All About Suboxone: Is Suboxone an Opiate?

Asking Questions like “Is Suboxone an Opiate?” and “What Is Suboxone Used For?” Can Help You Make Informed Decisions about Your Rehab Options

Headlines about the US’s current opioid epidemic abound. Every day, 91 Americans die of opiate overdoses¬†across the nation. The ever-increasing number of Americans of all ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses suffering from prescription opioid use disorder paints an alarming picture. If you suspect you or someone you know has an addiction, you might have started researching what can be done, including opioid maintenance therapy using medication like Suboxone. But what is Suboxone? Is Suboxone an Opiate? These are important questions to educate yourself about. If you are in need of help or treatment for opioid addiction, call the professionals at the White Sands Treatment Center at 877.855.3740.

What is Suboxone? Is Suboxone an Opiate?

In pharmacology, the word “opiate” is used to denote any substance naturally derived from opium. That is the fundamental difference between “opiate” and “opioid”, which encompasses any substance, synthetic or otherwise, that binds opioid receptors.

Suboxone is the trade name of a medication that contains buprenorphine and naloxone, also known as Narcan. Buprenorphine is an opiate. That might seem like cause for concern, but it’s not. The question is, “Is Suboxone an opiate which poses the same risks as other opioids?”

Unlike other opioids, is not a full opioid receptor agonist, only acting as a partial (or mixed) opioid receptor agonist. Combined with naloxone, an opioid antagonist, this difference is where its beneficial properties come into play when used to treat opioid addiction.

What Is Suboxone Used For and How Does It Work?

Most people don’t develop an opioid addiction on purpose. Opioids are potent analgesic (painkiller) drugs and invaluable for pain management. Unfortunately, opioids are highly addictive because of the way they work on the body. When you take an opiate, it binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, causing pain relief.

Our brain is wired to promote essential, life-sustaining activities by triggering a reward pathway when these actions take place. When you eat food or drink water, it activates the brain’s reward mechanism, generating a feeling of pleasure. This is nature’s incentive for you to keep doing what you need to survive.

Opioids activate the same reward pathway in the brain. Studies show that taking any opioid medication for longer than seven days can lead to dependency. Prolonged exposure to opioids after the brain becomes dependent can change – or hardwire – the brain’s reward pathway, leading to addiction. The brain starts to believe it needs opioids to survive.

As you can imagine, opioid addiction drastically changes both the brain’s structure and chemistry.

That is where Suboxone comes in. If you eliminate all opioids from a person’s system, it leads to painful withdrawals as the brain’s opioid receptors struggle in the absence of the structure that binds to them. Instead of detoxing that way, Suboxone binds to opioid receptors in the brain, thereby suppressing withdrawals, easing opioid cravings, and also blocking the effects of other opioids in the body.

What Are the Side Effects of Suboxone?

Suboxone can cause unpleasant side effects. Common side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Blurred vision
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain

Is Suboxone a Cure for Addiction?

When a person asks, “Is Suboxone an opiate” and finds out that, indeed, it is, the first thing to come to mind is whether there are any risks involved in using it. Studies show that, for people with existing opioid addiction, a regimen that seeks to replace the opioid rather than wean the person off opioids altogether is more successful.

Having said that, Suboxone is not a cure for an opioid addiction. Because buprenorphine is an opiate, it does carry a risk of dependence. Suboxone can, however, be a bridge to a full recovery. You just need to adhere to your healthcare provider’s instructions and be vigilant about the potential side effects of Suboxone.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.