Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Suboxone?

can you drink alcohol while taking Suboxone

Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) is a prescription medication that is used to treat opioid dependence and addiction. Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, binds to opioid receptors in the body, but it does not produce the same euphoric effects as other opioid drugs like heroin, oxycodone, or methadone.

Naloxone is an opiate antagonist that is added to Suboxone to prevent misuse of the medication.[1] Opiate antagonists bind to and occupy opioid receptors, preventing opioid drugs from attaching to the receptors. They also remove opioid drugs that are already occupying receptors, so naloxone can reverse the effects of opioid drugs.

Suboxone is primarily used as an opioid replacement therapy (ORT) to alleviate symptoms of withdrawal during detox. It can also be used to assist individuals who have already detoxed from opioids because it can alleviate drug cravings. Suboxone is most effective when combined with a comprehensive treatment program consisting of behavioral therapy, counseling, and peer support.

If your doctor prescribes Suboxone, you must take it exactly as directed. Mixing Suboxone with opioids, other drugs, or alcohol can result in serious drug interactions and adverse side effects.

Even though mixing alcohol and Suboxone can be dangerous, studies have found that up to a third of patients in opioid replacement therapy programs experience increased alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders.[2] Drinking alcohol in recovery from opioid addiction is a risk factor for poor physical and mental health, noncompliance with medications, and increased mortality.

Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Suboxone?

Mixing alcohol and Suboxone can be harmful to your mental and physical health. Both Suboxone and alcohol are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that decrease activity in the CNS. Mixing two depressants can slow down breathing, heart rate, and respiration to dangerous levels. It can also cause dizziness, drowsiness, poor decision-making, loss of consciousness, and more.

Because of the risks associated with drinking alcohol while recovering from an opioid use disorder and the possible drug interactions, doctors always advise against drinking alcohol while taking Suboxone.

Dangers of Drinking Alcohol While on Suboxone

Patients are highly encouraged to avoid drinking alcohol or taking opioids while on Suboxone. Possible risks include:

Side Effects

The side effects of Suboxone are increased significantly when mixed with alcohol. Side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Increased sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Changes in blood pressure

Sedation

Since alcohol and buprenorphine are both depressants, mixing the two can enhance the sedative effects. This can lead to severe drowsiness, decreased awareness of surroundings, and breathing problems. Taking too much of either or both substances can result in coma, overdose, or death. In fact, the majority of buprenorphine-related overdoses involve other substances like alcohol.[3]

Along with sedation, combining alcohol and Suboxone can lead to reduced inhibitions because both substances slow down areas of the brain responsible for decision-making.

Relapse

If you have been prescribed Suboxone, it is because you are trying to beat opioid addiction. Drinking alcohol is not a great idea when you are in recovery because it can hinder your ability to overcome your substance abuse issues. Alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of Suboxone, further increasing your risk for relapse.

Mental Health Issues

Recovering from opioid addiction is extremely challenging as you now have to face the emotions you have numbed for so long using drugs. Although drinking alcohol may seem like a way to cope, drinking can be harmful to your mental health and increase the risk of depression. Having poor mental health is a major risk factor for addiction relapse.

Taking Suboxone Safely

You should never mix Suboxone with alcohol or other drugs, and it is crucial to only take your medication as directed by your doctor. Taking Suboxone in a way that is not advised can interfere with the success of your treatment.

People suffering from any form of substance use disorder should avoid using any type of drugs or alcohol when they are trying to beat another type of addiction. Drinking alcohol while taking Suboxone can increase the risk of multiple drug addiction, also known as polydrug addiction. Instead of drinking, behavioral therapy, counseling, and peer support can help you cope with underlying emotions and develop healthy strategies for the future.

Find Help Today

Whether you’re interested in starting treatment with Suboxone or have picked up a drinking problem in recovery and need additional care, our team at Moving Mountains Recovery is here to help. With a range of addiction treatment programs available, we can help you find the right treatment solution for you. Please call now to discuss your options and begin the intake process.

References:

  1. National Institutes of Health (NIH): Suboxone: Rationale, Science, Misconceptions, Retrieved June 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5855417/
  2. Karger International: Alcohol Use Disorders in Opioid Maintenance Therapy: Prevalence, Clinical Correlates and Treatment, Retrieved June 2023 from https://karger.com/ear/article/21/2/78/119655/Alcohol-Use-Disorders-in-Opioid-Maintenance
  3. Tennessee Department of Health: TDH Finds Some Overdose Deaths Associated With Buprenorphine, Retrieved June 2023 from https://www.tn.gov/health/news/2018/1/8/tdh-finds-some-overdose-deaths-associated-with-buprenorphine.html
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