If you’re familiar with addiction treatment or you’ve been to drug rehab in Pennsylvania before, you likely know what Suboxone is. You might even know someone who has been on Suboxone before. Maybe you’ve been on it yourself.

Suboxone is a medication used to help people in recovery from opiate addiction. It can be a helpful part of a comprehensive treatment program when used as prescribed by a doctor. There are many positive effects of Suboxone that aid people during their first few weeks and months of recovery.

Studies have shown that the medication can lower the risk of fatal opiate overdoses by about 38 percent. Unfortunately, some risks come with using Suboxone, especially when people choose to take it in a way other than it’s prescribed.

If you aren’t yet familiar with Suboxone continue reading to learn more about the medication and its effects. You can find out how improper use affects people as well as how to find treatment with Suboxone if you need help getting off of opiates.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a prescription medication made with a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, used to treat people in early recovery from opiate addiction. The combination of buprenorphine and naloxone creates a medication with unique properties specifically intended for opiate treatment.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning it interacts with the same opioid receptors that other opiates do. This causes effects similar to other drugs, such as prescription painkillers or heroin, but those effects are much weaker. By binding to opioid receptors, buprenorphine aims to relieve cravings for stronger drugs.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist which means it blocks the effects of an opioid overdose. It binds to opioid receptors and blocks the effects of any opiates in a person’s system. Naloxone on its own typically comes in the form of a nasal spray or an automatic injection device. It’s usually used in emergency situations when someone is overdosing on opiates.

Suboxone is unique because it attaches to the same receptors as heroin or painkillers but does not produce the same strong high. The buprenorphine provides mild effects to relieve cravings while the naloxone limits the ability to get high off the medication.

The Effects of Suboxone

When taken as prescribed by a physician, the effects of Suboxone are helpful during early recovery. The blend of buprenorphine and naloxone provides numerous unique benefits to individuals trying to come off of opiates.

For example, opiates are notorious for the intense physical and psychological reactions they cause when a person first quits. These reactions, or withdrawal symptoms, are the result of the brain and body’s dependence on opiates to function. Once a person is dependent on opiates, suddenly quitting drugs shocks their system.

One of the greatest benefits of Suboxone is its impact on opiate withdrawal symptoms. Since buprenorphine is an opioid partial antagonist, it interacts with opioid receptors the same way opiates do. This interaction relieves the more intense symptoms that result from withdrawal, such as body aches, muscle spasms, and seizures.

Avoiding the withdrawal symptoms that come with the detox process keeps many people trapped in the cycle of addiction. Suboxone provides a more comfortable detox period compared to trying to quit “cold turkey,” which can reduce the risk of relapse.

How Are Suboxone and Methadone Different?

Suboxone isn’t the only kind of medication used to treat opiate addiction. The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Suboxone for opiate treatment in 2002. Methadone is another opiate treatment medication that’s been in use for decades, long before Suboxone was introduced.

Similar to Suboxone, clinicians use methadone to reduce opioid cravings and help people during early recovery. However, there is a major difference between Suboxone and methadone. The buprenorphine used in Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist while methadone is a long-lasting, full opioid agonist.

There is a huge difference in the strength of the two medications. Partial opioid agonists do not produce the same effects as full opioid agonists do. Buprenorphine is only a partial opioid agonist and produces weak effects when combined with naloxone. Methadone, on the other hand, is a full opioid agonist. It’s a much stronger medication than Suboxone and has a far greater potential for abuse.

Because of the high risk of abuse, Methadone is only available under the supervision of a physician through certified opioid treatment programs. Suboxone, on the other hand, is available at a variety of facilities and also as a take-home prescription. The medication’s widespread availability makes treatment accessible to more people.

Risks of Suboxone Use

Like most medications, Suboxone does not come without some risks. It still causes some effects that are similar to other opiates. Low to moderate doses do cause mild euphoria and some respiratory depression. Effects of Suboxone are far weaker than the effects caused by opiates like prescription painkillers or heroin.

Mixing Suboxone with other drugs such as benzodiazepines or alcohol poses a significant risk. Possible side effects of mixing the medication with depressant drugs include respiratory distress, coma, and even death.

The naloxone in the medication limits the possibility of a true opiate-like high when taking it. It also aims to keep people from developing a Suboxone addiction. Limiting the ability to get high or become addicted doesn’t keep users from developing a tolerance, though. People using Suboxone develop a physical and psychological dependence on the medication over time.

Suddenly stopping Suboxone can lead to withdrawal symptoms similar to those caused by opiates, including:

  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia

To limit or avoid these symptoms, Suboxone treatment should include a supervised taper. The most effective method for coming off the medication is to reduce the dosage over time under the guidance of a physician to avoid possible complications.

Effective Suboxone Treatment

Despite making the detox and early recovery period more manageable, Suboxone is not a cure for opiate addiction. It doesn’t address the underlying causes of substance use disorder. Instead, it provides enough relief to allow people the ability to focus their energy on treatment rather than only on staying clean.

Effective Suboxone treatment uses the medication as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment plan. It doesn’t make medication the central focus but uses it as a tool to direct attention toward additional facets of addiction treatment. Utilizing Suboxone maintenance along with individual therapy, support groups, and more provides the best results.

It’s also best to take a proactive approach to Suboxone treatment. Using it without establishing a set of goals for treatment isn’t the most effective method. Outlining a clear addiction treatment program that incorporates Suboxone is a better plan.

Finding Medication-Assisted Treatment

There are plenty of knowledgeable addiction treatment facilities that incorporate a medication-assisted approach to treatment. Since Suboxone is available on a prescription basis, both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs can offer it. Do you think you’d benefit from a facility that uses Suboxone as part of their opiate addiction treatment program?

If you’re interested in learning more about your options for treatment, reach out to the admissions team at Peace Valley Recovery. Our knowledgeable staff can answer any questions you may have about addiction treatment. Are you ready to take the first step? Call us at (215) 708-1953 today!