When someone enters treatment to receive help for an opioid use disorder, they may be prescribed a medication called Suboxone. This drug is used in medication-supported recovery (MSR™) that can help reduce cravings and the risk of relapse. This medication also allows the individual to become stable during the early stages of recovery.
However, any person who has taken opioids for an extended period of time will result in dependency, which can also be the case with Suboxone. When the time comes to taper off of Suboxone, the patient can experience some highly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. This is a sign of Suboxone dependence — read on to learn how to deal with Suboxone withdrawal.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is used in MSR for individuals recovering from opioid use disorder. Suboxone consists of the partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine and the opioid antagonist, naloxone. Prescribed in conjunction with psychotherapy, Suboxone works as a replacement drug to help wean an individual off of opioids. Suboxone is dispensed as sublingual film strips, in tablet form available in four dosage options or as an implant inserted under the skin for a six-month period.
Suboxone works by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain, reducing the effects of opioids, and can help reduce drug cravings over time, increasing the likelihood of a sustained recovery. This allows them to move forward in recovery by substantially reducing the risk of a relapse. Suboxone is considered to be a safer and more accessible alternative to methadone.
Generally, Suboxone isn’t used as a permanent solution but as a temporary treatment to make recovery easier for the patient. Suboxone is typically prescribed for six months or less as a safety measure to prevent addiction to the replacement drug. When used as directed alongside outpatient therapy and a tapering schedule, Suboxone can be a game-changer in achieving long-term recovery from opioid addiction.
One of the risks of using Suboxone for MSR is the drug’s similarity to the former opioid. The habit-forming properties of the medication may cause someone in recovery to begin misusing the Suboxone, such as dissolving the film strip in water and injecting it, crushing and snorting the pill form, or consuming multiple film strips at once.
Injecting Suboxone is especially risky since it bypasses the digestive system, neutralizing the naloxone. Naloxone is added to Suboxone to deter someone from misuse, as intense withdrawal symptoms will emerge.
Dangers of withdrawal
When it is time to discontinue Suboxone, it’s essential that a group of trained detox professionals closely monitor the patient and provide the necessary support. A physician will prescribe a tapering schedule that allows the individual’s system to gradually adjust to the incrementally lower Suboxone doses.
Suboxone withdrawal symptoms begin 24-48 hours after the last complete dose. The detox team provides medical treatments to the patient that will reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Suboxone withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle and joint aches
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Irregular heart rate
- Excessive yawning
- Dilated pupils
- Fuzzy thinking
- Symptoms of depression
- Symptoms of anxiety
- Drug cravings
Suboxone can make a positive difference in the life of someone recovering from opioid use disorder. When it is time to discontinue Suboxone, a skilled detox team can assist the individual in mitigating the withdrawal symptoms.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, and provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle – “everything for recovery” – reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.