Using Suboxone in Treatment
Suboxone is a prescription drug used to help treat opioid addiction – both for those addicted to prescription drugs like OxyContin and street drugs like heroin. It works by combining two drugs together into one tablet or Suboxone strip: buprenorphine and naloxone.
It works by combining two drugs together into one tablet or Suboxone strip: buprenorphine and naloxone.
Buprenorphine is a “partial opioid agonist.” This might sound complicated but it’s meaning is quite simple. As only a partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine activates some – but not all – of the brain’s opioid receptors. Since it’s only a partial agonist, it helps to reduce cravings in an addicted person without the full effect of a “full opioid agonist.”
In Suboxone, buprenorphine is combined with naloxone, which is a “pure opioid antagonist.” This means that it reverses all the effects of opioid drugs. By combining them together, cravings are reduced and many of the difficult and often dangerous opioid withdrawal effects are lessened to a great degree, thus helping people break their addiction.
Unlike methadone, which must be administered at a specially licensed clinic, Suboxone can be prescribed by specially accredited doctors – sometimes these offices are referred to as “suboxone clinics.” However, any doctor can apply to be accredited to prescribe the drug.
In an ideal world, Suboxone used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. As noted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), “Treatment of opioid dependency with buprenorphine is most effective in combination with counseling services, which can include different forms of behavioral therapy and self-help programs.” But since not everyone has access to, or can afford professional treatment and counseling, Suboxone is sometimes prescribed to people as their only form of addiction treatment.
In fact, with the rise of opioid abuse in the United States, the users of Suboxone has increased rapidly. According to a report issued by the DEA “In 2017, during the height of the opioid crisis, 14.6 million buprenorphine prescriptions were dispensed and roughly, 9.3 million prescriptions were dispensed by the third quarter of 2018.”
What Is Addiction: Signs & Symptoms
Suboxone comes in two forms. One way is as a pill that you take like any other medication.
More commonly, it’s prescribed as “Suboxone strips”, which is a film. The Suboxone strip is slowly dissolved under the tongue or inside the cheek.
Recently, generic equivalents have also hit the market. Some are Suboxone, Bunavil and Cassipa, which come as a film that you dissolve under the tongue or inside the cheek. There is also available is a prescription called Zubsolv, which comes in the pill form.
In addition to physical cravings, someone with an addiction issue will also spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about their drug of choice. These thoughts become a compulsion and impossible to control, which leads to drug-seeking behavior that can sometimes be criminal.
Feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, despair, and the like are often at the root of substance abuse. The substance might temporarily mask these feelings, but they return once the high wears off, creating a vicious circle of drug abuse.
Taking a substance will temporarily stop the cravings and compulsion for it, but soon the same feelings return. In time, it takes more and more of the same substance to achieve the same effect it once had.
People addicted to drugs and alcohol may feel like they have no control over their drug use. Refraining from using or stopping seems to be an impossibility for them. The substance controls them, rather than the other way around.
Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to seek them out even if their addiction has made them lose friends, family, spouses, and jobs. Drug-seeking behavior can even lead to diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.
How Long Should Suboxone Be Taken?
Some people believe that Suboxone is best used for short periods only.
The Harvard Medical School states that “there is no evidence to support the claim that Suboxone should be taken for a short period of time as opposed to being maintained on it for the long term, just as a person would manage their diabetes with insulin for the long term.”
Part of the reason why some believe that shorter-term treatment is better is because of the social stigma associated with opioid abuse the Medically Assisted Therapies (MAT). Others are concerned because although not an opioid, some people become dependent and even addicted to the substance. This is why your Suboxone use should be carefully monitored by a qualified physician.
How Long Does Suboxone Stay In Your System?
The two drugs in Suboxone each have different half-lives, which means that they are cleaned out of your system at different speeds.
Buprenorphine has a very long half-life of 37 hours. This means that it takes about two days to clean the buprenorphine from your system. Conversely, naloxone has a much shorter half-life of about 30–80 minutes, which results in your body excreting it in about eight hours. Overall, traces of Suboxone can remain in your system for up to two weeks after the last dose as your system breaks down and converts the drug until it’s been entirely eliminated.
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Is Suboxone Helpful?
Suboxone is not without its share of controversy, but studies have shown it to be about as effective as methadone in the treatment of opioid addiction. It’s been also been found to be especially helpful in the treatment of people addicted to prescription pain killers. And it’s much easier to obtain, since it can be proscribed by an accredited doctor – either through a specialized Suboxone clinic or by a general practitioner who receives permission to do so. The convenience of Suboxone has made it incredibly popular as a form of MAT, but it’s certainly not a “magic bullet” for everyone, and comes with plenty of dangers of its own.
Can Suboxone be Abused?
It’s important to also understand that Suboxone can be abused. Users, who have no intention of getting clean, have been known to take it to cope with heroin withdrawal between fixes. Some people have reported feeling “high” from the drug itself, which can lead to addiction. Still, others take more than the prescribed dose to experience a high, or even snort it in its tablet form or dissolve the Suboxone strips in order to inject the drug.
Without proper care and guidance in taking Suboxone, someone could become addicted to it and suffer from withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the drug improperly.
Signs of Suboxone Abuse
Suboxone abuse may not be as severe as abuse of heroin or prescription pain killers, but it still shares many of the same signs and symptoms.
Physical symptoms include:
- Appearing lethargic, drowsy, or sedated
- Nausea and vomiting
- Becoming emotionally or even physically numb
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed cognition
- Appearing to others as being high or intoxicated
- Trying to intensify the effect by mixing it with other drugs or alcohol
Behavioral symptoms include:
- Visiting multiple doctors for prescriptions
- Stealing the drug
- “Losing” prescriptions to get a doctor to prescribe more
- Taking more than the prescribed dosage
- Spending more time obtaining or obsessing over the drug than with your family or at work
- Loss of interest in life activities
- Overextending yourself financially to maintain your habit
Physical and Mental Effects of Suboxone Abuse
Just because Suboxone doesn’t create the same intense high as a street drug or prescription drugs, it doesn’t mean it is completely safe when taken at higher dosages. In fact, the largest danger in Suboxone abuse is to overdose, which can be lethal.
Overdosing on Suboxone is increasingly likely if it’s mixed with other drugs, especially benzodiazepinesand alcohol. And at high dosages, Suboxone can even cause liver damage and coma.
Common symptoms of overdose are:
- Blurred vision
- Constricted pupils
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Stomach Pain
How to Safely Stop Using Suboxone
Like many other drugs, users need to slowly taper off Suboxone use in order to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Although not as severe as withdrawal from heroin or other opioids, without properly detoxing from the drug, user can experience some or all of the following:
- Muscle pain
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Feeling cold or hot
- Poor memory
- Erratic behavior
- Shifts in mood
As in other addictive drugs, it’s best to withdraw from it under the supervision of your doctor or treatment clinic rather than attempting to do so on your own.
There is no truly specific treatment plan just for Suboxone abuse.
As with any other opioid addiction, a comprehensive treatment plan overseen by a reputable center is the best way to get healthy. These plans tend to combine medically supervised detox with cognitive behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, communal activities, and peer programs designed to help keep you on track.If you think you or a loved one are having issues with Suboxone abuse, help is available. To speak to someone right away, contact Nexus to explore treatment options that might be right for you.
If you or a loved one are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.