In recent years, the US has seen millions of people living with opioid addiction. In 2014, over 5 million Americans lived with a substance use disorder (SUD) from prescription opioids. On top of that, nearly 600,000 people lived with and SUD related to heroin. Fortunately, there are effective treatment options available to help patients recover. One tool used in recent years is a drug called Suboxone. Here, we will try to answer some common questions around Suboxone, such as:
- How is opioid addiction treated?
- Why is Suboxone sometimes used in treatment?
- What are the potential benefits and concerns?
- How do I find the treatment option that is right for me?
How Is Opioid Addiction Treated?
How Addiction Forms
Opioids work by binding to neuro pathways in the brain that pass information. For patients who are being treated for severe pain, this can help relieve the pain sensation. However, with continued use, opioids can “hijack” the brain into depending on the substance to function. On the first use, the brain sends out pleasure/reward signals, which is the euphoric “high” a user feels. Over time, though, the brain will start to send out distress signals when the drug is not being used. These signals are called withdrawal. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:
- Severe headache
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle spasms
Long term use of opioids also builds up a tolerance in the body. The patient will therefore need either a higher quantity or a stronger concentration of opioid to stave off withdrawal. This puts the patient at higher risk of an overdose.
For most patients, a medically supervised treatment regimen is needed to successfully recover from SUD. This process starts with a medically supervised detox. Detox involves medical management of withdrawal symptoms while the opioids are flushed from the body. After that, patients will enter a treatment program known as Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT.) In MAT, medical care teams continue to use medications to ease cravings while patients attend therapy.
Why Is Suboxone Sometimes Used In Treatment?
Suboxone combines two of the commonly used medications in MAT; buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is known as a partial opioid agonist. It works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain but works less strongly than the addictive drugs. This reduces cravings in patients, which allows them space to focus on therapy. Naloxone is typically used to reverse an overdose in a patient. As an opioid antagonist, naloxone blocks the brain from producing pleasure/reward signals for use. When used as part of a comprehensive MAT program, Suboxone can be an effective tool.
What Are The Potential Benefits And Concerns?
Suboxone is relatively new to the recovery space, but has already shown promise in several ways. Unlike traditional methadone treatments which required special clinics, Suboxone is easy to administer. The medication comes in a film that can be dissolved orally. Since the buprenorphine in suboxone is a partial opioid agonist, it is unlikely to cause an overdose. This gives care teams greater flexibility in prescribing suboxone to patients with more severe SUD. Suboxone also gives care teams more flexibility on how long to prescribe treatment. As of now, there is little evidence that Suboxone cannot be prescribed for longer periods of time if needed.
In spite of its benefits, Suboxone is not a solution for every need. Although it is less powerful than other opioid medications, it is still possible to abuse. Care should be taken to make sure patients are using Suboxone only as directed. Furthermore, not all medical professionals are certified to administer Suboxone. Patients in recovery should work with their recovery care team to determine if Suboxone is appropriate for them. Our team can help patients in Suffolk and Nassau Counties start this process.
How Do I Find The Treatment Option That Is Right For Me?
Suboxone is only one “tool” for a successful recovery program. We advise patients to be informed, but keep an open mind. While all tools are effective for their purpose, only your care team can determine what works best for you. No matter your background, our team of experts can craft a plan specific to your needs.
If you are currently using opioids and are looking for treatment, congratulations! SUD is a medical condition, not a moral failure. SUD is not your fault. We encourage you to contact us today to begin your recovery journey. Our team will get to know you and get you started on your journey to recovery. You matter, and you are worth it!