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.
Since the use of suboxone provides similar effects to that of opioid use, there is a chance that patients may form a dependence on suboxone if not taken as directed, so it is important to follow the instructions of your doctor and take only the prescribed dose. However, as suboxone does not create the same euphoric qualities as other opioids, the desire to misuse suboxone is greatly lessened.
In addition, the buprenorphine in suboxone has what is referred to as a “ceiling effect,” meaning that even if the dose is increased, the opioid effects plateau at a certain point and cannot produce any stronger feelings. This reduces the risk of misuse or overdose.
When patients stop using suboxone as part of their addiction treatment program, this causes a chemical imbalance in the body that leads to symptoms of suboxone withdrawal. Withdrawal from suboxone causes physical symptoms that are very similar to the flu, such as body aches, nausea, and high temperatures. Other symptoms may include anxiety and depression, vomiting and diarrhea, changes in heart rate, dehydration, irritability, insomnia or sleep disturbances, and runny nose.
These symptoms can vary in both severity and duration, depending on how long users have been taking suboxone, as well as the dosage of the drug. Typically, the effects of suboxone withdrawal will subside after one month, although psychological dependence on the substance may linger. The suboxone withdrawal timeline will also depend on how you quit the medication.
If you taper off the drug, you’ll have a longer withdrawal period with milder symptoms. If you quit cold turkey, you may experience more intense symptoms faster. Suboxone is typically administered once every day. In the first 24 hours without the medication, you will start to feel the first symptoms of withdrawal. Early symptoms may include anxiety, fatigue, and general discomfort.
Once the withdrawal symptoms have begun, they will steadily increase until they reach their peak. This will occur around the 72 hour mark, and is when physical symptoms are at their worst. These symptoms will usually include fever, body aches, nausea and vomiting, or diarrhea. Although these symptoms are the most uncomfortable, reaching this stage marks a turning point in your withdrawal period.
Over the next few days, you will start to feel better and most of the symptoms will be gone after the first week. However, some symptoms may linger after this period, especially the psychological ones. In some cases, symptoms including depression, anxiety, and drug cravings may continue even after the acute withdrawal period has ended. If you are still suffering from these symptoms at the two week mark, you may need to address them with a medical professional.
Although suboxone is often used to help with opioid use disorder, the use of this medication is meant to be temporary. Suboxone helps with addiction treatment by lessening the side effects of opioid withdrawal, although it is not a cure for opioid addiction.
Suboxone should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment option that includes mental health treatment such as therapy for mental illness, along with support groups and educational workshops that help patients understand substance abuse and the negative effects it has on not just their lives, but the lives of their loved ones as well.
The administration of suboxone will eventually be tapered to make way for total sobriety from substances. This process should be done in a slow and measured way, allowing for plateaus to accommodate the individual’s experience and stability along the way. Long term use of suboxone is not typically recommended, as prolonged use has the possibility of creating a dependence on the substance, similar to opioid dependence.
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.