Opioids have been responsible for thousands of preventable deaths across the U.S. over the last several years but federal authorities down to small-town governments are doing all they can to stem the flow of death and overdose. New treatments and methods include more community health centers, better training for first responders, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT.)
There are a few different MATs for opioid abuse but the most popular is Suboxone therapy. Considering it’s FDA approved and found at hundreds of treatment clinics – why is there so much bad press about Suboxone? Is Suboxone maintenance good or bad? Let’s learn more about Suboxone including its intended uses, its unintended abuses, and when Suboxone maintenance becomes Suboxone abuse.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is the brand name for an FDA-approved prescription medication used to treat opioid addiction. Suboxone is a combination of the drugs buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid antagonist that blocks opioid receptors to reduce cravings while naloxone helps reverse the effects of opioids and helps prevent Suboxone abuse. Suboxone comes in a small film that patients put under their tongue.
What is Suboxone Used For?
Suboxone is one of just a handful of FDA approved drugs for opioid MAT. The drug’s ingredients both reduce cravings and block any effects of opioids to help users transition from opioids like heroin or prescription pills into sobriety without crushing withdrawal symptoms. “When taken properly, individuals on Suboxone will have no cravings, have no withdrawal, and will feel ‘normal’…that’s why it’s so effective,” according to psychiatrist Dr. Adam Bisaga of the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Though users on a Suboxone plan will experience mild pleasant effects like pain relief, reduced symptoms, and reduced stress, Suboxone does not cause the same euphoria and psychoactive effects like other opioids.
What is Suboxone Maintenance?
Suboxone maintenance is the use of Suboxone to alleviate opioid-related cravings and symptoms after the acute detox period has ended. Because every heroin user is different there are no concrete schedules on how long a patient takes Suboxone or how much. Rather, ever patient is individually evaluated by a medical professional throughout addiction treatment and detox to determine a maintenance schedule.
Doctors and addiction professionals start patients on Suboxone based on their history of opioid abuse and other factors like body weight and slowly reduce the amount taken over a period of a few days or weeks. The idea is that the patient will be completely drug free including Suboxone by the time they leave the treatment facility. Most professional Suboxone maintenance schedules are over in less than a month.
When Suboxone Maintenance is Good
Suboxone maintenance is good for short periods during acute opioid withdrawal and only when overseen by a medical professional in a certified drug treatment facility. Suboxone maintenance is meant to be a short-term solution and should only last a few days or a few weeks at most.
When Suboxone Maintenance is Bad
Suboxone maintenance is bad when it becomes a long-term crutch not overseen by any medical or addiction professionals. Though it doesn’t provide the same euphoria or direct dangers of pure opioids like heroin, Suboxone is still a dangerous drug and that can cause physiological and psychological addiction. In other words, you can’t consider yourself truly sober if you’re abusing Suboxone.
Dangers of Long-Term Suboxone Use
Because Suboxone is intended for brief prescriptions long-term users can expect negative health consequences from abuse. Suboxone abuse and long-term use can lead to similar symptoms of long-term opioid abuse. Florida-based psychiatrist and addiction specialist Dr. Steven Scanlan sums up the results of Suboxone abuse – “I’ve seen what long-term Suboxone does. People come in with endocrine problems – thyroid dysfunction, low testosterone… hair loss – tooth loss with Suboxone. There’s no way your brain chemistry can heal why on buprenorphine. You’re continuing to give someone a narcotic.”
Alternatives to Suboxone Treatment
Buprenorphine is still the most popular opioid drug treatment but it’s not the only one available. If you don’t like the idea of Suboxone maintenance, you can choose alternative drug therapy like methadone or Zubsolv.
Methadone – Methadone is one of the oldest opioid treatment drugs but has fallen out of favor over recent years due to the negatives of long-term use and the addictive traits of methadone. Many of the same drawbacks of Suboxone maintenance are much worse with methadone.
Zubsolv – Like Suboxone Zubsolv is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone but in tablet form. Zubsolv is better able to be absorbed by the body so less is required for the same effects as Suboxone.
Getting Professional Help with Suboxone Maintenance
If you’ve been abusing Suboxone or want to get off opioids in a safe and comfortable way you need to reach out to professional drug treatment facility. Detox and treatment staff will analyze your abuse, what you hope to accomplish, and other appropriate information to craft a Suboxone maintenance and detox plan that’s suitable for you.
In a professional drug treatment center, you will not be set up for long-term Suboxone maintenance but just enough to safely and comfortably wean your body off drugs and continue to the next steps of recovery.
The Final Word on Suboxone Maintenance
Suboxone maintenance is good when it’s short-term and takes place in a certified drug treatment facility. Suboxone maintenance is bad when it becomes self-administered and a long-term crutch. If you’re ready to leave opioids behind before you become a statistic in the current crisis reach out to a local opioid drug treatment facility. With counseling, relapse prevention, and proper MAT you can get opioids safely out of your system and prepare for a happy and free life.