Suboxone (Buprenorphine/Naloxone)

Jan. 52024

As an FDA-approved treatment since 2002, Suboxone has become an effective treatment for opioid dependence. At Waterstone Counseling Center, Suboxone is one of several medication-assistant treatments (MAT) we provide in combination with personalized therapy and counseling. It is important to understand the potential benefits and side effects that can occur before undergoing treatment. 

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, and naloxone, an opioid receptor antagonist. Both of these components act to diminish the effects of opioids, allowing patients to focus on long-term recovery. 

Naloxone received FDA approval in 1971 to treat opioid overdoses. Buprenorphine was later approved as a Schedule V substance in 1985 and was originally used as a painkiller. Buprenorphine went on to become an FDA-approved treatment for opioid addiction alongside Suboxone in October 2022, replacing methadone as a safe and effective alternative. 

Waterstone’s healthcare professionals who specialize in addiction medicine prescribe suboxone in the form of a sublingual film or a tablet. A customized dosage is prescribed based on an individual’s specific needs and the duration of treatment is determined based on the severity of the addiction.

How Suboxone Treats Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) 

Suboxone treatments have been shown to lower rates of opioid use and create a higher likelihood of remaining in treatment, reducing the risk of relapse. Each component of the medication works in unique ways to treat opioid use disorder (OUD).

Buprenorphine: A Partial Opioid Agonist

Buprenorphine is listed on the World Health Organization (WHO) as an essential medicine. Buprenorphine binds to the same receptors in the brain as full opioid agonists offering relief from withdrawal symptoms and cravings. 

However, it only partially activates these receptors resulting in a milder, controlled opioid effect. This property makes it an ideal choice for addiction treatment. Buprenorphine can help treat opioid addiction in the following ways: 

  • Relieves opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • Reduce and/or eliminate cravings
  • Diminish risk of relapse 
  • More commitment to therapy 
  • Decreased risk of misuse 
  • Long-lasting effects 

Naloxone: Preventing Abuse

Naloxone is used to treat opioid addiction in a different way. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist (also called an “opioid blocker”) that is commonly used in emergencies to combat the deadly effects of an opioid overdose. However, when Naloxone is combined with buprenorphine, it helps diminish the effects of opioids and deters the intentional misuse of buprenorphine.

In cases of misuse attempts, where individuals may attempt to inject or snort Suboxone, naloxone becomes active. This activation leads to immediate withdrawal symptoms serving as a deterrent against abuse.

Potential Side Effects of Suboxone

Like any medication, while Suboxone is an effective treatment for opioid addiction, there are potential side effects that can occur. 

Common side effects may include: 

  • Numbness, redness, or burning in the mouth or tongue (if using the oral film) 
  • Headaches
  • Withdrawal symptoms and cravings
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling in the arms and legs 

Less common side effects may include: 

  • Low blood pressure 
  • Allergic-reactions 
  • Impaired liver
  • Sleep-related breathing issues
  • Adrenal problems
  • Risk of dependency 

These side effects can vary in intensity and duration, depending on individual factors like overall health, the level of dependence on opioids, and compliance with the treatment program. Although rare, the use of Suboxone in connection with substances that impair or slow breathing such as sedatives or alcohol can increase the risk of respiratory depression and death. 

The Benefits of Suboxone at Waterstone

Suboxone, when incorporated into Waterstone's treatment programs, offers numerous advantages:

  • Reduction of Cravings: Buprenorphine effectively reduces cravings for opioids allowing individuals to resist the urge to return to their drug of choice.
  • Lower Risk of Overdose: Suboxone, when used as directed under the guidance of Waterstone's professionals, carries a lower risk of overdose compared to full opioid agonists as it only produces a partial opioid effect.
  • Safety Net Against Relapse: Naloxone serves as an essential deterrent against misuse providing an added layer of protection against relapse.
  • Improved Quality of Life: Waterstone's approach, which includes Suboxone, helps individuals regain control over their lives by minimizing the disruptive effects of opioid addiction.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does Suboxone stay in your system?

Depending on factors such as body mass, metabolism, height, and weight, Suboxone can last in your system over 8 days and could be detectable in urine for up to two weeks

Does Suboxone show up on a drug test?

It can show up on drug tests issued by employers and medical providers specifically designed to detect buprenorphine. However, it may not be detected in standard opioid tests due to its unique chemical structure. 

Is Suboxone an opioid?

Technically, yes. Since it contains buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, the medicine activates the same brain receptors that opioids do, just to a lesser extent. The presence of naloxone helps prevent people from trying to misuse it. 

Does Suboxone help with pain?

While Buprenorphine was originally used as a painkiller and does contain some pain-relieving properties, Suboxone is primarily used to treat opioid addiction and is not typically prescribed for pain management. 

Is Suboxone addictive?

While uncommon, patients can form a dependency on Suboxone itself while taking it. This is why it should only be administered and closely monitored by well-trained medical professionals as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and behavioral therapy to ensure the best results.

How long does Suboxone block opiates?

As a partial agonist, it blocks the effects of other opioids for at least 24 hours on average. But it can last up to 3 days depending on factors such as the dosage, frequency of use, weight, and metabolism. 

How long does Suboxone withdrawal last?

Typically, withdrawals can begin within a few days after taking the last dose and can last for several weeks or more. Withdrawal symptoms are at their worst during the first 72 hours and can include more severe physical symptoms. The more serious symptoms tend to subside after the first week, with mental health symptoms such as cravings and depression lasting up to one month. 

Can you overdose on Suboxone?

While the risk of overdose is significantly lower than with full opioids, it is still possible, particularly if used in combination with other depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines. Symptoms can include severe respiratory depression, loss of consciousness, and death. Suboxone should only be taken strictly under medical supervision.

Can Suboxone be used as part of a broader treatment program? 

Yes! Suboxone is most effective when integrated into a broader treatment program that includes psychological support, counseling, and lifestyle changes.

Get Treatment Today

Suboxone is a well-known, well-documented tool used in the arena of addiction treatment. It’s been used for years to fight opioid use disorder and continues to thrive as a successful option for those seeking long-term sobriety. 

At Waterstone Counseling Center, we provide comprehensive treatment plans that combine FDA-approved medications like Suboxone with personalized counseling and therapy for lasting results. If you’re interested in receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in Connecticut, please contact us today. 

Jan. 252024
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