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What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a prescription medication used in the treatment of those addicted to either prescription opioids or illegal street variations of opioids. Suboxone contains two key ingredients that help to aid opiate cravings and control a patient’s abilities to feel the high effect that opioids provide. Buprenorphine, a partial opioid antagonist, blocks the opioid receptors in the brain, ultimately reducing cravings and urges to abuse opiates. Naltrexone is the second key ingredient, which works to reverse the effects of opioids, ultimately preventing addicts from getting high. Suboxone is primarily used in medication-assisted treatment because of its opioid antagonist properties.

Suboxone vs. Other MAT Medications

The most commonly used medications in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) are Methadone, Vivitrol, and Suboxone. Each of these medications can be utilized by a medical professional in the addiction treatment setting or through a medical professional after completing treatment. Although each drug has many similarities, they have different uses in the treatment setting. Methadone is an opiate medication that is used to taper a patient off of opiates and lessen their withdrawal symptoms during the detox process. Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist that completely blocks the opioid receptors in order to lessen cravings. Vivitrol is only meant to be taken after detoxification is completed. Finally, Suboxone is a partial opioid antagonist that lessens the effects of opiates gradually, rather than completely blocking the opioid receptors as Vivitrol does.

How Does Suboxone Work?

Suboxone is administered through the form of a sublingual film that dissolves under your tongue or as a tablet taken orally. Each variation contains the same dosage. Suboxone is used to treat individuals who are dependent on prescription opioids or illegal opiates like heroin. Its purpose is intended to help an individual begin and maintain sobriety from opiates. Your medical health-care provider will prescribe you Suboxone while you are still in moderate withdrawal.

Suboxone is used to treat the withdrawal symptoms of detoxing from opioids as well as control opiate cravings after the detox stage is completed. Your dosage will gradually decrease over time until your doctor decides you are medically ready to end Suboxone treatment, meaning your withdrawal symptoms and cravings have diminished. Suboxone limits the effects of opioids, reduces cravings, and prevents withdrawal symptoms. Because this medication is not a full opioid antagonist, it is easier to taper off of.

Possible Side Effects of Suboxone

While every medication comes with possible side-effects, it is vital to remember that your doctor would not prescribe you medication if the benefits didn’t outweigh the risks. If you do experience any side-effects, your physician can promptly address the issue and come to a resolution.

Some of the common side effects of Suboxone include the following:

  • Headache
  • Opioid withdrawal symptoms such as body aches, abdominal cramps, and rapid heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Burning tongue
  • Redness in the mouth

Some of these side-effects should subside within a few days or a couple of weeks once your body adjusts to the medication. If they are severe, please contact your doctor.

The more severe side-effects are not common, but they can occur. Call your doctor if you experience any of the following side-effects:

  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Dependence or abuse
  • Breathing problems
  • Coma
  • Hormone problems (adrenal insufficiency)
  • Liver damage
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms

Is Suboxone Right for Me?

Suboxone is prescribed for people who are trying to end their dependence on short-acting opioids such as prescription painkillers or heroin. People who have a dependence on long-acting opioids should not be prescribed Suboxone, rather a buprenorphine-only medication instead.

The ideal candidates for Suboxone:

  • Is able to take the medication regularly and on time.
  • Are able to follow up with their medical provider regularly
  • Are attending counseling and other therapy sessions as a part of a medication-assisted treatment program
  • Will not abuse Suboxone or other substances during their Suboxone treatment
  • Can refrain from drinking alcohol while using Suboxone

Consult with your health care provider if you believe that Suboxone would beneficial for your recovery from opioid abuse. There are many medication-assisted treatment programs all over the country that are available to provide you with the treatment you need.

How Suboxone is Intended to be Taken

The maximum daily dosage of Suboxone is made up of 32 mg of buprenorphine and 8 mg of naltrexone, while the minimum dosage is 2mg of buprenorphine and 0.5 mg of naltrexone. Your doctor will start you on a low dose of suboxone and decide within an hour if your dose needs to be increased. This stabilization process can continue for about 2 days. After the proper dosage is confirmed, you will be taking suboxone regularly for anywhere from 6-12 months. This process is all based on a person’s individual needs, so the time length will vary. Once you have consulted with your doctor and have decided as a unit that you are ready to begin tapering off of Suboxone, the tapering process will begin.

The ultimate goal of Suboxone is to safely transition an addict off of opioids. Suboxone is a maintenance/tapering medication, so once a patient is ready to fully taper off of all substances they will be gradually taken off of Suboxone. It is recommended that Suboxone be taken in addition to addiction therapy as well as therapy intended to get to the root problem of a person’s addiction. If you are seeking medication-assisted treatment in order to safely come off of opioids, contact your local MAT treatment center as soon as possible.

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/5-myths-about-using-suboxone-to-treat-opiate-addiction-2018032014496
  2. https://www.suboxone.com/medical-treatment/
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325827.php

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