Recovery Center Blog

What is Suboxone? Everything You Need to Know

Written By Recovery Centers - April 14th, 2022
What is Suboxone? Everything You Need to Know

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “In 2019, an estimated 10.1 million people aged 12 or older misused opioids in the past year. Specifically, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers and 745,000 people used heroin.”[1]

Opioid addiction is extremely common, often causing devastating consequences. Unfortunately, many people who struggle with opioid addiction suffer from adverse social, mental, emotional, financial, and physical health effects. Despite facing these consequences, many individuals struggle to gain or maintain recovery due to a lack of access to treatment.

Many addiction treatment programs are now offering an opioid recovery medication known as Suboxone. This medication helps patients by diminishing withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings, leading to higher rates of recovery and lower rates of opioid-related deaths without the need for residential treatment.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a medication used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs to aid in the recovery of opioid addiction. This medication lowers the potential of opioid abuse and overdoses, soothes symptoms of withdrawal, and prevents individuals from experiencing cravings for opioids in early recovery.

While drugs like heroin or oxycodone are full opioid agonists, Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist. This means that instead of providing the intense intoxicating effect of opioid drugs, the medication affects the opioid neurotransmitter just enough to prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Suboxone can provide these effects to individuals without causing them to feel high because it contains two main ingredients- buprenorphine and naloxone.

What is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is the ingredient in Suboxone that makes it a partial opioid agonist. While buprenorphine is FDA-approved for use on its own, many individuals prefer using this medication alongside naloxone.

According to research, buprenorphine is considered a highly desirable and effective treatment for opioid dependency. The UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute writes, “Its partial agonist effects imbue buprenorphine with several clinically desirable pharmacological properties: lower abuse potential, lower level of physical dependence (less withdrawal discomfort), a ceiling effect at higher doses, and greater safety in overdose compared with opioid full agonists.”[2]

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses. In other words, it prevents opioid drugs from affecting opioid receptors in the brain. Naloxone is mainly added to Suboxone to prevent patients from attempting to abuse their medication.

The medication comes in the form of a sublingual tab that is taken orally. While buprenorphine has a high sublingual bioavailability, naloxone does not. However, if an individual were to attempt to smoke or snort their medication to get high, the naloxone would prevent them from experiencing any mind-altering effects.

Suboxone Side Effects

Like any medication, Suboxone can cause side effects during the first few weeks of treatment. Common side effects include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Numbness of mouth or tongue
  • Constipation
  • Confusion or dizziness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Insomnia or drowsiness
  • Blurry vision
  • Back pain
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Depression

Individuals taking the medication may experience side effects that dissipate once their body becomes accustomed to the medication. Additionally, MAT doctors will adjust a patient’s dosage accordingly if their side effects become uncomfortable or dangerous.

How Does Suboxone Treatment Work?

Suboxone treatment includes a combination of medication management, individual therapy, and group counseling. It is important to note that the medication is not a cure for opioid addiction. Individuals participating in a MAT program must participate in behavioral therapies and additional aspects of traditional addiction treatment.

Treatment with Suboxone consists of three phases:

Introductory Phase

During the introductory phase, patients will be assessed to determine whether they are good candidates for Suboxone treatment. Individuals receiving buprenorphine/naloxone must abstain from opioids and be in a moderate stage of withdrawal.

Doctors will provide patients with their first dose under observation to ensure that they do not experience any adverse reactions. Additionally, they will adjust the dosage accordingly to soothe the patient’s withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Stabilization Phase

Once the patient is not experiencing any more symptoms of withdrawal, is physically stable, and is not struggling with cravings, they have reached the stabilization phase of treatment.

The doctors may decide to adjust the patient’s dosage during this stage depending on how they are feeling. Oftentimes, the dosage is lowered slightly once a patient is stabilized.

Maintenance Phase

The maintenance phase begins once a patient is doing well and on a steady dosage of their medication. How long the maintenance phase lasts depends on the individual patient’s needs. In other words, it is considered safe to take Suboxone for weeks, months, or even years.

During this phase, patients can:

  • Maintain mental clarity
  • Continue working
  • Attend school
  • Participate in individual and group therapy
  • Attend sober support groups like AA or NA
  • Live an opioid-free life

Is Suboxone Addictive?

Because Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist, individuals can become addicted to the medication. However, the effects are extremely mild and usually, a doctor has control over patients’ dosages within a MAT program. Because of this, buprenorphine addiction is possible but less likely.

Individuals who abuse Suboxone either take large amounts of the medication or mix it with other substances. This is extremely dangerous, as the active ingredient naloxone can send someone into immediate withdrawal. As a result, anyone who abuses the medication should attend a detox center and a residential addiction treatment program.

Find a Suboxone Clinic Near You Today

If you or a loved one suffer from opioid addiction and have a hard time maintaining sobriety, medication-assisted treatment could be right for you. Because of the large number of Suboxone clinics in America, it can be difficult to decipher which program is the right choice for your family.

Thankfully, Recovery Centers is here to help you and your loved one find a reputable opioid treatment clinic near you. Contact us today for more information on how to get started.

References:

  1. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/opioid-crisis-statistics/index.html
  2. https://psychiatry.uams.edu/clinical-care/cast/buprenorphine/