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Can Suboxone kill you?

Yes, Suboxone can kill you in certain situations.  However, danger of death depends upon exposure to and tolerance to opiates/opioids as well as whether or not Suboxone has been mixed with other substances. More here, with an invitation for your questions about Suboxone addictiveness or Suboxone as a narcotic at the end.

Can Suboxone harm you?

In most cases, buprenorphine is not potent enough to cause respiratory arrest and death. And generally, buprenorphine is far safer than opioid agonists like oxycodone, or illicit opioids like heroin, because of the ‘ceiling effect’.

But when buprenorphine is combined with other respiratory depressants in people who lack tolerance to those substances, the combination can cause a person to stop breathing. In these cases, death occurs within minutes without medical intervention. Further, death from buprenorphine requires no or low tolerance to opioids, and combination with other respiratory depressants — most often benzodiazepines like alprazolam or clonazepam.

Death related to Suboxone

Deaths related to buprenorphine are relatively rare; about 400 buprenorphine-related deaths in the US over the past ten years, compared to over 300,000 non-buprenorphine drug overdose deaths in the same period of time.

Still, the potential for danger depends on the tolerance of the person taking buprenorphine. People who regularly use large amounts of opioids often have a tolerance that is higher than the maximum effect of buprenorphine. In those cases, buprenorphine will act as an opioid blocker, and cause withdrawal symptoms.

Photo credit: Daily Med

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12 Responses to “Can Suboxone kill you?
shirlee
11:48 pm November 8th, 2016

Husband has been taking subxone, hyros one and beer drinking. Last nite bad said he could kill me an my son. Help

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
4:05 pm November 14th, 2016

Hi Shirlee. I suggest that you call 911 and report your case.

Ajay
12:33 am March 21st, 2017

My wife is injecting Suboxone and I’m worried it’s. It safe and can lead to health problems. Is there anything major I should watch out for??

Rick
8:05 am May 5th, 2017

Dr Junig.

I had shown my son your writings about the possibility of death when you have little to no tolerance to opioids and especially when you mix suboxone with a benzodiazepine… as you noted xanax.

I just got my first born, intelligent beyond words student who is going to med school, autopsy. And it showed the sampling from the vena cava to have a concoction of suboxone and xanax and listed the cause of death as “RAD” and we know what that means.

If you run into any patient in your practice Who feels it is OK to continue benzo’s while in therapy please kick them out or tell them they are on a dad and Road.

Sincerely, Rick
The most broken hearted person you’ll ever meet. While her parents are paying for spring break or vacation and I am paying for headstones

William
6:37 pm July 5th, 2017

Hello
Will try to make this short, I have been on pain killers for 10 or more years for various operations and pain management. The last year of which got way out of control ending with 6 or more 30’s up my nose daily, I have had enough. Put my foot down and went for help. I tapered back the Oxycontin then stopped and started subs. WTF, I felt 20x worse on subs than oxy withdrawal, I thought I was going to die, came close at 4mg. Constant sleeping, shallow breathing, puking, couldn’t eat. Said fuck-it, stopped everything and I seem to be OK on day 8. Stay away from Suboxone it’s evil and you’ll have to withdraw from the opioids and then do it again with the subs. Don’t do it!

William
6:45 pm July 5th, 2017

Rick
I am sorry for your loss, I do know what your going through. I lost my son and his girl friend to overdoses 9/14 /15. My life seems pretty much useless now, why even bother? This was our only son. I have cried every day for close to two years.

Mark
8:08 am September 2nd, 2017

I know this post is a number of months old, but would like to state my two cents. Sorry about your all’s loss…I too have lost someone to addiction. I have no idea what you mean by ‘RAD’ Rick. Googled it and it’s not, as far as a medical term relating to this subject goes, there. Please clarify. As far as Suboxone killing you, very improbable. Yes, there have been a few hundred suboxone related deaths over 10 years and by related that means Suboxone was found in there system at the time of death. Doesn’t mean it was the sole cause. If a person dies and has Suboxone in their system and even though it may not have killed them, they are going to say “related”. I would love to know how many Marijuana related deaths there are. Never read or heard of anyone dying directly from Suboxone and if they did, it would be a very anomalous thing to happen or the person had an existing condition that didn’t get along too well with the Suboxone.
One thing you have to consider is, a lot of us Suboxone users suffer from chronic pain, that started out going to Pain Management taking the prescribed pain medicine as it should be taken and it eventually led to abuse. I have an addictive personality and that didn’t help. I take Suboxone because I am disabled from chronic pain, however even though in many states Suboxone can be prescribed for pain, not in the great state of KY. So, even though I am an “ex” addict, it is not my primary reason for taking it….I mean Suboxone saved my life and It is highly probable that I would be dead right now without it. People can criticize and demonize it all they want (and yes the withdrawal DOES suck, but won’t kill you), but for people like me, that take it as they are prescribed to do so….it can change your life for the better. I’ve rarely ever heard of it getting people high and those that take it just for recreational purposes are straight up idiots. Most ‘street’ users take it to keep opiate withdrawal at bay, but many people sell their prescriptions and it makes us all look bad. In general people have a tendency to remember bad things instead of the good and because of this we all have to pay the price of the “bad apples”. I live in KY which has one of, if not THE, biggest users of opiates, mainly heroin and not only did I ruin my life with addiction, I have sadly seen many others ruined as well. I’ve been at the bottom of that Pit and seen many bad things happen, but I’ve also climbed out of it and been clean for a number of years because of Suboxone. Anyways, I think you have to weigh the risk versus reward, the positive and the negative and go from there. In my opinion Suboxone has a lot more reward than risk. No one looks at the beneficial properties of Subs…you can’t OD on it due to it’s “ceiling effect”, you can’t use opiates while on it ( I mean you can, but it’s pointless), chance of impairment is nearly non-existent in most people and so on. I apologize for my comment being so long. Have a good one.

Mark
8:12 am September 2nd, 2017

By the way William. Did you wait at least 48 hrs before taking the Suboxone? If you’re dependent (meaning you will go into withdrawal without it) on any opiate and take a Sub soon after…it will throw you into immediate withdrawal. Everyone thinks it’s the Naloxone that does it, but the Buprenorphine binds so strongly to the opiate receptors that it’s not a good idea to take it soon after.

Janis
6:01 pm March 5th, 2018

My granddaughter, age 22, was given Suboxone by a “friend” and one dose killed her. She became obtunded and aspirated vomit. Don’t people who are treated with Suboxone agree not to share/sell this controlled substance?

Jaime
5:37 am March 6th, 2018

I am currently on suboxone. I take 1mg per day. Last week my doctor made a mistake and instead of 2mg strips, i was given 8mg strips. Unfortunately….i didnt realize, until after i had taken half (it was such a strong taste, i knew something was wrong) i called my clinic immediately, and was told i had to make due til my next appointment and to turn in my extras. Even cutting them into eights….i still feel drowsy and nauseated. I have been skipping days as much as possible, but am still worried about this. Ive been on suboxone for 4 years, after transfering from methadone(which i was on for 5 years)

Melanie
8:56 am June 2nd, 2018

Hi , I really need some help !!! I’ve become allergic to the suboxone films I was taking 10 milligrams a day for over 3 yrs . Recently I had been to 7 doctors appointments 3 dentist appointments an oral specialist ( for the mouth full of extremely painful ulserations in my mouth , and hospital 2 fnd I hade to be given adrendil to stop my through the got

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:59 pm June 6th, 2018

Hi Melanie. If you are allergic to Suboxone, you need to stop taking the medication. Consult with your doctor about possible changes, and you may need to enroll into a rehab program.

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About Dr. Jeffrey Junig, MD, PhD

Dr. Jeffrey Junig, MD, PhD is a psychiatrist practicing in northeast Wisconsin, in recovery from opioid dependence. He is Board Certified in both Psychiatry and Anesthesiology and holds a PhD in Neuroscience. He writes about buprenorphine at Suboxone Talk Zone, and manages a forum for patients taking buprenorphine called SuboxForum.

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