatment with this type of drug doesn’t decrease the pleasure from or incentive to use such drugs.

  1. Vivitrol is simple to administer. Everyone, regardless of age, weight, height, gender, or level of dependence, receives the same dosage of Vivitrol. Vivitrol is administered by a nurse monthly as an injection. All patients receive one injection of 380mg, and this lasts at least one month.

Other treatment drugs, like Subutex, differ in dosage depending on a number of different factors. All of these factors increase the likelihood for error – and if the addict doesn’t get a high enough dosage, they’re significantly more likely to relapse.

Subutex and other replacement drugs are also often given as pills, usually daily. When this is the case, the recovering addict must be closely monitored to ensure they do not miss a dose.

  1. Vivitrol has a longer mechanism of action. One injection of Vivitrol is effective only half an hour after it is administered, and remains effective for another 30 days.

Other drugs, like Subutex, can take nearly 3-4 hours to affect the patient, and lose efficacy much more quickly. This makes a relapse much more likely. If there’s a snowstorm, or it’s a holiday, or you don’t have a ride, it’s likely you’ll miss a dose and feel the effects.

With Vivitrol, however, appointments are usually scheduled to overlap enough to not be affected by missing a dose by just a few days. This greatly decreases the chance of a relapse.

  1. Vivitrol has a higher adherence rate. Because Vivitrol is administered monthly by a registered nurse, it’s easy to know if a patient is staying on schedule with treatment.

Other treatment drugs, like Subutex, are taken much more often and outside of the surveillance of registered medical personnel. Most are taken in the form of a pill or tablet. It’s easy for a patient to miss a dose or take two pills instead of one, and there’s little up-to-date accountability for such mistakes.

  1. Vivitrol requires a shorter overall treatment process. Most people who take Vivitrol do so for anywhere from 6 months to a year. This can differ depending on the patient’s personal profile, but not many people continue receiving the injections after one year.

Other drugs, like Subutex and Methadone, have much more varied estimates for the length of treatment. Often, this time period is lengthened if the patient becomes addicted to the treatment drug.

Not only is a short treatment process ideal in that recovery comes more quickly, but it also keeps costs low. When patients become addicted to Subutex or another treatment drug, they could end up paying their treatment facility for years. Vivitrol users, though, are more likely to pay for a year or less.

  1. Vivitrol causes fewer side effects. Most side effects of Vivitrol are both more temporary and less severe than the side effects associated with other treatment drugs. One of the most common side effects is some pain, itching, or swelling at the site of the injection shortly after administration. Vivitrol can also cause the following (usually only for a short time):
  • Exhaustion
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Anxiety

Other drugs, meanwhile, cause many more side effects that often last much longer. Suboxone, for example, can cause most of the same side effects as Vivitrol, plus:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling drunk
  • Vomiting, constipation, or other digestive issues
  • Mouth numbness or pain
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling drunk
  1. Vivitrol is impossible to abuse or misuse. Treatment drugs like Subutex often become the objects of abuse for recovering addicts. The Addict often gets creative in taking their “treatment” in different ways to experience a more intense high or a more pleasurable feeling. They may crush or dissolve pills and snort or inject them, take more than has been prescribed to them, or otherwise misuse the drugs.

Vivitrol, however, is always administered by a nurse. Even if someone were to get ahold of Vivitrol outside of a treatment facility, the active ingredient would not cause any pleasant effect on the user.

This inability to be abused makes Vivitrol safer and more effective for those recovering from addiction.

  1. Vivitrol is proven just as effective as other treatments. Time and time again, Vivitrol has been studied to see if it is truly as effective as other treatment drugs. The results say that it absolutely is.

Those who receive Vivitrol treatment instead of other treatments are slightly less likely to relapse. They are also less likely to relapse early on during treatment – those users who did relapse tended to do so much later than those receiving other treatments, meaning that Vivitrol can be crucial near the beginning of treatment.

Additionally, Vivitrol users are significantly less likely to overdose on opioids during treatment than those going through other addiction treatments.

  1. There is no need to detox from Vivitrol. Because there is no chance of becoming dependent on or addicted to Vivitrol, patients can stop treatment cold turkey whenever they feel they are ready.

With other drugs, this is not the case. In order to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms, patients must be weaned off of their treatment drugs slowly, and only after a sufficient amount of time has passed. If a patient stops treatment all at once, they are likely to experience many severe medical problems and relapse.

Is it Possible to Overdose on Subutex?

It is possible to overdose on Subutex. This can happen when someone takes too much of the drug in an effort to get high. However, more often than not, it happens when someone relapses after trying to quit.

Most overdoses are a result of a lowered tolerance for the drug in the body. Tolerance levels build up over time. As they do, people need more of the drug to get high than they did before. When people quit using a drug, and they relapse, they will often return to their old dose. This can result in an overdose.

Signs of a Buprenorphine Overdose

Signs of a Buprenorphine Overdose

Because this drug is an opioid, it will result in the same types of symptoms as any other opioid overdose. These can include:

  • Physically going limp
  • Becoming very pale
  • Fingers or lips that turn a bluish color
  • Clammy skin
  • Vomiting and gurgling sounds
  • Going unconscious
  • Slower or even halted breathing
  • A slow or stopped heart beat
  • Being unable to speak

Any of these signs constitute a medical emergency. A buprenorphine overdose may be able to be reversed, but only if medical help is obtained right away. There are medications that can help, and they can be administered by EMTs on the scene.

You can learn more about Subutex overdose here:

The Benefits of Subutex Rehab for Recovery

There are so many great benefits to going to a Subutex rehab to recover from an addiction. You will certainly need the support as you go through this challenging time. You’ll find that Subutex treatment offers you:

  • Ways to detox from Subutex without medications
  • A holistic program that meets all of your personal needs
  • All the professional support you need from day one
  • A peer group of likeminded people reaching for the same goals you are
  • The education you need to learn how to live your life without being reliant on drugs


MAT and ORT are both abbreviations for different styles of addiction treatment. There is often debate about which is better, but there are places for both in the recovery journeys of former addicts.

MAT stands for Medication-Assisted Treatment. This kind of addiction treatment combines counseling or therapy with one or more drugs that can have a variety of different functions, including:

  • Easing withdrawal symptoms
  • Reducing cravings
  • Detering a relapse or blocking the possibility of a high

ORT stands for Opioid Replacement Therapy. Opioid Replacement Therapy is a specific type of Medication-Assisted Treatment. ORT replaces the abused opioid with another opioid – usually, a longer-lasting but less pleasurable one.

These replacement opioids bind to the same receptors in the brain that the original opioids would, usually fulfilling the cravings and causing the body to become dependent on them in place of the stronger opioids.

The goal of ORT is usually to manage the addiction, not end it. The goal isn’t abstinence, simply safer, legal use.

Regardless of whether the patient engages in ORT or another type of MAT, anyone who is serious about recovery will also take part in counseling or therapy and other recovery or treatment options. However, because ORT does not have abstinence from drugs and alcohol as the main goal, those undergoing ORT often take years to truly wean themselves off of opioids.

Subutex is, indeed, an opioid. So, using opioid as a treatment method means you are taking part in an ORT.

Consider an IOP Program for Your Buprenorphine Addiction

If you have discovered that you are addicted to Buprenorphine, an IOP program might be right for you. This type of program offers you intensive treatment, but doesn’t require an inpatient stay. This fact alone is what makes IOP programs so attractive to many who need recovery.

With an IOP program, you’re able to continue to go to work. You won’t have to leave home for many weeks at a time to get the recovery help you need. You will appreciate the flexibility of the IOP, and may even find it easier to recover.

Secondary addictions after drug detox are so common. IOP programs are a great way to overcome them, and they have worked for so many people.

Do You Need Subutex Treatment to Recover from Your Addiction?

When you first began to take Buprenorphine, you had no idea it was going to turn out this way. You didn’t even think that Subutex addiction was a possibility for you. Right now, you may be feeling a bit betrayed. If you are, that’s completely normal. Unfortunately, too many patients are ill-informed about the dangers of drugs like Subutex. It may make you angry to think that you need to go to rehab again when you just did.

The way that you’re feeling is normal, and here at The Northpoint Seattle, we see it all the time. It is unfortunate, but it happens. Right now, your focus should be on obtaining the right kind of help to ensure this doesn’t happen again. The right treatment is available for you that won’t focus on medications for detoxification.

Drug detox in Bellevue, Washington is available to you. This might be just what you’re looking for; a holistic program to detoxify your body. This type of program relies on natural methods to eliminate toxins. Therefore, there is no risk of developing a secondary addiction at all.

Our IOP program can assist you once you’ve finished with Subutex detox. This results in a well-rounded recovery.

Have you been using Subutex to get high? Do you have questions about Subutex treatment? If so, please contact us to get some answers.

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Buprenorphine Abuse Addiction and Treatment

2021-08-09T17:31:44+00:00May 15th, 2019|2 Comments


  1. Patricia Lusby September 8, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Do I need to take the patch off before surgery

    • Northpoint Seattle Staff September 8, 2018 at 4:12 pm

      Thank you for your comment, I would check with your doctor and what they recommend to be best for you.

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