Treating addiction with medications like Suboxone is sometimes controversial, but it can also be very effective. When used carefully per a doctor’s prescribed instructions, Suboxone can be an extremely valuable tool in easing the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. For some patients, however, Suboxone can become as much of an addiction as the opioids it seeks to displace. In cases like these, effective addiction treatment may mean avoiding the use of medication altogether.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a prescription medication intended for the safe treatment of opioid dependence. The medication itself is a combination of the drugs buprenorphine and naloxone, which work to combat the pain and discomfort of withdrawal from drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers.
Depending on the case, the drug can be prescribed as either a tablet or a sublingual film (a thin strip of material that is dissolved under the tongue). Both are considered effective, so the delivery method will be based on the doctor’s discretion and/or the patient’s preferences.
Suboxone is not intended for long-term use, nor is it meant to be the sole treatment for a person’s opioid addiction. The drug is primarily designed to be used in conjunction with a comprehensive treatment plan that includes professional counseling. Patients are advised to work with their doctors to make a plan to medically taper off of Suboxone after an appropriate period of maintenance.
The Addictive Nature of Suboxone
The reason Suboxone works so well for opioid addiction treatment is that buprenorphine itself is an opioid drug. Unlike other opioids, however, buprenorphine is what’s known as a “partial agonist,” which means its effects are relatively limited and mild. It’s extremely good at binding steadfastly to the brain’s receptors, literally blocking other opioid drugs from having an effect.
The somewhat less intense nature of buprenorphine means it does not create the feeling of a high, but it does successfully provide the brain with the kind of chemical activity it has become dependent upon for normal function.
The other chemical player in Suboxone, naloxone, is also an opioid blocker—but it’s not an opioid itself. Naloxone is most often administered to reverse the effects of opioid overdose, and it is often supplied to emergency responders (and sometimes heroin users themselves) for immediate on-scene treatment. Unlike buprenorphine, naloxone is a non-addictive, non-scheduled drug. In fact, unless opioids are present in the body, naloxone produces almost no noticeable effects.
When used appropriately, Suboxone gives addicted individuals a comfortable step down from dependence without the high risk of tolerance. Nevertheless, buprenorphine is still an opioid drug that can easily lead to an addiction with improper use. Because of this risk, Suboxone is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance subject to rules and restrictions regarding authorization, refills, and documentation.
Many individuals who become addicted to Suboxone start out with a legitimate prescription but, ultimately, end up simply swapping one addiction for another. It may show itself as non-prescribed use, or it may simply appear as excuses and denial when it comes time to taper off.
Another cause of Suboxone addiction is its illegal use by someone who is not receiving treatment for opioid dependence. Whether they use a fraudulently obtained prescription or purchase it from someone else, the restrictions and requirements of Schedule III controlled substances sometimes aren’t enough to stop them.
It’s extremely important for addicted individuals and their loved ones to understand that addiction is not a matter of choice or weakness. Although a person might have made the initial decision to start misusing a substance, addiction is a recognized disease with a physiological basis. A Suboxone dependency creates biochemical changes that make it overwhelmingly difficult—and potentially dangerous—to simply quit.
Treating an Addiction to Suboxone
The intensity of Suboxone’s effects as an opioid-containing drug makes it absolutely crucial for those taking it to taper off carefully per medical direction. If the dose of Suboxone drops off suddenly or is completely withheld, the withdrawal symptoms can be agonizing. For this reason, one of the best options for addicted individuals and their families is to seek the help of a full Suboxone rehab program.
Drug rehab facilities typically offer three types of programs: inpatient, outpatient, and intensive outpatient (IOP). Take a look below at how each type of program works.
Inpatient Rehab Programs
The most common choice for those who are still actively addicted and using, inpatient rehab is an intensive, carefully structured type of treatment focused on breaking the addiction and working through underlying issues. Inpatient usually starts with detox, then transitions into 12-step meetings and professionally led counseling. This is the most restrictive type of treatment, but clients can earn privileges as they progress.
Outpatient Rehab Programs
Outpatient is less restrictive than inpatient and allows individuals to work and be with family. Clients are not expected to stay on-site, and they have additional freedoms like the ability to schedule counseling sessions and meetings on their own time. This type of program is usually reserved for those who have recently completed an inpatient treatment program.
Intensive Outpatient Programs
Usually the least restrictive kind of treatment, an intensive outpatient program gives clients the same freedoms as a regular outpatient program, regardless of whether they’ve recently completed an inpatient program. Because it doesn’t include detox or inpatient care, this type of program is ideal for people who do not have a strong physical addiction but still feel they need professional help.
Identifying Suboxone Effects
If you suspect that you or someone you know may be addicted to Suboxone, there are some things you can watch for. Keep an eye out for the below physical and psychological symptoms.
Physical and Mental Effects
- Pain relief (watch for use as a painkiller)
- Noticeable drowsiness
- Unusual breathing
- Nausea, vomiting
- Muscle pain
- Seizures (possible with overdose)
Emotional and Behavioral Effects
- Irritability, agitation
- Obsession with getting and having Suboxone
- Doctor or pharmacy “hopping” to get more Suboxone
- Difficulty managing responsibilities
- Defensiveness when questioned about its use
Symptoms of Suboxone Withdrawal
Withdrawal from Suboxone dependence varies from case to case, but common withdrawal symptoms include things like the following:
- Tired appearance (teary eyes, constant yawning)
- Restless behavior
- Intense anxiety
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea, vomiting
- Drop in blood pressure
- Respiratory depression
Get Effective, Compassionate Addiction Treatment at Yellowstone Recovery
As seasoned addiction recovery experts, we at Yellowstone Recovery provide our clients with the clinically backed treatment and compassionate support they deserve. With medically monitored detox, professional counseling, and other powerful resources, we’ve helped thousands of men and women break free from physical addiction and develop the skills necessary for a healthy, sober new life.
For those who became addicted to Suboxone after previous treatment for an opioid addiction, re-entering rehab can feel disappointing, but, remember: Reaching out for help—no matter how often you need it—is a huge success! At Yellowstone Recovery, progress is not a competitive sport. We’ll give you the tools you need to manage your progress at the pace that’s right for you. ]
If you’re ready to say goodbye to Suboxone addiction, call us today at (888) 418-4188.
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