What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a prescription medication approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to treat Opioid use disorder (OUD). It contains a combination of two medications called Buprenorphine and Naloxone.
Buprenorphine, a partial Opioid agonist, blocks the Opioid receptors in the brain that helps to reduce significant withdrawal symptoms from Opioid detox and can help reduce a person’s urges for Opioids in recovery when used under medical supervision.
The second ingredient, Naloxone, was created to reverse the dangerous symptoms of Opioid overdose. The inclusion of Naloxone with Buprenorphine is to assist with long-term recovery goals by making it difficult to abuse as a substance. This has helped to make Suboxone a safer alternative medication for those with OUD who benefit from continued long-term use as a form of Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT).
In recent years, Suboxone has become the preferred treatment medication for OUD. It is prescribed more often than other medications, such as Methadone, which has been known to be habit-forming in nature.
Unlike other Opioid use disorder medications that require a prescription from a specialized treatment center, Suboxone can be prescribed by a primary care provider when deemed appropriate. Many people use Suboxone at the start of treatment, while others use it for help throughout long-term recovery. It is essential to have discussions with the entire clinical team regarding MAT programming in one’s treatment, as everyone has individual needs, and no medication is suitable for everyone on its own.
Featured Centers Offering Suboxone for Medication-Assisted Treatment
While Suboxone can help someone manage the symptoms of Opioid withdrawal, it’s crucial to find a comprehensive treatment program to address other needs in recovery. Opioid use can start for a variety of reasons that may be medical or psychological. However, the process of ending Opioid abuse often requires dedicated behavioral health support from licensed therapists as part of a comprehensive treatment program.
Over 12 weeks, 49% of those taking Suboxone reduced Painkiller abuse.
When Suboxone is used alongside behavioral therapy and treatment programs, it significantly increases lasting sobriety.
Uses Of Suboxone
Suboxone is commonly used for a variety of Opioid use cases, including prescription medications like OxyContin as well as synthetic substances such as Heroin or Fentanyl. Ultimately, prescribing providers will determine what they believe to be the most appropriate circumstances to utilize Suboxone. However, regardless of the type of Opioid, there are guidelines that treatment professionals must follow before using medication management options such as Suboxone.
The first phase of Suboxone use is the withdrawal phase, where symptoms are most uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. Due to the inclusion of Naloxone, no Opioid can be active within the bloodstream before Suboxone use. Otherwise, serious acute withdrawal symptoms could develop. This means most professionals will require at least 12-24 hours of abstinence from Opiates before administering Suboxone. Once the first 24 hours of Opioid withdrawal occurs, Suboxone can be administered to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Depending on their usage history, a person may feel “back to normal” within a few days or hours after starting Suboxone.
Once withdrawal symptoms have reached medically safe levels, the provider will review treatment options. This may include a detox from Opioids that involves Suboxone, gradually reducing doses until a person has been weaned off the drug completely. In other circumstances, if deemed appropriate, a prescribing physician may recommend continued Suboxone use alongside therapy for more effective treatment.
When taken properly, individuals on Suboxone will have no cravings, have no withdrawal, and will feel ‘normal’…that’s why it’s so effective.
Suboxone can be used during different stages of treatment and offers a long-term solution for managing an OUD. When included as part of a comprehensive recovery plan, Suboxone can play a vital role in reducing the risk of relapse and providing support to returning to everyday life. Follow-up appointments with a prescribing physician are essential in ensuring a successful recovery.
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How Is Suboxone Administered?
Recent changes to legislation have provided increased access to Suboxone. As of 2023, a medical provider with a DEA license with Schedule III authority can write and prescribe Suboxone. Be sure to follow specific directions from the medical provider during each dose. Suboxone generally comes in either a tablet or dissolvable sublingual film.
If using Suboxone film, the drug must be placed under the tongue to absorb into the body correctly. While the film is dissolving, it’s important to remember the following:
- Do not chew or swallow the film. This can cause the medicine not to work as intended.
- Do not talk while the film is in your mouth. This may also affect how the drug is absorbed.
As time passes, there may be changes to the treatment plan, including ending Suboxone use with continued improvement or misuse. In addition, the provider may lower the dosage to help taper off the medication altogether over time.
Get the best results with Suboxone by using it as part of a comprehensive recovery program.
Relying on Suboxone alone is not a solution to OUD or the impact it can have on one’s life. Instead, like any other medication, it is meant to complement a complete treatment method that may involve inpatient or outpatient treatment, support groups, and counseling.
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Side Effects Of Suboxone
Although used to help manage OUD, it’s important to understand that Suboxone is a partial Opiate and can lead to dependence. Therefore, it is vital to understand the risks associated with any medication used, especially when they have addictive properties and require medical supervision.
Additionally, one should not discontinue taking Suboxone without talking to their medical provider first. Stopping treatment immediately can cause adverse effects and potentially lead to symptoms of Opioid withdrawal, such as:
- Joint or muscle pain
- Dilated pupils
- Feeling jittery
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any adverse side effects associated with Suboxone. Some of the symptoms caused by Suboxone can include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Stomach pain
- Low energy
- Tooth Decay
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain, including nerve pain
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Some other medications, herbal remedies, or supplements can cause harmful effects when taken with Suboxone.
Below is a condensed list of products that may lead to complications if consumed with Suboxone. Make a note of all current medications and speak with a healthcare provider about any medications to refrain from using while on Suboxone.
- HIV-treatment drugs
- Oral contraceptives
Where Is Suboxone Available?
One must have a prescription from an approved prescribing physician to obtain Suboxone. The medication should not be taken for conditions outside of what is approved unless directed by the prescribing provider. Due to the nature of its active ingredients, frequent check in’s with one’s doctor is often a continuing requirement for treatment.
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Taking Suboxone is not a one-size-fits-all solution for your Opioid addiction. While it helps treat dependence, it should be used in combination with other recovery solutions to ensure long-term sobriety. Contact a treatment provider to explore available treatment options.
Ashish Bhatt, MD, MRO
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Learn about Dr. Ashish Bhatt
Dr. Bhatt has been Addiction Center's Medical Content Director for more than three years, providing his expertise to ensure quality and accuracy.
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Expert in adult and child psychiatry
Over 20 years of professional experience