How Suboxone can benefit mental health

Discover the mental health benefits of Suboxone for opioid use disorder. Explore how Suboxone may impact serotonin levels and alleviate depressive symptoms.

Ophelia team
Suboxone and mental health
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Fact checked by
Arthur Robin Williams, MD

Opioid use disorder (OUD) doesn’t just take a toll on an individual's physical health — it is also connected to mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. An estimated 25% of people with a diagnosed mental health condition also have a substance use issue, while upwards of 60% of people going through treatment for substance use disorder have a concurrent mental health problem.

Treating OUD often requires also treating mental health issues, although Suboxone does offer minor perks for mental health. Suboxone is often prescribed as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). It helps reduce opioid cravings and minimize withdrawal symptoms, protecting against potential relapse.

Suboxone has been associated with a 70 to 80% reduction in death and is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a treatment for OUD. New research even suggests that Suboxone may help with emotional wellness. Discover some of Suboxone's mental health benefits below.

3 benefits of Suboxone for mental wellness

While more research is needed to prove the link between Suboxone and mental health, the first data on the medicine's ability to help OUD mental health issues is promising.

1. Increases serotonin in the brain

Serotonin is a chemical that impacts critical bodily functions, from sleep to digestion, wound healing, sexual desire, bone health, and more. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that carries messages between the brain and the nerve cells throughout the body (the peripheral nervous system).

Serotonin also plays a role in mood regulation. It's sometimes referred to as a "feel good" chemical because it helps people feel calm and happy when it's at normal levels. Conversely, if a person's serotonin levels are abnormally low, they may be more prone to depression. Medications that treat mood disorders like depression and anxiety are often designed to increase serotonin levels.

There is some evidence that suggests that Suboxone can likewise increase serotonin levels. As a result, a person's mood may improve. However, this means that Suboxone can also interact with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, sometimes in dangerous ways.

For example, SSRIs are a type of antidepressant that boosts the brain's serotonin levels. Since Suboxone may also boost serotonin, taking excessive doses of both SSRIs and Suboxone can result in dangerously elevated serotonin levels. This creates a risk of serotonin syndrome, which comes with symptoms like confusion, high blood pressure, and rapid heart rate. It’s important to note that serotonin syndrome only develops in extremely severe cases. 

2. Could help improve depressive symptoms

Suboxone is a combination medication made up of buprenorphine and naloxone. The buprenorphine activates opioid receptors in the brain, which helps to minimize cravings and combat withdrawal symptoms. Meanwhile, naloxone blocks the impact of opioids on the opioid receptors, lowering the risk of overdose.

Some research suggests that the buprenorphine found in Suboxone may be helpful in treating symptoms of depression. Depression can have a wide range of symptoms, including reduced appetite, feelings of irritability and frustration, fatigue and lack of energy, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and feelings of sadness. In some cases, depression can lead to thoughts of self-harm.

Although there are medications designed specifically to treat depression, an estimated one-third of patients don't properly respond to those medications. 

Researchers have explored buprenorphine as an alternative treatment for major depression, specifically treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Evidence suggests that low doses of buprenorphine are a safe way to reduce symptoms of depression, but research is still underway to determine the long-term effects of the treatment, especially if the patient is also prescribed standard antidepressants. As of date, Suboxone is not exclusively prescribed solely for treating depression.  

3. Helps improve quality of life

Since many patients with OUD have concurrent mood disorders, researchers are eager to further explore the ways in which Suboxone may help them. While more data is needed, it has already become clear that Suboxone can generally improve the quality of life of patients undergoing MAT.

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be debilitating for many patients. Common early-stage symptoms include sweating, insomnia, muscle aches, anxiety, and agitation. Later, withdrawal symptoms may come to include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting. By helping to minimize the severity of these symptoms and reduce cravings, Suboxone can help those with OUD lead happier lives.

The other points described above can also contribute to a better quality of life. If Suboxone can boost serotonin in the brain and combat depressing symptoms, that suggests that it can also foster greater emotional wellbeing.

How to determine if Suboxone is for you

Suboxone is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for OUD. Now, it seems that the MAT may also offer promise for mental health. However, it's important to approach this data with caution. For one thing, Suboxone isn't appropriate for all patients. Further, it should only be taken under appropriate supervision.

If you're interested in taking Suboxone for OUD treatment, Ophelia may be able to help. Ophelia provides MAT online, making it more accessible to people regardless of where they live. With Ophelia, you can get a Suboxone prescription sent to your local pharmacy (important safety information) and get support via online visits with your care team.

Find out if Ophelia can help you.


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