Can you get high snorting Suboxone?

Can you get high snorting Suboxone? Yes and no. Dr. Jana Burson tells us how Suboxone is absorbed in the body. And why snorting Suboxone cannot really get you high. More info on the placebo effect of getting high if you snort Suboxone here.

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Suboxone absorption in the body

Suboxone doesn’t get absorbed in an acidic environment. If it’s swallowed, very little is absorbed into the bloodstream, because the stomach is usually very acidic. But the mouth has a neutral pH, unless certain beverages or medications are consumed. Coffee, tea, Goody Powders and other substances make the mouth more acidic. Because of this, patients prescribed Suboxone are asked to avoid these substances for at least twenty minutes before they take their Suboxone dose. And this is why patients are asked to allow Suboxone to be dissolved under the tongue rather than swallowed or chewed.

Can I get high if I snort Suboxone

The answer is no. And yes.

This is because Suboxone is designed to be dissolved under the tongue. Snorting Suboxone may result in some systemic absorption of the medication, though the mucosa of the nasal mucosa tends to be slightly acidic in most people, and so more of the dose may be inactivated than when dissolved under the tongue.

Plus, patients on a stable dose of Suboxone will not get high if, for some reason, they decide to snort it. Their opioid receptors are occupied with medication from previous day, assuming they haven’t missed any doses.

But if an addict who is “opioid naive” (not used to taking opioids) snorts a Suboxone pill, they may feel high. In fact, it’s even possible to overdose on Suboxone if the person isn’t used to taking opioids. But the same would be true if that same person used the pill sublingually, too. In fact, if anything, a person abusing opioids for the first time would feel more of a medication effect from using the pill sublingually than from snorting it.

So why do some addicts say they snort Suboxone to get high?

Many opioid addicts are accustomed to getting high from snorting opioid pain pills. Addicts commonly snort OxyContin, Dilaudid, Opana, and even heroin. These addicts have a conditioned response: snort pill, feel high. Their brains become programmed to associate snorting pills with getting high, much like Pavlov’s dogs became accustomed to getting food when Pavlov rang a bell, and began salivating at the ringing of the bell. In the addict’s case, the act of grinding and snorting a pill gives them a high, even if the pill doesn’t contain drugs.

Addicts using needles to inject drugs often describe getting high from the sight and feel of needles and syringes because of the intense association of paraphernalia with euphoria. PET scans show these addicts, brain do actually release dopamine, the pleasure chemical of the brain, when shown pictures of needles and syringes.

This demonstrates another reason why addictions are so difficult to change. Objects, people, and even places may strongly remind a newly recovering addict of drug use, and can be powerful triggers for a relapse.

The danger of snorting Suboxone

Snorting drugs not meant to be snorted also damages fragile tissues of the nasal passages. Many addicts who regularly snort pills have recurrent and severe sinus infections, and can even have permanent tissue damage.

Anyone snorting Suboxone is not in recovery. He/she is in active addiction.


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About the author
Jana Burson M.D. is board-certified in Internal medicine, and certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. After practicing primary care for many years, she became interested in the treatment of addiction. For the last six years, her practice has focused exclusively on Addiction Medicine. She has written a book about prescription pain pill addiction: "Pain Pill Addiction: Prescription for Hope." Also see Dr. Burson's blog here.
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