Aside from methadone, Suboxone is the most commonly prescribed medication in the treatment of opioid dependence. Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist that consists of buprenorphine and naloxone, the two active ingredients that help ease the withdrawals symptoms often associated with opioid cessation. Suboxone is highly addictive and also heavily regulated by the federal government. As such, only 3 percent of all U.S. physicians are approved to prescribe Suboxone in the treatment of opioid dependence, according to the National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment (NAABT). In this article, we will take a look at how long an individual should remain on Suboxone and the consequences of prolonged use.
HOW DOES SUBOXONE WORK TO TREAT ADDICTION TO OPIATES
Because Suboxone is technically an opioid, it can attach to the same opioid receptors in the brain like other opioids, including heroin and prescription-based opioids. However, this is where the similarities end. Unlike heroin or prescription-based opioids like methadone, Suboxone is a partial agonist and doesn’t provide the same “high” commonly associated with full agonists. The pleasurable effects derived from Suboxone is just enough to distract patients from the severe withdrawals symptoms that come with ending their relationship with opioids. Of course, patients will need to taper down from the medication as they progress through rehab. After all, Suboxone is not a permanent solution for overcoming opioid addiction and prolonged use can lead to addiction.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU TAKE SUBOXONE?
The length of time that a patient needs to take Suboxone can vary; patients will have to be routinely evaluated by a physician who will decide whether they should begin tapering down from the medication or if continued use is necessary. Taking Suboxone for one month or less is often ineffective; in fact, most patients will relapse once they have stopped taking the medication. Most physicians will advise patients to take Suboxone for 6 to 12 months to cope with severe withdrawal symptoms and to achieve long-term recovery success. According to JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), more than 70 percent of individuals taking Suboxone long-term remain opioid-free during their treatments.
MINIMIZING THE RISK OF SUBOXONE ADDICTION
The naloxone ingredient in Suboxone helps reduce the risk of patients becoming addicted to the medication. In essence, naloxone is an antagonist that makes it impossible for other opioids, including those in buprenorphine, to attach to opioid receptors in the brain. Although naloxone does a great job at minimizing the risk of Suboxone addiction, some people will still become addicted, especially those who inject the medication or consume it in a manner that is inconsistent with normal use. It is also worth noting that the risk of addiction is higher amongst those who are not truly committed to overcoming their addiction. After all, the journey toward breaking the cycle of addiction must include a conscious decision to better one’s life.
WHEN THE TIME COMES TO SAY GOODBYE TO SUBOXONE
Having established the fact that prolonged use of Suboxone is ill-advised, let’s take a look at the process involved in coming off of the medication:
Consult with your physician – If you have been taking Suboxone for any length of time, you should consult with your physician before you stop taking the medication. In doing so, your physician may be able to recommend other medications in place of Suboxone that may be just as effective in combating withdrawal symptoms.
Tapering off of Suboxone – The safest way to transition off of Suboxone is by gradually reducing the dosage over time. In fact, it is not uncommon for physicians to reduce a patient’s dosage by 10 to 20 percent per week until they are off of the medication completely.
Participating in counseling – While Suboxone does an excellent job in terms of managing withdrawal symptoms, it does not address the psychological component associated with opioid dependence. When transitioning off of Suboxone, it is critical that patients continue with addiction therapy to help address the psychological factors that can trigger a relapse like anxiety and depression, for example.
All in all, Suboxone is a great way to help patients who are struggling with severe withdrawals symptoms get through detox. However, it is not intended for long-term use and should not be taken for more than 12 months unless directed by a physician. To minimize the risk of addiction and to prevent relapse, patients are encouraged to take the medication as prescribed. If you have questions regarding whether or not Suboxone is right for you, don’t hesitate to contact us today at 844-639-8371.