Suboxone is used as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction. The drug is a combination of buprenorphine, an opioid medication, and naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of opioids. When taken as prescribed in conjunction with therapy and counseling, Suboxone can help people recover from opioid addiction and resume their lives. Studies have proven that the drug can be effective in treating opioid addiction, including increasing the length of time people stay in treatment for their opioid addiction.
Because Suboxone contains a partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine, which interacts with the same opioid receptors that other opioids do, a person can become dependent or addicted. The risk increases if the medication is not taken exactly as prescribed.
How to Detox from Suboxone
Should someone abuse Suboxone or develop a dependence on the drug, they will need to undergo detox. There is no set method for detoxing from Suboxone. The individual needs to speak with their health care provider about the severity of their Suboxone abuse and details about their general health.
The most common detox method for Suboxone is gradually tapering a person’s dosage over time. The individual may be given another medication, such as clonidine, to help manage some withdrawal symptoms. These can include:
The safest method of detox is under the supervision of health care professionals. This ensures that medical personnel monitors an individual’s health throughout the withdrawal process. Medically supervised detox allows for the monitoring of withdrawal symptoms and can also provide mental health services. All of this can increase a person’s odds of maintaining their recovery.
Signs of Suboxone Withdrawal
Suboxone’s slower onset and total duration of action is less likely to cause addiction. However, if a person does develop a dependence or addiction to Suboxone, they may experience delayed withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, any withdrawal symptoms may also last longer than they would with other forms of opioids.
Withdrawal symptoms from Suboxone will depend on the person’s average dosage and how long they were taking Suboxone. The presence of other mental health issues or other medical conditions can impact their symptoms. Also, if Suboxone is mixed with other drugs or alcohol, that will affect withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Body aches and cramping
- Dilated pupils
- Intense opioid cravings
Side Effects from Suboxone
Suboxone can help individuals manage their recovery from opioid addiction, but it is possible to experience side effects. The most common are:
- Increased sweating
- Trouble sleeping
- Swelling in the arms and legs
- Numbness or redness of the mouth
- Burning or painful tongue
Someone taking Suboxone may experience shaking, stomach cramps, diarrhea, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, body aches, or runny nose, too, which are all symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal.
Rarer and more serious side effects exist and include:
- Low blood pressure when standing
- Liver failure or liver function changes
- Changes in adrenal gland function
- Sleep-related breathing disorders
- Allergic reactions
- Overdose and death
Myths About Suboxone
Thoughts about addiction recovery have shifted in recent decades. However, some still believe that if a person takes medication to help them combat their addiction, they are not really in recovery. Addiction is a chronic condition and someone taking Suboxone to manage their addiction is using a medication to manage their chronic condition. Anyone taking Suboxone as prescribed to help them with opioid addiction is not trading one addiction for another.
While someone can misuse Suboxone, it rarely happens. It is also very difficult to overdose on Suboxone. Because it is only a partial opiate receptor agonist, there’s a limit to the extent Suboxone can activate a person’s opioid receptors. The medication has a much lower risk of slowing a person’s breathing than other more potent opiates like heroin, oxycodone, or morphine. If someone does overdose on Suboxone, it is generally because they were mixing the medication with another drug.
For many people, taking Suboxone is a step in the right direction. According to Harvard Health Publishing, 20% or less of people with opioid addiction are receiving any treatment. While the goal for most people is to enter treatment and begin recovery, Suboxone alone can help lessen the negative impacts of their addiction.
Currently, there is little evidence that points to how long someone can take Suboxone. This depends on the needs and preferences of the individual and the guidance of a qualified health care provider. If the person decides to discontinue taking Suboxone, they should discuss this decision with their doctor.
Deciding to take Suboxone shouldn’t be taken lightly. Individuals struggling with opioid addiction should consult with their doctor or an addiction treatment professional to understand the pros and cons of using the medication. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about Suboxone and its impact on the brain and body before making the decision to begin — or end — treatment.
At Bridges of Hope, our treatment philosophy is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing substance use and mental health disorders. We use therapeutically proven, evidence-based clinical practices to provide superior care across Indiana.
Remember, we’re not doctors. If you have specific medical questions about your care, please consult your health care provider.