With almost half a million people living with substance use disorders in Tennessee, it’s no surprise that buprenorphine (Suboxone®) prescriptions are through the roof. In fact, around 200,000 prescriptions are distributed to Tennessee residents each year. As effective as this medication is for the treatment of substance use disorders (SUD), it’s still important to understand it and how it interacts with your physiology. At ReVIDA Recovery®, we want to make sure you’re informed every step of the way.
If you’re taking other medications alongside buprenorphine (Suboxone®), you might be concerned about whether or not you’re at risk for serotonin syndrome – a condition that arises when serotonin levels are too high in the body. Does buprenorphine (Suboxone®) increase serotonin levels? Let’s talk about that.
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What Is Serotonin and How Does It Work?
Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter that plays a role in how we sleep, eat, feel, and interact with the world around us. 90% of serotonin is found in our gut, while the other 10% lies in our brain. Surprisingly, it’s not something we just “have”. The production of serotonin relies on what we eat! This is because it comes from an amino acid only found in tryptophan, which can be found in many common foods such as milk, peanuts, soy beans, and even turkey.
Serotonin is often called the “messenger chemical” because it helps your brain communicate with the nerve cells in your body. In other words? It transmits important messages that you need in order to properly function.
Here are some of the things serotonin impacts (that you might not have thought about):
- Your digestive system. Serotonin works to rid the stomach of toxins and unhelpful bacteria, so when your serotonin reserves are low, you may start to notice stomach discomfort. This can look like nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and more.
- Your sex life. Serotonin works together with dopamine to produce feelings of sexual desire. Your sexual health is dependent on normal/healthy levels of serotonin.
- Appetite control. Because serotonin lies mainly in the gut, it plays a role in how much food we eat. If your system is lacking in serotonin, you may feel the need to eat more. As we all know, eating too much can lead to weight gain and high blood pressure.
- Sleep. Your brain needs serotonin so that it can make melatonin. Melatonin works at regulating your circadian rhythm, which influences when you feel sleepy or alert. Serotonin also works together with dopamine to influence the quality of your sleep, ensuring that you get a good night’s rest.
- The healing of cuts and scrapes. It sounds crazy, but it’s true – serotonin works to narrow arterioles (small blood vessels) so that your blood can clot. Your blood needs to clot in order for a wound to heal.
- Your mood. You may already be aware that serotonin affects mood. It’s why many antidepressants (SSRIs) work to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. When the serotonin in your brain is stabilized, it’s easy to feel happier and calmer. Low levels of serotonin can cause you to feel depressed or anxious.
Can A Single Dose Of Suboxone Increase Serotonin?
Yes, a single dose of buprenorphine (Suboxone®) can increase serotonin levels. It has serotonergic effects that are similar to opioids themselves. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. An increase in serotonin levels is often what the body expects if it has been on something like morphine or oxycontin for a while. Taking buprenorphine (Suboxone®) in place of other opioids shouldn’t cause an abnormal level of serotonin in the body compared to what you’ve been taking.
Symptoms Caused By An Increase In Serotonin
Serotonin is produced naturally in the body primarily when certain foods are eaten. Your body is used to having a fluctuation in the amount of serotonin you have. Most of the time, you might not even notice your serotonin levels changing. It’s possible for you to feel the effects of increased serotonin, though they’re usually mild. You may find that it’s easier to sleep or focus. Because serotonin also affects mood, you may also experience a lift in depression or anxiety as well.
Seratonin can also affect appetite and sexual desire. If you have a serotonin deficiency, or your body is craving serotonin, you may notice a decrease in those things. Low serotonin levels can also contribute to anxiety, suicidality, panic disorders, and digestive problems. Taking medications that promote serotonin production can help.
It’s rare for someone to experience side effects from a normal level of serotonin. It’s when serotonin is increased too much that it becomes a problem. When serotonin levels are too high in the body, it’s called serotonin syndrome. That’s usually when you’ll start to feel side effects.
What Are the Symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome?
Serotonin syndrome is what happens when you have too much serotonin in your system. The goal is to have normal levels of serotonin in your body – too much or too little is going to cause issues. While rare, serotonin syndrome does happen, and it comes with a hefty list of side effects including:
- Restlessness or agitation (needing to move or fidget to feel comfortable)
- Dilated pupils
- High blood pressure
- Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
- Muscle stiffness
- And more
Preventing Serotonin Syndrome When Using Suboxone®
Serotonin syndrome might sound scary, but it’s 100% preventable. The first and most important thing is to always make sure your doctor knows what medications you’re taking before they prescribe you buprenorphine (Suboxone®).
Serotonin syndrome is often caused when two serotonin-producing medications are taken together. Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) alone may not put you at risk, but if you’re also taking an SSRI (or something similar), make sure you’re absolutely positive your doctor knows about it.
Your doctor may still choose to prescribe you buprenorphine (Suboxone®) even if you’re taking other medications. They may decide to monitor you for symptoms rather than tell you not to take buprenorphine (Suboxone®). This is because it usually won’t cause a problem, and your doctor may decide the benefits of taking buprenorphine (Suboxone®) outweigh the risks of serotonin syndrome. They may also decide to avoid two high-dose medications that produce serotonin.
If you’re concerned, you can also ask your doctor to lower your dosages. Lowering the dosages of your medications, even a little, might help to bring you peace of mind. There are other medications that treat depression and anxiety that won’t increase your serotonin production. You may be able to substitute one of those for your current SSRI. Again, always communicate your concerns with your doctor. They may have additional recommendations.
If you end up struggling with serotonin syndrome, treatment usually just involves a change in medications or lowering their doses. There are also medications that can be prescribed that work to block serotonin production. In extreme cases, hospitalization is necessary so you can be monitored.
Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) Treatment at ReVIDA® Recovery
Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) works almost immediately after the first dose to help those facing withdrawal symptoms. By offering relief from the cravings associated with substance use disorders, buprenorphine (Suboxone®) allows those in recovery to focus on counseling, managing their triggers, and getting healthy.
At ReVIDA Recovery®, our goal is to help you reclaim your life. Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) is an evidence-based approach to treating addiction, and that’s why we support it. If you or someone you love is interested in treatment, please call us today at 423-631-0432. We’re so happy you’re here, and we can’t wait to begin this journey with you.
FAQs Does Suboxone Increase Serotonin
Does Suboxone have an effect on mental health?
You may already be aware that serotonin affects mood. It’s why many antidepressants (SSRIs) work to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. When the serotonin in your brain is stabilized, it’s easy to feel happier and calmer. Low levels of serotonin can cause you to feel depressed or anxious. It also plays a role in sleep and diet, which impact our mental health as well.