Subutex Side Effects to Be Aware Of

Subutex is a medication approved for the treatment of opiate dependence. It contains the active ingredients buprenorphine hydrochloride and naloxone hydrochloride dihydrate. It also goes by the name of buprenorphine, and works to reduce opiate cravings.

The side effects of Subutex are many and varied. They range from something mild, such as cold or flu-like symptoms and difficulty sleeping, to other, more uncomfortable effects such as sweating, nausea and mood swings. The side effects one needs to be acutely aware of though, are when:

  • Your skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow (jaundice).
  • Your urine turns dark.
  • Your bowel movements (stools) turn light in color.
  • You don’t feel like eating much food for several days or longer.
  • You feel sick to your stomach (nausea).
  • You have lower stomach pain

These all are signs of liver damage and you should see a doctor immediately if any of these occur. Your doctor should be doing regular tests while you are taking Subutex to identify any liver damage while it is still treatable.


Subutex is prescribed to treat opiate dependence.

There have been several reports of acute liver injury, which has appeared anywhere within two weeks to 20 weeks of starting. These results usually became apparent following the misuse and intravenous use of sublingual tablets. Some cases, however, occurred in users who did not use Subutex intravenously, were on conventional doses and taking it as prescribed. Almost all users with liver injury had concurrent chronic hepatitis C. Amazingly, most users were able to continue taking Subutex without recurrence of the liver injury, even in some who admitted to continuing with intravenous abuse.

There are other side effects, not related to liver damage that you also must look out for:

  • Subutex can cause your blood pressure to drop. This can make you feel dizzy if you get up too fast from sitting or lying down.
  • Subutex cause allergic reactions that can make it hard for you to breathe. Symptoms of a bad allergic reaction include hives, swelling of your face, wheezing, loss of blood pressure and consciousness). Call a doctor immediately if you get any of these symptoms, or get to the emergency room right away.
  • You may still have withdrawal symptoms when you first start taking Subutex. Because Subutex can also be addicting, you can have withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking Subutex as well.

Some other, more minor side effects of Subutex include chills, back pain, constipation or diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing or nasal congestion and low blood pressure, sometimes causing shallow breathing. Long-term use of Subutex can cause other side effects, such as anxiety and depression, nervousness or somnolence, coughing and a sore or scratchy throat, near the tonsils.

Benefits of Subutex

A particular benefit of Subutex is that it can be prescribed in a doctor’s office. Other opiate dependence treatments like methadone can be dispensed only in certain clinics that specialize in addiction treatment. Because there are not enough addiction treatment centers to help all patients seeking treatment for opiod addiction, Subutex became one of the first narcotic drugs available under the Drug Abuse Treatment Act (DATA) of 2000 that can be prescribed in a doctor’s office. This change provided more patients the opportunity to access treatment.

Subutex also is less tightly controlled than methadone because it has a lower potential for abuse and is less dangerous in an overdose situation. As patients progress with their therapy, their doctors may write Subutex prescriptions for a take-home supply of the medicine.

Side Effects of Abusing Subutex

Subutex is usually dispensed in sublingual tablets, meaning tablets that are placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve. As stated earlier, people can become addicted to Subutex while using it to recover from and opiate addiction. When someone abuses, and then becomes addicted to a drug, they often consume it in ways contrary to those indicated to get a better, or longer or faster-acting high.

Parenteral use, which often means injection, of this drug can cause severe complications of the limbs. An abuser who injects Subutex can experience a wide range of vascular complications from simple vascular irritation to pseudo-aneurysms or severe infective thrombosis, which can require limb amputations. An acute infection around the injection site may indicate the non-sterile preparation of the Subutex or a non-sterile injection site. The repeated punctures of major vessels can also cause severe infection.

Prolonged use of Subutex can Lead to Addiction

Prolonged use of Subutex can build up a tolerance, and dependence, for the user. Subutex abuse can lead to addiction, and is increasingly being abused. Overdose of Subutex can result from increasing the dose against a doctor’s order, just to achieve the original results a user received from the drug. The goal of taking Subutex is to wean off of opioids by gradually decreasing the dose and frequency of Subutex. If done properly, a safe, comfortable detox can be achieved.

Combining substances puts a user at a very high risk of complications that could lead to death. Subutex should not be taken with alcohol, anti-depressants or other prescription or non-prescription drugs. There have been reported deaths of a teen from Maryland, two young adults from Milwaukee, a father and son from Maine and a Wisconsin prison inmate, all as a result of mixing this drug with alcohol or other drugs.

As with all prescribed drugs, the use of Subutex must be strictly supervised. When used properly, Subutex can be the gateway to recovery from many types of opiate addictions, usually with only minor side effects. When it is abused, it can cause severe, life-threatening side effects.

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