If you’ve decided to try treatment for opiate addiction using buprenorphine—better known by its brand name, Suboxone—good for you! It’s not easy to turn away from the habits you’ve known for so long, no matter how dangerous they’ve been, because you’re giving up a lifestyle and people that make you feel comfortable. You’re turning toward new habits, new people, and new places. Be aware, however, that the start of treatment puts you at risk for other negative behaviors, and one of them is the double trouble you can get into if you mix Suboxone treatment and cocaine abuse.
Most People Don’t Think About It
The people who opt for some kind of opioid treatment program focus on avoiding their old substance of choice, whether it’s heroin, codeine, opium, or any of the many pain pills out there. It’s hard to give it up, and most people feel as if they deserve pampering in many other areas of their life as a reward for entering recovery. But too many of them think there’s nothing wrong with combining buprenorphine or Suboxone treatment with cocaine as a chaser.
Substituting one drug for another is nothing but dangerous. People who are in addiction treatment need to develop coping skills, and early in treatment this just hasn’t happened yet. So they feel as long as they’ve given up whatever opiate they were using, it’s open season for all other drugs.
You’ll see a lot more than just those who combine Suboxone treatment and cocaine abuse. There are alcoholics who turn to over-eating, gamblers who become shopaholics, shopaholics who turn to sex, and every combination of former and new addiction that you can imagine. All addictions ping the same part of the brain that stimulates those feelings of pleasure and rewards. All addictions cause their hapless victims to lose control of their lives.
The Dangers of Suboxone Treatment and Cocaine Use
Once someone goes into buprenorphine or Suboxone treatment, cocaine added to the recipe is a surefire guarantee of disaster. It’s vital for anybody in medication assisted treatment to abstain from other narcotic or non-narcotic drugs as well as alcohol. Whether they’re using methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone (Vivitrol), those are all drugs that should not be mixed with other drugs.
Here are the reasons to avoid mixing treatment with buprenorphine or Suboxone with cocaine:
1. Cocaine is highly addictive. People who have already identified themselves as addicts should know that they are at extreme risk of giving in to other addictions. If that drug is cocaine on top of Suboxone treatment, the person is soon going to need treatment for cocaine addiction.
2. Another reason why the combination of buprenorphine or Suboxone treatment and cocaine is so dangerous rests with the nature of the buprenorphine. It does not get the person high if it’s abused. The buprenorphine is only a partial opiate agonist, and so there is a low ceiling to any euphoric effects the person might hope to experience. In fact, they might feel no euphoria at all; they mistake the relief from cravings that they experience as that euphoria they think they’re having. In addition, if the person takes buprenorphine in the form of Suboxone rather than Subutex or generic buprenorphine, they will also find themselves unable to get high if they do take any opiates. There is then the risk of taking more opiates to the point of overdosing. Suboxone contains naloxone, which blocks other opiates from accessing the brain’s receptors. So, the person who combines Suboxone treatment with cocaine can expect to feel good, but it won’t be the high they’re expecting.
3. There is also evidence that combining Suboxone treatment and cocaine abuse can reduce the buprenorphine’s effectiveness. Research looked at people on buprenorphine treatment while the person simultaneously abused cocaine over a period of 70 days. The body’s retention of buprenorphine dipped to only 50 percent. The participants in that study also demonstrated low motivations to stay clean. Without working their recovery, they just put their opiate addiction on the back burner and welcomed a completely new monkey to jump on their backs.
If you were speed-balling while you were using opiates—which is a combination of heroin with a stimulant, such as cocaine—you’re especially vulnerable to it now, taking your Suboxone and cocaine together. You’re wrong to think you’ll get the same high, and that is just another aspect of the extreme risk you’re taking. You certainly won’t feel the lethargy that would come from taking your old opiate drug of choice. You will only experience the stimulation from the cocaine. At a time when you need all the rest and focus that you can muster, it’s just bad for your health, bad for your recovery, and bad for you. You could even bring on a stroke or heart attack. You’ll underestimate your body’s ability to handle the cocaine and you’ll overdose. You’ll roll those dice, and they’ll come up snake eyes. Game over.
Strengthen Your Recovery
Although you really don’t want to hear it right now, you need to strengthen your recovery. It’s important to see your doctor and get your prescription, but you must also attend the individual counseling and you need to go to 12-step meetings. Even if you don’t want to go to counseling sessions right now, studies done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) show that doing so will benefit you even if you go unwillingly. You’ll get input from people who understand addiction far beyond the dangers of mixing Suboxone treatment and cocaine. Your counselor can help you become educated about your former drug of choice so you can understand why you, of all people, have fallen victim to addiction.
Other people in treatment that you’ll meet at the Suboxone treatment center can share their stories with you. The recovering addicts who go to any 12-step group will understand your struggles and share their stories with you. Recovery, after all, means you’ll be part of a fellowship of people who share a wish to stop using drugs, who wish to share a network of support, and who share stories of recovery. Now it’s time for yours.