When Should Someone Use Suboxone?


Our admissions counselors will guide you or your loved one through the admissions process and treatment options. Assessments are always free and 100% confidential.

Opioid addiction and death rates from opioid-related overdoses have increased sharply across the U.S. Unfortunately, the way these drugs are manufactured and they way they interact with the brain’s receptors make them especially dangerous and highly addictive. 

People who are addicted to these drugs are at high risk of overdosing on them for several reasons. On the black market, heroin is sometimes mixed with powerful fentanyl, a drug that is 100 times stronger than morphine and almost 50 times stronger than heroin. It is impossible for someone to know if a batch of heroin has been mixed or laced with potent and deadly fentanyl. People can inject what they think is street heroin, and accidentally overdose on a batch of fentanyl-laced heroin. 

Also, the body builds a tolerance to opioid drugs quickly. Even after one dose of an opioid, a user can build a tolerance to the drug. The reverse is also true. Once someone stops using opioids, their body quickly loses its tolerance to the substance. People who have achieved sobriety from opioids and relapse may take the same dose of the drug that they would take to get high at the peak of their addiction. As a result, users can accidentally overdose since their body is not used to metabolize a substantial dose of the drugs anymore. 

Opioid addiction recovery is also marked by intense, intermittent cravings to re-use heroin or prescription opioids. This makes recovering addicts especially vulnerable to relapse, an accidental overdose. Since the early 2000s, pharmaceutical companies have launched a group of medications that are specifically designed to combat opioid cravings, decrease withdrawal symptoms, and also prevent someone from relapsing and overdosing on the drugs. Suboxone is one of these prescription medications, known as opioid replacement therapies. 

What is Suboxone, and when is it used?

Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist drug. It is the brand name of the drugs Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Buprenorphine is a mild narcotic painkiller, and Naloxone is a medication that binds to the brain’s opioid receptors. The drug is not used to treat pain but is instead prescribed to people in recovery for opioid addiction. Doctors will give patients, Suboxone doses on a strict, tapering-off schedule. Suboxone is not intended to be used long-term. Unfortunately, Suboxone can be abused, and people who abuse the medication can become addicted to Suboxone. 

What is the history of Suboxone?

Suboxone was initially used in the U.K in the 1980s as a mild narcotic painkiller. In 2002, the FDA approved it for use in the U.S. as an alternative to Buprenorphine/Naltrexone. Suboxone has been used for almost twenty years to help people recover from opioid addiction and maintain sobriety. When used correctly, Suboxone does not give the user a euphoric high, and using the medication appropriately will not make someone addicted. Suboxone is typically more effective for opioid recovery treatment than Buprenorphine/Naltrexone since it has a lower risk profile and is effective for relieving cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The first Suboxone-based treatment program was launched in 2003 in the U.S., and the program saw success rates of 88%. 

How do people get Suboxone?

Suboxone is highly regulated in the U.S. Only trained medical professionals can prescribe Suboxone to patients in recovery. Patients typically have to get Suboxone through a clinic that specializes in opioid addiction recovery. Patients will also be required to check in with their doctor at regular intervals while undergoing Suboxone therapy. 

Suboxone comes in several forms, but most patients will use either a prescription tablet or a film strip that is placed under the tongue until it dissolves. Dosing requirements are strict, and directions are very specific. When using a Suboxone film, patients must wait until the strip completely dissolves. Patients can’t chew or swallow the film because it won’t work as intended. Talking while holding a film strip under the tongue can also interfere with how well the medication can work.

The goal of recovery is to help the patient achieve and maintain sobriety. When it comes to using Suboxone for opioid addiction, the purpose of the treatment is to wean the patient off Suboxone gradually. Suboxone is typically a part of a broader treatment plan that may include a combination of inpatient or outpatient rehab, talk therapy, and group therapy. It’s not recommended that patients use Suboxone as their only tool for treating addiction, since the medication is used to complement more robust and detailed recovery plans, and is only intended for short-term use. 

Why would someone take Suboxone?

Suboxone is incredibly effective for helping patients get through the painful and often distressing detox and withdrawal phase of the addiction recovery process. Opioid withdrawals can last for weeks and months after initial cessation. During the withdrawal process, patients will experience a combination of depression, anxiety, and intense cravings to use opioids again. Relapse can be especially deadly in opioid addiction. During the early phase of addiction recovery, the goal is to help the patient safely detox from opioids and get through the withdrawal phase without relapsing. If a patient who is taking Suboxone does relapse, Suboxone helps prevent an overdose. 

Pregnant women who are addicted to opioids can also benefit from Suboxone treatment. It is not recommended to detox a pregnant woman. Suboxone therapy can help pregnant women maintain regular levels of opiates in the bloodstream, preventing harm to the fetus and assisting the mother in avoiding drug cravings.

Once a patient detoxes and withdraws from opioids safely, doctors will begin to wean the patient off Suboxone. The majority of patients who are prescribed Suboxone will use the medication for six months. Some patients may need to take Suboxone for up to a year. 

If you or someone you love is addicted to opioids, it’s never too late to achieve sobriety. The drug abuse counselors at Windward Way are standing by to answer your questions about opioid addiction treatment. Please contact Windward Way today to explore your treatment options.