Suboxone is a brand name for a version of the drug buprenorphine that includes naloxone, a drug that blocks all opioid drugs or medications from binding to opioid receptors, which prevents a user from getting high.
Naloxone is a critical component in Suboxone because, in the event of relapse, it can stop you from getting high and cause you to feel sick in response to taking an opioid drug. As a result, regular use of the medication can help you stay on track and avoid “falling off the wagon” when sustained sobriety is a goal. Buprenorphine does the job of staving off withdrawal symptoms.
The first few days of Suboxone treatment usually require taking the buprenorphine-only version of the drug. This will assist in the detoxification of most of the opioids out of your system. Buprenorphine takes its place. When you begin taking Suboxone, you avoid experiencing a negative physiological response.
Once stabilized in detox, a Suboxone regimen will be put into place. The dose chosen will be based on how high a dose of heroin or painkillers you were using immediately before the detox.
Your dose may be adjusted in the first couple of weeks if you experience any issues with it. During this time, you can also begin the process of engaging in treatment services that will help you heal.
Suboxone has proven to be very effective for safe opioid detox and a positive tool for helping clients avoid relapse early on in recovery. As a medicated detox tool, Suboxone is more useful for long-term sobriety with more extended “taper periods.” This is the time between when Suboxone use starts and when the dose is slowly lowered and stopped entirely.
For those who have struggled with opioid addiction for years, Suboxone is often the only tool that allows them to stay sober for the long term. Many people report that they tried every other type of treatment and were unsuccessful until they found Suboxone. These people may have no exit plan or no intention of ever stopping the use of the drug.
Others find that methadone is a better fit. Most people will choose to work toward a place of stability, so they are entirely drug-free eventually.
Suboxone, however, is not without its warts, so to speak. Even though the buprenorphine component of Suboxone partially exerts opioid effects, it still remains an opioid. As critics point out, when people take buprenorphine and methadone for opioid dependency, they are essentially replacing one drug with another.
While the risk of buprenorphine or Suboxone addiction is low, it is a drug that can still generate dependency and negative effects.
With regular use, the drug has been known to cause these side effects, says RxList.com:
It can also produce these side effects, which can be deemed serious:
The buprenorphine component causes less respiratory depression than methadone due to its ceiling effect and lower overdose potential. However, both can still occur. Suboxone can still slow your breathing, where it can cause death.
According to Healthline, the following are overdose symptoms associated with Suboxone:
If you are addicted to a low dose of heroin (around or under 30 mg per day) or a low dose of painkillers, then Suboxone may be a good fit for your treatment plan.
The medication is also often prescribed for high-dose heroin addictions in combination with methadone. Methadone may be prescribed until you can taper down to a low enough dose, and your doctor may then switch you to Suboxone when appropriate.
Suboxone is only used to treat opioid addictions. It does not have an impact on the detox experience caused by the cessation of the use of any other drugs. However, naloxone (the opioid antagonist combined with buprenorphine to make Suboxone) may be prescribed on its own for the treatment of acute alcoholism.
Though it is possible to get a prescription for Suboxone from a primary care provider who has been certified to dispense the medication, it is recommended that you find a drug rehab program that offers Suboxone as a part of a well-rounded addiction treatment program.
In some cases, an outpatient treatment program that includes the use of Suboxone can be a smart choice. It includes all the treatment recommended for co-occurring mental health or medical disorders, accountability through drug tests, access to therapeutic intervention, and long-term care and support. Suboxone-based detox can help prepare for a strong foundation in recovery.
Inpatient drug rehabs that offer Suboxone are effective as well. Round-the-clock supervision provides care which prevents relapse and offers the support you need to do the work necessary to grow and heal.
No program that expects to “fix” an addiction problem by prescribing Suboxone alone is going to be a practical long-term choice for opioid detox or addiction recovery.
There are many programs that will include the option of medicated detox for their clients when it is appropriate for the individual case. If any drug rehab program advises that taking any medication will be all you need to break free from opioid addiction, avoid that program.
In its “Principles of Effective Treatment,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends that medications like Suboxone be implemented with comprehensive behavioral therapy as part of a complete treatment program
A Suboxone treatment center should be able to provide you with everything you need to transition from active addiction to active recovery safely and effectively. This includes the tools you need to create a new life for yourself in sobriety.
Find a program that offers:
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Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. (2013, November 14). Suboxone versus Methadone for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence: A Review of the Clinical and Cost-effectiveness [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK195158/
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National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Principles of Effective Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment
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RxList.com. (n.d.). Common Side Effects of Suboxone (Buprenorphine HCl and naloxone HCl) Drug Center. Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/suboxone-side-effects-drug-center.htm
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Weiner, S., MD. (2017, December 06). Naloxone: An important tool, but not the solution to the opioid crisis. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/naloxone-tool-not-solution-opioid-crisis-2017113012800