Opioid addiction is one of the greatest public health problems facing America today. Three million Americans are addicted to opioids like heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, while the number of opioid overdose deaths doubled from 21,000 to 42,000 between 2010 and 2016.
In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Suboxone in opioid addiction treatment programs, a medication that remains one of the top go-to’s for treating this specific type of addiction. While the numbers of those affected by opioid addiction continue to rise, thankfully so does the awareness of how beneficial Suboxone can be when used as directed and as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Why Suboxone is Used for Opioid Addiction
Suboxone is an FDA approved medication that contains buprenorphine and naloxone, two prescription medications proven effective in helping treat aspects of the disease of addiction. Today, Suboxone is used in thousands of treatment centers across the country and is viewed as the “gold standard” for opioid addiction treatment. This particular medication is used for this purpose because it has proven to help reduce cravings for continued opioid use as well as minimize distressing withdrawal symptoms that develop when a person stops using opioids suddenly. Even though Suboxone is used to help people end their active opioid addiction, it can be habit-forming if not taken as prescribed by a medical professional, which is why taking it while in the care of such a person is vital. This aspect of Suboxone should not stand in the way of someone utilizing this medication to stop using opioids, as the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Suboxone contains two ingredients that have proven to be highly effective in encouraging recovery in opioid addicts — buprenorphine and naloxone. These two ingredients work in concert with one another by partially blocking the opioid receptors in the brain. This means that when a person takes Suboxone, the opioid receptors in their brain are being triggered but not to the extent where they become high or suffer health risks. Buprenorphine is the opioid-based medication that, if not combined with naloxone, can fully induce activity in the opioid receptors. But, since buprenorphine is combined with naloxone, that does not occur because naloxone is an opioid antagonist. Opioid antagonists work by completely blocking any and all activity in the opioid receptors in the brain. Naloxone is the generic name for Narcan, the medication commonly used to revive an individual who has overdosed on opioids. So, when Suboxone is being used, the buprenorphine and naloxone work together to maintain a healthy balance of activity in the opioid receptors, allowing for withdrawal symptoms and cravings to be lessened.
Suboxone for Opioid Withdrawals
People who are dependent on opioids need to detox before they can begin to dig deep into their therapy and make positive, lasting changes in their lives. Detox in the process of clearing the body of all addictive, mind-altering substances like heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other opioids. Not everyone who detoxes from opioids will require suboxone, as this determination depends on several factors, including the following:
- How long opioids were being abused
- How heavily opioids were being abused
- How frequently opioids were being abused
- If opioids were being abused with other addictive substances
- The condition of the client’s physical and psychological health
If a client is not experiencing a level of opioid dependence that warrants the use of Suboxone, then he or she will not be prescribed it. However, most opioid addicts find that the inclusion of Suboxone makes all the difference in their detox and overall recovery because of how effectively it helps with withdrawal symptoms.
When someone who is dependent on opioids stops using, he or she can begin to experience symptoms within a few hours after their last hit. In fact, early withdrawal symptoms can begin a mere six hours after last use of the opioids of abuse are short-acting. Withdrawal symptoms associated with opioids that are longer-acting can begin anytime within the first 30 hours after one’s last use. Regardless, the most common early withdrawal symptoms that individuals in detox experience usually include the following:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Sweats and chills
- Excessive yawning
- Racing heartbeat
- Agitation and irritability
Most people compare early opioid withdrawals with an overall sense of feeling unwell. As individuals make their way through the process of detox, they will begin developing late withdrawal symptoms around the 72-hour mark and can continue for at least one week. They include:
- Abdominal cramps
Outside of receiving professional help, those who want to detox from opioids are encouraged to do so in a treatment facility to prevent themselves from picking up again. That is because these withdrawal symptoms can be so overwhelming and invasive that a person may not be able to withstand the pain and turn back to the use of opioids for relief. That is where the benefits of Suboxone come in.
Individuals who include Suboxone into their detox plans are more likely to get sober and stay sober. The urge to go back to using to relieve themselves of opioid withdrawal symptoms is better managed, allowing for the time to pass much easier when in detox. Symptoms like those listed above can be lessened significantly, if not completely eliminated, allowing for clients to focus on the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of their recovery without being distracted by the physical.
Suboxone for Post-Acute Withdrawals
Post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, is a common condition that occurs in people who continue to experience withdrawal symptoms long after acute withdrawal symptoms last. PAWS is more likely to develop in those recovering addicts who:
- Have abused a large amount of opioids for a long period of time
- Experienced significant to severe withdrawal symptoms during acute detox
- Did not receive medications like Suboxone to help ease coming off of opioids
It is normal for opioid withdrawal symptoms to last for a week or two, but continuing to experience withdrawal symptoms past this point and just as intensely means that more is occurring, such as PAWS. It is common for recovering opioid addicts to continue to battle withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Problems sleeping
- Chronic pain
- Poor concentration
While PAWS can be emotionally and physically draining for most, the good news is that it can be treated. With therapy, clients can learn how to cope with continued withdrawal symptoms as well as address the issues that may be causing their continuation. They can also receive assessments to determine if a mental health condition is occurring, exacerbating the symptoms of PAWS. Treatment can include the prescription of medications to help with symptoms such as depression and anxiety, as well as the implementation of natural supplements and remedies to help encourage sleep and focus.
The easiest way to avoid PAWS is to obtain professional detox services when ending opioid abuse. This affords individuals the most opportunities to succeed in their recovery without being held back by persistent withdrawal symptoms.
Suboxone Maintenance and Outpatient Programs
Suboxone is not just reserved for detox, as it is a medication that recovering opioid addicts can continue to use for a longer period of time. The average amount of time that a person remains on Suboxone is anywhere from six months to a year, however many use it for longer than that. Some of the deciding factors on how long a person should continue to take this medication include:
- The severity of the opioid addiction
- The amount of times a person has attempted to get sober
- The psychological health of the individual
Each individual recovering opioid addict has his or her own backstory, meaning that he or she has his or her own unique needs. Suboxone works best when taken for at least six months, as doing so reduces relapse rates significantly.
A recovering opioid addict does not need to be enrolled in an inpatient treatment program in order to receive Suboxone treatment, as this is something that is offered in outpatient settings, too. Not only does this give more people the chance to incorporate this medication into their recovery, but it also allows individuals to continue to take Suboxone for an extended period of time while still being monitored by a medical professional. As mentioned before, Suboxone can be habit-forming, so being able to receive this medication through outpatient facilities helps reduce the possibility of developing an addiction to it.
Aside from the medication management offered through outpatient facilities for individuals prescribed Suboxone, clients can also benefit from participating in several therapy sessions. Most outpatient programs provide access to various evidence-based therapies that include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- Individual therapy
- Group counseling
- Trauma treatment (including eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR)
- Motivational interviewing
- Experiential therapy (e.g. art therapy, music therapy, equine-assisted therapy
Most outpatient programs last anywhere from 8-12 weeks and are usually most beneficial for those recovering opioid addicts who have already completed a higher level of care.
Get Help Today
If you are struggling with an opioid addiction and need help, stop what you are doing and contact us right now. We understand the challenge of addiction and know how deeply devastating it can be to you and your loved ones. We know how hopeless it can be to feel as though you are too far gone to ever stop using. The truth is, however, that you can stop using, no matter how severe your opioid addiction has become. Let us help you by getting you moving in the right direction.
Do not wait any longer. Call us today. We can help.