Suboxone,  a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, is a drug that’s used to minimize withdrawal symptoms of opioid dependence. The buprenorphine component works as an opioid, activating the brain’s reward receptors on a milder scale and, therefore, eliminating cravings.  Naloxone acts as an opioid antagonist meaning it will negate the effects of any opioid by preventing them from activating pain receptors, and helping to manage cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms. This balance generates effective withdrawal prevention making suboxone administration a common practice among those looking to recover from opioid dependency.

Based on the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000, buprenorphine was the first opioid addiction medication that could be prescribed by a doctor and taken at home. The use of suboxone during addiction treatment is known as Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT.) MAT can include the use of other medications instead of, or including suboxone, but suboxone is one of the most popular drugs administered during this type of treatment. Suboxone comes in two forms, both of which are taken by mouth. The first form is a tablet, and the second is a sublingual film. Both of these methods offer the same results.

Suboxone, however, is not without flaws. There are positives and negatives associated with suboxone use including addiction. We’ll discuss these below.

Benefits of Long-term Suboxone Use

An important benefit of long-term suboxone use is that the addict is no longer dependent on a specific opioid. Once cravings cease, the individual will have uninterrupted focus towards alternative treatment therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, addiction counseling, and individual therapy. As treatment  progresses, suboxone treatments will gradually decrease.

Many people who have struggled to free themselves of addiction find reliance on suboxone to be an acceptable alternative. However, because they have adapted to a low dose of opioids, some individuals revert to regular opioid use when they stop receiving suboxone. Since suboxone reduces tolerance to opioids, returning to that dosage can be lethal, even though cravings may not be as strong as they were before.

Before suboxone was around, methadone was the main medication used to treat opioid use disorders. Methadone was introduced to the public in 1947 and quickly grew in popularity for its effectiveness for opioid replacement therapy. However, methadone itself is highly addictive as well, and by 2012, it was reported that one-third of all prescription drug-related deaths that year were caused by methadone.

Suboxone, which was released back in 2002 by a pharmaceutical company and developed for the primary purpose of assisting to treat drug addiction, was discovered to be as effective as far less addictive than methadone while still being a highly effective treatment for opioid use disorder and addiction. In fact, the risk of developing dependence on suboxone is low enough that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has classified the drug as Schedule III, meaning that is possesses a moderate to low potential for dependence.

The medication assisted treatment (MAT) model using suboxone has shown benefits including:

  • Lower potential for abuse
  • Large accessibility
  • High success rate in treatment of opioid dependence

Of course, the ultimate goal is for a person to eventually wean off of suboxone, as well. The duration of suboxone use can vary from several months to a year or longer. It is crucial to work with healthcare professionals who are monitoring your progress if you are using suboxone.

Disadvantages of Long-term Suboxone Use

While in a treatment program, the intention is to eradicate dependence, not foster dependence on a safer alternative. While replacing opioids with a physician-administered substance may seem less hazardous, addiction of any kind is undesirable while seeking recovery. Although suboxone is a helpful tool, relying on it can be dangerous. As a mild opioid, tolerance and addiction remain present threats. Long term use of suboxone can result in side effects including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased tolerance for pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Social isolation
  • Constipation

These are just some of the mental and physical effects of long-term suboxone use. As with all types of addiction, suboxone addicts can also experience:

  • Financial problems
  • Legal issues
  • Workplace challenges
  • Damaged relationships
  • Reduced sense of personal responsibility

Medical professionals continue to debate the pros and cons surrounding suboxone use. When used within a short duration, addicts are more likely to relapse. When used for an extended period, suboxone addiction can develop. When suboxone use ceases, withdrawal symptoms occur, meaning an individual may need to detox from the drug that was supposed to support their initial detox. Because of these concerns, not many professionals recommend suboxone for long-term use but see it as a stepping stone to sobriety.

Suboxone is not meant to be taken by itself, and is not considered a complete treatment. It is important for individuals taking suboxone to have a comprehensive treatment plan including addiction treatment through psychological support. Recovery from opioid addiction is the process of reversing or coping with the changes in the brain and behavior caused by opioid dependence and addiction.

Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms

People going through suboxone withdrawal may experience:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Digestive problems
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Fever and chills
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Muscle aches
  • Lethargy

How Suboxone Can Be Used as Part of a Recovery Journey

Suboxone can be beneficial during the initial steps of the recovery process as it diminishes withdrawal symptoms and assists in detox. However, the ultimate goal of addiction treatment is to attain sobriety by means of substance independence. By enlisting the help of professional addiction specialists, an individual’s dependence on drugs, including suboxone, is eliminated. Addiction specialists implement therapy in order to unveil factors that led up to addiction and advise on how to manage future triggers. Developing the appropriate strategies for life beyond addiction is not only how clients reach recovery, but its how they stay in recovery.

Contact Asheville Recovery Center Today to Get the Help You Need

If you’re ready to live a healthier life that’s free from addiction, reach out to the team at Asheville Recovery Center. We offer comprehensive addiction treatment options that are tailored to each individual’s needs. No matter how long you’ve been struggling with addiction, recovery is possible. Let us help you overcome your opioid addiction and take back your life. 

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