The Addiction and Treatment of Suboxone in the United States


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The Addiction and Treatment of Suboxone in the United States

Suboxone addiction treatment is a medication that is used to manage the symptoms of opioid dependence. The medication has been approved by the FDA for use as an alternative therapy. This article will give you insights and details on suboxone addiction and treatment in the United States.


What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a prescription medication used to treat individuals who have become addicted to opiate drugs, such as pain pills, morphine, and heroin. Suboxone contains two active ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone. 

The buprenorphine in Suboxone attaches to the same receptors in the brain as other opiate drugs and helps suppress withdrawal symptoms, cravings for opiates, prevents relapses, and drug-seeking behavior. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of other opiates, such as heroin and pain pills.

Suboxone is a relatively new medication and was first approved by the FDA in 2002 for use with opiate addicts who were being treated with methadone. Individuals on Suboxone are less likely to abuse their methadone treatment, and Suboxone can be used as an alternative to methadone.

Suboxone is usually prescribed to be taken under the tongue in a film form, as a  sublingual tablet and it can also be injected into the body by physicians who specialize in treating opiate addiction. Suboxone is not meant to be used as a long-term medication.

Suboxone can be abused in the same way as other opiates, and it is considered to be a Schedule III controlled substance. Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist, which means it produces milder effects than full agonists like heroin. Suboxone is also a mu-opioid receptor antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of other opiates at the receptor level.

Tolerance Compared to Suboxone Dependence

Tolerance is a condition in which the body adapts to a drug and requires higher doses to achieve the same effects. Dependence, on the other hand, occurs when your body has adjusted so much to a drug that it requires the drug to function.

Tolerance and dependence are two very different things, but they often occur together in users of opiates. When tolerance reaches extreme levels, the user may experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not present.

Buprenorphine And Naloxone – Suboxone’s Two Ingredients

Buprenorphine is an opioid that acts as a partial agonist at the mu-opioid receptor. It has been approved by the FDA for use in treating opiate addiction, and it can be used in a variety of ways. 

The drug is sold under the brand name Suboxone, which comes as a combination product with naloxone, an opioid antagonist that has no effect on people who are not already taking opioids. Naloxone is added to Suboxone as an extra precaution against diversion, misuse, and abuse of the drug. 

It also blocks the effects of heroin and other opiates. Naloxone is also an opiate, so if a person who is addicted to heroin takes Suboxone, the naloxone will block the effects of the heroin.

What Are The Side Effects And Risks Of Suboxone?

Suboxone can help relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids like heroin. However, Suboxone does not have any effect on a person’s consciousness or mental state.

Like other opiates, Suboxone has serious side effects, including:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Sedation and coma
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Skin rash, itching, or hives. (more likely to occur in children and the elderly.)

Suboxone addiction is possible because of the way that it affects opioid receptors in the brain. The drug can produce euphoric effects and cause cravings for more of it, which are signs of addiction. The drug can produce euphoric effects and a sense of relaxation, but it does not cause the same level of intoxication as other opioids.

Suboxone addiction is dangerous because it can lead to overdose or death if users take additional opioids while they are still under the influence of Suboxone.

The drug can also produce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and sweating if a person stops taking it suddenly or takes

What Is Suboxone Withdrawal Like?

Suboxone withdrawal is the process that takes place when a person stops taking Suboxone. The drug works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, which can make it hard for a person to experience withdrawal symptoms.

 However, when a person stops taking the drug, they can begin feeling these uncomfortable side effects. The specific symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal will depend on how long a person has been taking the drug.

The withdrawal symptoms of Suboxone include:

  • Anxiety 
  • Chills 
  • Dilated pupils
  • Headache
  • Muscles aches and pains 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Restlessness 
  • Runny nose 
  • Stomach cramps or diarrhea 
  • Sweating 
  • Tremors or twitching

How Long Does Suboxone Withdrawal Last?

Suboxone withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on how long the person has been taking the drug.

 The half-life of the drug is 24-60 hours and so the withdrawal symptoms do not set in as quickly as other opioids but withdrawals generally last longer. Factors that affect the duration of Suboxone withdrawal, are if the medication was gradually tapered down or stopped “cold turkey”. 

A typical Suboxone withdrawal timeline:

Day 1-3: 

6-12 hours since the last Suboxone dose – withdrawal symptoms may begin such as anxiety, fatigue, and general discomfort. Suboxone withdrawals may then peak within the first 

72 hours later – the symptoms peak and include fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Days 4-7: 

Symptoms subside by the end of the first week. Some of the psychological symptoms of such as anxiety and irritability are experienced. 

Weeks 2-4: 

Psychological withdrawal symptoms such as depression may begin and anxiety as well as cravings beyond the acute withdrawal phase. 

How Can Someone Overdose on Suboxone and What Are the Signs?

Taking more of the drug than prescribed or getting the drug on the black market to experience a mild opioid high is considered abuse. Prescribed Suboxone will not provide any euphoric feeling but in large doses, it can induce euphoria and cause addiction. 

Dissolving several Suboxone strips under the tongue at one time to get high or dissolving the Suboxone strips or the tablets in a liquid and then injecting the mixture is how people abuse the drug. Injecting always has additional adverse effects such as the risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis. Suboxone overdose is highly possible. 

The signs of Suboxone overdose, like other opioid drugs, may include:

  • Blue-tinged lips and fingernails
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Extreme drowsiness and fatigue
  • Pinprick pupils
  • Slurred speech and lack of coordination

Death from Suboxone overdoses happens within the first three hours after ingesting a fatal dosage. As the drug affects the central nervous system, respiratory depression occurs, and when the person is unable to get enough oxygen into their bloodstream, they will eventually stop breathing, lose consciousness, and die Recognizing the early signs of an overdose before the state of comatose in the user is crucial. 

Most states in the U.S. protect witnesses legally if they contact emergency personnel to help an overdosed victim. Cal 911.  The longer left untreated, the higher the chance of permanent and severe damage to the health of the victim. The overdosed victim should be turned on their side to avoid aspirating if they vomit. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with Suboxone abuse or addiction, reach out for help by calling West Valley Detox. Our addiction counselors will assist you with Suboxone treatment options.

Treatment For Suboxone Addiction

The first step in treatment is undergoing a Suboxone detox program to assist a person to overcome the physical symptoms of withdrawal and begin to focus on their recovery.

The length of post detox treatment will depend on how long a person has been taking Suboxone and how severe their addiction is and can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

If a person has been taking Suboxone for an extended amount of time, they may need to attend inpatient treatment to help them get off the medication safely and comfortably while being watched closely to make sure that they do not abuse Suboxone or other drugs. They will engage in a variety of therapies designed to help which includes some combination of:

  • Psychological counseling (such as cognitive behavioral therapy)
  • Behavioral counseling (such as contingency management, which rewards abstinence from drugs with vouchers or prizes)
  • Support groups (such as Narcotics Anonymous [NA]) to help
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