Nearly half of U.S. adults know someone in their family or have a close friend who is struggling with drug addiction, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. Opioids, which include heroin, have been a main driver in overdose deaths in recent years. According to a Vox.com article, nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths were linked to opioids like oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone, and the very deadly fentanyl.
Some people will continue to struggle with addiction while others will seek out help from a treatment center. Some of them will be prescribed Suboxone, an opioid medication used to help people get through an opiate withdrawal period during a medical detox. Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, comes in the form of a super-thin strip that is similar to a breath strip. Buprenorphine eases opiate withdrawal symptoms, and naloxone works to block the highs one feels when using opioids.
The medication, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October 2002, can be prescribed for clients who are dependent on short-acting opioids, such as heroin or prescription pain relievers. Methadone is recommended for addiction treatment for longer-acting opioids. The dosage depends on the individual and how severe the addiction and withdrawal period are. It is typically prescribed in 2 mg, 4 mg, and 8 mg tablets. According to Drugs.com, 8mg/2mg Suboxone sublingual film is recommended on the first day of treatment. On the second day, it is recommended that the dosage be increased to 16mg/4mg sublingual films.
Treatment with Suboxone should be administered by a medical professional, such as a doctor, nurse, or physician assistant after it is determined which treatment approach best serves the client. According to the Suboxone website, Suboxone can be prescribed at the beginning of a client’s treatment or it can be given to jump-start the maintenance phase of treatment, which requires that the client have no withdrawal symptoms, no uncontrollable cravings, and minimal to no side effects. Suboxone’s website advises that discontinuing the medication after a maintenance period should be made as part of the client’s treatment plan. The maintenance period is when some people begin to abuse the drug. This is why it’s important clients are weaned off the drug safely and properly.
Suboxone Can Be Addictive
While Suboxone helps opioid-dependent people as they recover from addiction and has proven effective, great care still must be taken with this medication. It can be an addictive and dangerous substance itself.
Like many other drugs, when Suboxone falls into the wrong hands, it can be just as harmful as illicit drugs. Many teenagers and young adults abuse it, but recreational Suboxone use is illegal, habit-forming, and a possible path to addiction. Many people mistakenly believe that prescription drugs are not as bad as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and other drugs. But that’s not true.
In one case of recreational Suboxone abuse, a 20-year-old man abused Suboxone and died of buprenorphine poisoning.
Withdrawal from Suboxone is much like other opioids, and while not fatal, it can be extremely uncomfortable and painful at times. Some people will continue to use Suboxone to avoid withdrawal symptoms. However, this is damaging and dangerous. It can lead to overdose and possibly death. It also can lead to seeking out other drugs, including heroin, a cheaper but deadlier drug. To end dependence, detoxing from Suboxone is recommended.
What are Suboxone’s Withdrawal Symptoms?
During the withdrawal process from Suboxone, you will experience a variety of symptoms, both physical and mental. Suboxone withdrawals act like withdrawals from other opioids and the severity of the symptoms are correlated directly to the length of time using Suboxone, the amount of the final dose, and the time the final dose was taken.
If you are withdrawing from Suboxone, you may encounter the following symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- Drug cravings
What are the Stages of the Suboxone Withdrawal Timeline?
When it comes to combating Suboxone withdrawal, you’ll probably want to know just how long you’ll be encountering symptoms and when the onset of relief will begin. Since Suboxone is an opioid, the typical opioid narrative should be expected. However, Suboxone is a long-acting opioid, which means its effects can be felt for up to three days.
The initial withdrawal symptoms from Suboxone can be felt within 36 hours of the final dose and can last for up to 2 to 3 weeks. The very minor withdrawal symptoms may be felt up to a month following the final dose.
Within the first 72 hours, you can expect to begin to experience the physical symptoms listed above. This is when these symptoms will be the worst. You will encounter aches and pains and will be the most physically uncomfortable during this time.
Over the course of the following week, these physical symptoms will slowly begin to subside, since they peak at about 72 hours following the last dose. You will still be feeling the physical symptoms, but as the week carries on, the severity will lessen.
Two to three weeks into your detox, your physical symptoms will disappear and you will begin to encounter more of the mental symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and irritability. It is important not to underestimate the power that the mental withdrawal symptoms have. While the physical discomfort may subside, during this time period depression can turn into suicidal ideations and propensity to relapse can still be very high.
About one month following the final dose, all of the physical symptoms will be gone and most of the mental symptoms will dissipate as well. Depression and cravings may still be present, so it is important to be aware of it to prevent relapse or suicidal thoughts.
The entire withdrawal process from Suboxone should last about a month with symptoms hitting their peak within the first 72 hours. Throughout the duration of the month, the frequency and intensity of symptoms will decline. The severity of your detox directly depends on the amount of Suboxone used and for what length of time it was abused. If you used large amounts or for a long period of time, withdrawal symptoms will be worse. The amount of Suboxone used during the final dose as well as the time frame in which the last dose was taken will also impact when withdrawals will onset.
Why Should I Detox from Suboxone?
Detoxing from Suboxone is not necessarily deadly, but it can cause severe discomfort as with most opioid detox processes. The other issue that comes with trying to quit cold turkey is the likelihood of relapse. Since symptoms can get very severe depending on the individual case, it may prove to be too much and result in subsequent relapse. While some people addicted to Suboxone may want to end their dependence on the drug as soon as possible, it is strongly advised that they avoid abruptly stopping use of the drug.
Heading off to a medical detox facility not only increases the effectiveness of the detox process but also raises the likelihood of success in recovery and maintaining abstinence from substances.
At a medical detox facility, you’ll also be able to detox in comfort rather than dealing with the potentially painful detox symptoms on your own at home. With 24/7 monitoring and access to detox medications that can relieve you of withdrawal symptoms, you’ll be able to undergo the withdrawal process with little discomfort and focus more directly on the recovery aspect.
A drug rehab or detox program can help recovering Suboxone users taper off the medication slowly so they can safely withdraw from it and become physically stable.
What is the Next Treatment Step?
If you have decided that treatment for your Suboxone addiction is the right choice for you, it’s time to start the process. You’ll begin your treatment by heading off to a medical detox facility where you will be assessed and given access to medical care under close watch of medical professionals on a 24-hour basis.
You will be prescribed a variety of detox medications designed to help relieve you of withdrawal symptoms and begin attending therapy sessions during your stay. You will begin to address the underlying causes of your addiction and have a support system of psychiatric professionals at your disposal to help you circumvent the difficult mental symptoms of detox as well.
After you are successfully detoxed from your Suboxone addiction, you will then head off to a residential inpatient program where more intensive therapy will begin. You will stay here typically 30 to 45 days, sometimes longer depending on your individual needs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, at least 90 days (three months) are needed for drug addiction treatment to be effective.
A longer stay gives clients a chance to develop the life skills and strategies they need to live drug-free. During this time, you will work closely with a multitude of therapists and undergo intensive treatment to help you work through your underlying issues that led to addiction and give you time away from your typical environment to work on yourself to prevent relapse upon returning home. Recovering Suboxone users can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma therapy, holistic therapy, and other tried-and-true approaches that support their full recovery.
After completing the inpatient portion of the treatment continuum, it is recommended that you continue treatment by entering into an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). An IOP program is an intensive outpatient program, which is a step down from inpatient treatment. During this phase of treatment, you will still maintain a level of accountability to your recovery by attending therapy part-time as opposed to full-time. You will be able to begin to assimilate into your everyday life, but still have the therapeutic support to help you avoid relapse.
Seeing the entire treatment continuum through is crucial to your success in recovery and avoiding relapsing. By committing to seeing your program through, you greatly increase your odds of long-term recovery and working through the issues that may have led you to use in the first place.