Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy How to Help a Loved One Who Struggles with Suboxone Dependence

How to Help a Loved One Who Struggles with Suboxone Dependence

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Substance abuse is a problem that millions of people in the US struggle with every day, particularly with opioids such as morphine and heroin. There are ways to help people suffering from substance abuse, such as getting them to rehab or putting them on Suboxone.

Suboxone is a synthetic opioid that was formulated to help people get clean from other forms of opioids, but the problem is that Suboxone itself is addictive. People who are using Suboxone are forming a dependence on the substance, and you should be vigilant in looking for signs of Suboxone abuse.

Why do people get addicted to Suboxone?

Although Suboxone was designed to help people wean off dangerous opioids, there are two problems when it comes to Suboxone use. First, using the drug produces a mild feeling of euphoria, which means that people who are already addicted to opioids just make the switch from using prohibited drugs towards using Suboxone instead. Second, since Suboxone is not a legally restricted substance, it is easier to get compared to illicit drugs.

You don’t even need a prescription for Suboxone. People can access the drug and take it in larger doses, or worse, substitute Suboxone as their drug of choice by taking it intravenously or even mixing it with other drugs to further heighten the effects.

What if someone I know is addicted to Suboxone?

Although Suboxone is intended to be a way to help people lessen their dependence on prohibited opioids, once people get addicted to Suboxone itself, the signs and symptoms are similar to those of drug addiction. Physical signs can include injection or track marks on the arms or drug paraphernalia around the home. You may notice behavioural symptoms such as extreme mood swings, loss of appetite, or being defensive or secretive about their Suboxone use.

The first thing that you need to do is offer your compassion and support to your loved one. People who are addicted to Suboxone will often feel that they will be judged harshly or even penalised for their actions, which leads to them being secretive about their addiction until it is too late.

Be patient

From the moment you open up the topic, the most common reactions would be anger, denial, or evasiveness. There are many reasons why a person addicted to Suboxone will feel the need to hide their dependence on the drug, whether it’s because they are afraid of losing their job, they are embarrassed because of their situation, or they simply feel like it’s not a problem.

Keep in mind that even acknowledging that the addiction is there is a difficult step, and you need to let the person accept it for themselves. Trying to force the issue might cause the person to become even more resistant to opening up to you. Allow them to take their time and build their trust in you.


The most effective way to establish trust between you and your loved one is always making sure that there are open lines of communication. Be ready to offer multiple ways to connect with you, whether it’s by taking on the phone or being there physically.

Look for positive reinforcement from other places

Try to see whether your loved one can also get positive support from other groups in their life, such as their co-workers, church group, friends, or other members of the family. However, do not go ahead and contact these groups on your own. Instead, encourage your loved one to try and reach out to other people that they can trust.

Getting professional help

There are times when, no matter how much support and love you offer, you need to bring in professional help to guide your loved one through their Suboxone addiction. Getting professional help means that your loved one will be able to access resources that you won’t have at your disposal.

You can choose from different methods of getting professional help. There are groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, which are generally free and can provide a strong support system. However, using these types of groups means that your loved one is ready to seek help on their own.

If your loved one is not ready for such a step, you can opt for getting one-on-one counseling from a substance abuse counsellor. This allows your loved one to have direct access to someone with professional training and experience on handling substance abuse cases, and they will benefit from the individual focus of the counsellor. 

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.


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