The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that 128 people in the U.S. died from overdosing on opioids in 2018. This number includes deaths from prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids, like fentanyl. The U.S. opioid crisis has been wreaking havoc on public health, social welfare, and economic welfare.
It is estimated that 2.1 million people in the U.S. had a substance use disorder involving prescription opioid pain medicines in 2016. It is known that overdose deaths related to opioids were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999.
Despite those figures, there are effective medications that can be taken to treat opioid use disorder. Buprenorphine and naltrexone are two. Both of these medicines are in Suboxone, which has been successful for people who struggle with opioid addiction.
Suboxone, when taken as prescribed, can be quite helpful for someone fighting to end opioid misuse. However, when it is misused or abused, it can cause dependence and addiction.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a brand-name prescription medicine used to treat opioid addiction. It blocks the withdrawal symptoms that accompany opioid use and reduces cravings for these drugs. It comes in a sublingual film strip that goes under the tongue or in a tablet. It works faster when the film is placed under the tongue.
Suboxone is comprised of two medications—buprenorphine and naloxone. As Drugs.com describes, “buprenorphine is an opioid medication, sometimes called a narcotic. Naloxone blocks the effects of opioid medication, including pain relief or feelings of well-being that can lead to opioid abuse.”
Suboxone is called a “partial opioid agonist,” which means that buprenorphine produces a mild effect when acting on the opioid receptors in the brain. Opioids, such as oxycodone, hydromorphone, morphine, and methadone, are considered “full agonists.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) relays valuable information about buprenorphine. The medication can:
- Reduce the potential for misuse
- Decrease the effects of withdrawal symptoms and cravings that physical dependence on opioids can cause
- Increase safety in case of overdoses
A person undergoing medical detoxification for opioid use disorder may be given Suboxone as one of the drugs used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Suboxone can curb the most difficult effects of opioid withdrawal. It can also be used in combination with behavioral therapies to help people with addiction to opioids end dependence on the drug.
Suboxone contains another medicine called naloxone, which is better known by its brand name Narcan. Naloxone works to block full agonist opioids from attaching to the body’s opioid receptors. It was added to Suboxone to prevent misuse of the drug.
However, Suboxone addiction can still occur.
Signs of Suboxone Addiction
There is a possibility of becoming physically dependent on Suboxone, and there is the possibility of becoming addicted to it.
A person who does not have opioid addiction is more likely to feel the effects of the drugs in Suboxone, such as pain reduction, a calming feeling, and euphoria. The person who has opioid use disorder will use Suboxone to manage their cravings and reduce the above-mentioned effects.
There are some tell-tale signs to recognize if you feel you or someone you care about is abusing Suboxone. They may:
- Crush the tablets to snort the powder
- Mix the crushed tablets with water to make a mixture to inject
- Take more than the prescribed dosage
- Chew up the tablets and swallow them
It is also necessary to note the physical signs of Suboxone abuse, which include:
- Slurred speech
- Watery eyes
- Memory problems
These are some of the more clear warning signs that come specifically from Suboxone use, but this does not mean it will affect everyone the same.
It is essential to know what the signs of addiction, in general, are. They may include:
- Running out of the drug before the prescription period ends
- Mixing Suboxone with alcohol and/or other drugs
- Continued use of the drug despite the consequences
- Using Suboxone to get high
- Depression, irritability, anxiety
- Spending all their money on Suboxone
- Lying about drug use
- Strained relationships with family and friends
A person who is experiencing an overdose of Suboxone might show these signs:
- Pinpoint pupils
- Slowed breathing
- Low blood pressure
The likelihood of these symptoms is greater when Suboxone is used at the same time as sedatives or other depressants, like alcohol.
If you or someone you care about is seeking help to end their Suboxone addiction, entering an addiction treatment facility is a good first step. Many reputable treatment facilities provide substance use and addiction, along with evidence-based practices.
What is Involved in Suboxone Addiction Treatment?
Addiction treatment is usually customized to fit the individual’s unique needs through various therapies. Treatment can be adjusted throughout the process as a person’s needs change.
Medical detox is the first step, after an assessment, on the journey to end Suboxone addiction. It lasts about three to seven days, or longer, based on the person’s situation.
Medical detox is the process where Suboxone and other drugs are removed from the body under medical supervision. A tapering schedule is developed to ensure the process is gradual and that the individual is comfortable throughout detox.
A team of medical and behavioral professionals will create a treatment plan, with input from the individual, which is designed specifically for that person. These plans can change if the individual does not respond well to them and can be altered as time passes.
After medical detox ends, the individual will then enter either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.
Inpatient treatment programs are developed for those who need to live on-site in a residential center and can last from 30 days to 90 days, depending on the severity of the individual’s addiction. Inpatient treatment will also include a determination of a co-occurring disorder, such as a mental health disorder. The longer a person stays in treatment, the better their chance of staying drug-free for the long-term.
Therapy sessions in the treatment program will help the individual learn where the roots of their addiction originate and give them the tools and resources needed to manage triggers and cravings. These are essential skills for a person with Suboxone addiction.
Outpatient treatment is a useful option for those who can’t be away from home, school, or work for a long time. The center’s treatment specialists will determine if the individual can attend an outpatient treatment center.
Outpatient treatment allows the person to attend therapy sessions throughout the week and leave to return home when the session ends. They are just as in-depth and effective as inpatient programs.
When all treatment ends, the individual can learn about other options for support, which can further advance their sobriety and keep them on a stable, steady path to living drug-free. Suboxone addiction can be dangerous, but there is help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for it.