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If you are in recovery, you may have some questions about your treatment. That’s entirely normal, and being knowledgeable about the process is a critical aspect of recovery. Suboxone is often used to help those trying to work through opioid addiction. Although it is used for recovery, it must be used with caution. Here we will discuss what you should avoid, including alcohol, and why.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a preferred prescription medication to help those dealing with opioid addiction. It includes two main ingredients, called Buprenorphine and Naloxone. These work to block out the opiate receptors, which will, in turn, help the opioid cravings. Naloxone specifically aids in reversing the effects of opioids. This treatment is usually used with other methods, such as counseling, therapy, or inpatient treatments. It is less habit-forming than the typical treatment for opioid recovery, methadone, which has been linked to some overdose deaths.

Alcohol and the Body

To understand why you shouldn’t mix Suboxone and alcohol, it’s important to know what alcohol does to the body, even without other things in the mix. The fluid is absorbed into the bloodstream and moves throughout the body when you drink. Our liver sifts through most of it but can only do about one drink per hour. Alcohol passes through the stomach and will do so more quickly if there isn’t food to help absorb it. The rest is absorbed into the small intestine. When the blood alcohol concentration level rises after too many drinks, you can experience:

  • Trouble with fine motor movements
  • Poor reaction time
  • Loss of balance
  • Difficulty with memory

Suboxone and Alcohol

Right on your prescription, it will inform you that Suboxone and alcohol shouldn’t be mixed. Many of the adverse side effects are similar, which can make them much more intense and much more dangerous. Alcohol and buprenorphine are central nervous system depressants, which can create many deadly consequences. Some side effects of using both simultaneously include, but are not limited to:

    Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Vision issues
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Poor motor coordination
  • Impaired thinking

Severe Possibilities

Since Suboxone and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants, there is an increased likelihood of issues with organs like the brain and lungs. Typically, when taken as directed, Suboxone will not have intense side effects, and the individual should feel relatively ‘normal’ throughout their treatment. You should not mix any medications with Suboxone for the same reason you should not mix it with alcohol- it can cause serious consequences on vital organs. These include:

Respiratory changes:

This can lead to decreased breathing rate and decreased blood flow to the body’s tissues. Brain damage can occur when your brain does not get the required oxygen it needs.

Decreased blood flow:

Decreased blood flow can create long-term issues with the heart, which pumps blood throughout our entire body. This can also cause organ damage due to a lack of nutrients and fluids needed for our system to function correctly.

Changes in thinking:

Most of us can recognize when we drink, our thinking process changes. We may feel like we are having more ‘fun’ or be more ‘careless.’ When mixed with prescriptions, this can put your body at risk. It makes you more likely to engage in self-harm, trip, fall, have an accident, or engage in unnatural behaviors. You may not be able to sense danger as you typically would.

Risk for coma:

Since your respiratory system and heart can change how it functions when these ingredients are mixed, you can be putting yourself at risk for a comatose state. The neurons in your brain will not be transmitted as they should, which in turn helps your body breathe and function in a normal capacity.

Long-Term Concerns

If you chronically engage in mixing alcohol and Suboxone, you can be looking at some chronic illnesses that can lead to death. Since you will be putting long-term strain on your organs, you can expect that they will not function normally over time. Some issues that can occur include:

  • Increased risk for cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • More frequent illnesses
  • Weakened immune system

Cirrhosis is also more likely. This is a state of scarring on the liver caused by liver diseases or complications. This damage cannot be undone and is created by excessive strain on the liver, particularly with alcohol consumption. If you begin to lose weight, are exhausted, notice changes in your sex drive, have yellow discoloration of your skin or eyes, and/or confusion, seek a physician immediately.

Recovery Interruption

By engaging in drinking alcohol, not only will you be putting your body through increased medical concerns, but you can also be putting a halt to your recovery. Many people with addictions tend to become addicted to different things, sometimes known as an addictive personality. By finding a new outlet for your feelings, you can be putting your recovery at risk and using alcohol to cope instead of opioids. Drinking may also increase your desire to use drugs or opioids.

The abstinence violation effect can also occur. This is when an individual trying to move away from addictive substances uses a small amount of it and then has an attitude change. They no longer feel it is a ‘big deal’ and may binge. This can then cause a full relapse. If you feel the need to consume liquor or something else that is addictive, talk to your treatment team to discuss the risks and feelings surrounding it. Don’t let your treatment be interrupted. Don’t mix alcohol with your Suboxone treatment, and use the methods taught to you to deal with your triggers. Create a strong support system to help you through these critical moments, like your Recovery Connection team.