Suboxone is a prescribed medication known as a partial opioid agonist that is used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). This evidence based treatment is formed from a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, and is typically administered in a film or tablet form. Suboxone is used for medication assisted treatment (MAT) by easing opioid withdrawal symptoms and blocking the opioid receptors in your brain to reduce the risk of relapse.
Suboxone can be administered in two forms, either as a tablet or a sublingual film. While both methods offer the same results, the film is easier to taper off of as it can be given in smaller increments to help patients wean off the medication slowly instead of quitting it cold turkey when their treatment has ended.
Suboxone works by blocking the opioid receptors so that people who take suboxone cannot feel any effects of opioid use while taking the medication. This reduces the risk of relapse, since the euphoric effects of opioid use are unachievable.
The buprenorphine in suboxone is a type of medication known as a partial opioid agonist, which means that it works similarly to opioids and produces the same feelings the opioids do, but at a much weaker rate. It also means that the effects produced by buprenorphine eventually plateau, so once that point is reached, taking more of the drug will not lead to an increase in effects. This is known as the “”ceiling effect” and is a deterrent against suboxone misuse.
The naloxone in suboxone is what is known as an opioid antagonist, which means that it is only absorbed in the body and activated if the drug is injected instead of taken orally as prescribed. The point of this is to deter individuals from injecting suboxone instead of taking it as prescribed, since anyone with an opioid dependency who injects naloxone will experience adverse side effects. This is meant to reduce the risk of suboxone misuse, as people will be more inclined to take it as prescribed.
Due to the buprenorphine present in suboxone, the medication may help chronic pain patients with opioid use disorder by providing pain relief in addition to the easing of withdrawal symptoms and reduction of drug cravings. Suboxone treatment is not officially approved by the FDA as a method of pain management; only the component buprenorphine alone, without any naloxone, is approved to treat chronic or acute pain.
However, for chronic pain patients with opioid use disorder who are taking part in an opioid treatment program, they may be prescribed suboxone as a treatment option to manage their withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings–and in this case, the medication may provide partial or total pain relief as well.
The effects of suboxone, such as the ceiling effect provided by buprenorphine and the opioid blocking of naloxone, make this medication a safer alternative for chronic pain than prescription opioids, as there is a greatly lessened chance of misuse. In addition, suboxone therapy has the possibility of less immune system suppression and lower tolerance development to the substance, making this a more reliable method of treating pain for those with opioid use disorder.
Suboxone will never be prescribed for pain management in patients without opioid use disorder, as there is a risk of overdose in patients who have never experienced opioid dependence due to their nonexistent tolerance to the substance. For individuals who do have opioid use disorder along with chronic pain, suboxone can be beneficial in providing pain relief while also helping patients to avoid relapse.
If you receive suboxone as part of a medication assisted treatment program at a rehab center, doctors will continually monitor your use of the medication to ensure you are receiving the right dosage to stay safe and avoid dependence upon the substance. If you wish to receive suboxone for chronic pain during your addiction treatment, discuss this option with a medical professional to see if there is a chance of temporarily increasing your dosage.
Your doctor will adjust your dosage as needed, so it is important to stay in constant communication with your medical provider and follow their instructions exactly. Never increase your dose or stop taking the medication without first discussing this with your doctor.
Suboxone is not meant to be a cure for opioid dependence, but rather a part of a larger comprehensive treatment program that includes counseling and behavioral therapies, as well as support groups, to address the root of the addiction. While it is beneficial to patients by easing withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings, suboxone alone will not be efficient in helping patients overcome opioid use disorder.
If you are suffering from opioid use disorder and would like to begin medication assisted treatment as part of a treatment program, contact Fusion Recovery to learn about treatment plans offered at our rehab facility. Although suboxone clinics do exist to prescribe patients with this medication, it is recommended to begin this treatment first at a rehab center so you can partake in a well-rounded treatment program that deals with all aspects of your opioid use disorder and teaches you better coping skills for the future.