Suboxone Dependency, Withdrawal, Addiction & Effects
Suboxone is the brand name of the generic drug buprenorphine and Naloxone and it is often used instead of methadone as a treatment for opioid addiction. It acts on the body, chemically triggering the same receptors, to help dependent patients deal with the withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid drugs. Although it is sometimes more effective than methadone, it is usually more expensive and is not as well-known as its counterpart. If you are considering this maintenance therapy for opioid addiction these are 5 things you should know about Suboxone.
Suboxone has the Potential for Dependency & Addiction
Suboxone first and foremost is an opiate. Suboxone is unique in that it has both opioid agonist (Buprenorphine) and a opioid antagonist (Naloxone) combined. Because Suboxone is still a partial opiate, it has the potential for dependency. This means that, you are simply replacing one addictive drug you are currently on, for another and, you will still have withdrawal symptoms when stopping Suboxone. Some of the time, the symptoms of withdrawal from this drug are mitigated by slowly weaning you from the drug. However, some people continue to take Suboxone for the rest of their life, if they are unable to successfully detox from it.
It Has a Ceiling Effect
Most medications have a direct dosage effect proportional to the amount ingested. For instance, doubling the dose of methadone will increase its narcotics effects. With Suboxone, the drug hits a ceiling at 32 mg. That means that once a the patient reaches this dosage of the medication, it will no longer increase its narcotics effects. Fortunately, the unwanted side effects of narcotics, such as respiratory depression are also limited.
Suboxone Withdrawal be Painful and Lengthy
Suboxone competes with opioid drugs for access to the cell receptors, and if you are not properly weaned from an opiate before taking Suboxone, you could create a painful withdrawal scenario called precipitated withdrawal. Essentially, morphine derived drugs engage the receptors on the cells and activate them. This is agonist action. A pure antagonist drug, such as Narcan, moves the morphine off of the receptor and blocks the action of the drug. Narcan’s effects usually only last a few hours. However, Suboxone can block up the receptors for days. If the prior opiate is not weaned down, taking this medication will cause painful withdrawal. For this reason, it is important to follow the instructions given by your doctor for taking opiates, such as Oxycontin or Methadone, when starting Suboxone.
Can be Prescribed Monthly
When a patient visits a methadone clinic, the drug is not usually given out for a long period of time. The patient usually needs to return every day to get their prescribed dosage of the medication. This is because, among other reasons, methadone has a high potential for dependency, can be injected, and often is sold for drug money. Suboxone is different because it is a schedule III drug where methadone is a schedule II. A schedule II drug has a higher abuse potential and it is considered more dangerous. Most of the time, Suboxone is given in a month-long supply like any other medication, and the patient is responsible for taking it as prescribed.
It can Cause Withdrawals if Taken Concurrently with other Opioid Drugs
If you decide to use heroin or another opioid and then take Suboxone, it can precipitate opiate withdrawal symptoms. This is because the Suboxone pushes the opioid off of the opiate receptors, and causes the body to feel as if there are no opioids present. To take Suboxone, you should be off of any opioid medications for a day or so. If you feel the urge to use while taking the medication, you will not feel the effects of the drug and can end up making yourself sick. It is important to take the Suboxone as prescribed by your doctor.
It Should Not be Injected
With most opioid medications, including methadone, the drug can be crushed and snorted or injected. Suboxone tries to prevent this abuse of the medication. In most commercial preparations, the buprenorphine is combined with a drug, Naloxone that essentially clears the opioid receptors. When this medication is injected, it simply takes away the effect of the opioid drug and can precipitate the withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, it is not recommended that you inject or snort Suboxone. This makes the drug less likely to be abused in this way.
If you are interested in using Suboxone, you should examine all of its properties, talk to your doctor and decide if it is right for you. Suboxone has the potential for dependency, if not handled properly, it has the risk of producing precipitated withdrawal symptoms, it is more expensive, and has a ceiling effect. Some cannot afford this drug, need a more powerful anti-opioid effect, or need to have the daily visits to the methadone clinic. If you or a loved one are struggling with finding an appropriate path to pain relief or are suffering from an addiction to opiates, we urge you to contact your medical physicians.