Suboxone for Addiction Treatment
Suboxone is a brand name for a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone that is prescribed to treat dependence on opioid drugs such as narcotic painkillers or heroin. Suboxone fools your brain into thinking it is getting the drug that you’re addicted to. As a result, you feel normal, but not high. The withdrawal symptoms do not occur.
However, because it can be habit-forming, Suboxone must be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor, and under medical supervision. Suboxone abusers often inject or snort the drug for a more intense effect, and/or take it in combination with other drugs, such as benzodiazepine—a combination that can be deadly.
Understanding Addiction Treatment with Suboxone
According to the U.S. National Library of Health, “buprenorphine alone and the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone [Suboxone] work to prevent withdrawal symptoms when someone stops taking opioid drugs by producing similar effects to these drugs.”
Naloxone can reverse the effects of most opioids. It can be life-saving during an opioid overdose. This reversal effect aids in addiction recovery by blocking opioid receptors, so you will no longer be able to get high if you relapse and take your drug of choice.
Buprenorphine is a synthetic opiate that is unaffected by naloxone. Taking buprenorphine can produce the same pain-relieving, euphoric, and relaxing effects as other opiates, but without the same level of sedation and respiratory depression, or as much impairment to cognitive or motor skills. Buprenorphine also has a “ceiling effect,” which means that taking larger doses of the drug does not create a larger effect, making it much less useful for getting high than more commonly addictive opioids such as heroin.
However, because buprenorphine can produce euphoria, Suboxone is still susceptible to abuse, and when taken in high doses, the drug will cause withdrawal symptoms. You should not suddenly stop taking Suboxone; the dosage must be carefully tapered off.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, even taking Suboxone as directed can cause a number of side effects such as:
- stomach pain
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- mouth numbness or redness
- tongue pain
- blurred vision
- back pain
More serious side effects may also occur. Call a doctor or seek emergency treatment if you experience any of the following while on Suboxone:
- hives, rash, or itching
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
- hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
- fast heartbeat
- severe muscle stiffness or twitching
- loss of coordination
- nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- loss of appetite
- inability to get or keep an erection
- irregular menstruation
- decreased sexual desire
- slowed breathing
- upset stomach or pain in the upper right part of the stomach
- extreme tiredness or lack of energy
- blurred vision
- slurred speech
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
- dark-colored urine or light-colored stools
Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse
Signs of an addiction to opiates may include:
- running out of a medication before the prescription is due for refill
- doctor shopping or visiting multiple pain clinics
- neglecting family and friends
- loss of interest in favorite activities
- secretive behavior
- unusual actions or physical symptoms
- new difficulties in relationships
- poor grooming
- changes in appetite and sleep patterns
Dangers of Suboxone Misuse
If you suddenly stop taking Suboxone, or if you take a higher than normal dosage, you will experience withdrawal symptoms such as:
- hot or cold flashes
- teary eyes
- runny nose
- muscle pain
Symptoms of Suboxone overdose may include the following:
- slowed or difficulty breathing
- extreme sleepiness or drowsiness
- coma (loss of consciousness for a period of time)
- slow heartbeat
- cold, clammy skin
- muscle weakness
- narrowing or widening of the pupils
- unusual snoring
Who Benefits from/Abuses Suboxone?
Suboxone can be an incredibly useful tool in your recovery plan. Half the battle with opiate addiction is physical, and Suboxone can help you conquer that aspect of the problem.
If you are in treatment for addiction, you are unlikely to abuse Suboxone, because you will not be able to “get high” from the drug in the same way that you can with your drug of choice. However, some recovering addicts have developed addictions to Suboxone by failing to take the medication as instructed, or by taking more than recommended.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, in countries where Suboxone has gained popularity as an illicit street drug, it is sought by a wide variety of users: young naive individuals, non-addicted opioid abusers, heroin addicts and Suboxone treatment clients.
Because Suboxone is capable of producing euphoria, it has gained popularity as a heroin substitute and as a primary drug of abuse.
When used as directed for addiction treatment, Suboxone can be a big help to your recovery process. But overuse and abuse of Suboxone will lead to serious mental and physical consequences.
Anyone can become addicted to Suboxone, although the drug can be difficult to find as a street drug. You will likely need to have some sort of connection to an addiction treatment doctor or facility in order to obtain it. When purchased illicitly, the drug is expensive.
Because Suboxone is prescribed by doctors to combat drug abuse, you may believe that it is non-addictive. This is not true. Suboxone is only safe when it is used under medical guidance to prevent opioid withdrawal symptoms. When you use Suboxone inappropriately, or to get high, addiction occurs.
Am I Addicted?
If you fear that you are addicted to an opiate drug and could benefit from treatment with Suboxone, read and honestly answer the following questions:
- Do I take opioids only as directed by my doctor?
- Do I abuse medications in order to combat negative feelings or to escape the pressures of life?
- Are my friends and/or family concerned about my drug use?
- Do I become hostile or angry when they express their concern?
- Do I ever experience withdrawal symptoms when I try to quit taking drugs?
- Am I secretive about my drug use, lying about when I use or how much I take?
- Have I experienced any major issues or conflicts as a result of my drug use, such as family problems, financial problems, a breakup, job loss, car accident, or getting arrested?
- Do I snort, inject, or take drugs in combination with alcohol or benzodiazepines?
- Do I feel unable to quit on my own?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may benefit from professional substance abuse help.
Suboxone Addiction Treatment
Seeking help for your addiction can be intimidating for a variety of reasons. You may feel ashamed to ask for help. You may worry that you aren’t strong enough to get sober. You might worry that you won’t be able to afford treatment.
These concerns are all completely natural, but they are also unnecessary. Addiction is nothing to be ashamed of, and you already have the strength needed to overcome it. You just need to be given the right tools to use that inner strength. There are a variety of ways that treatment can be made affordable for anyone, no matter their financial situation.
You need a clear mind and a healthy body before you can dedicate yourself to overcoming addiction. Because it is dangerous to abruptly stop taking opioids, it is best to work with medical professionals who can guide you through the process of drug-assisted detoxification.
Suboxone can be a major help through the withdrawal process, preventing unpleasant symptoms that would cause you to suffer unnecessarily in the early days of treatment.
You may administer your own Suboxone as part of an outpatient treatment plan, or you may take it while inpatient at a treatment facility. There is no one “right” way to approach recovery.
But whatever treatment options you decide on, your plan will include some or all of the following elements:
- Individual, group, and family/couples counseling
- Treatment for co-occurring conditions that are likely fueling your substance abuse
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy to retrain your brain with new forms of coping
- 12-step meetings based on the program that began with Alcoholics Anonymous
- Nutrition, fitness and health counseling to insure that your mind and body is physically able to heal from any damage done by drug use.