Suboxone for Opioid Addiction: How It Works

There are several effective FDA-approved medications (buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone) to help treat people with opioid use disorders. These medications help curb opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings and help with long-term relapse prevention.

Suboxone is a formulation of buprenorphine and naloxone (the opioid overdose reversal drug) to further help curb opioid misuse.1,2,3

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a medication prescribed to treat opioid addiction in adults. It consists of a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone.3

  • Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that produces milder euphoric effects and less respiratory depression than full opioid agonists like heroin or methadone. This is important because it can help manage opioid withdrawal effects and curb cravings without the having the increased potential for overdose.4
  • Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it binds to opioid receptors in the brain and blocks the euphoric effects of opioids.Naloxone by itself is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and immediately causes withdrawal symptoms when opioids are present in the body. It is a life-saving medication and is combined with buprenorphine in Suboxone to help prevent opioid overdose in the instance Suboxone is being misused or abused.  2

Treatment with a partial agonist like Suboxone allows for the stabilization of opioid receptors in the brain, which can facilitate the process of making lasting lifestyle and behavioral changes.The medication is normally used as part of a comprehensive treatment program that includes counseling and behavioral therapy.3

Buprenorphine, one of the main ingredients in Suboxone, was approved for use in the 1970s as a safer alternative than morphine or heroin in the treatment of pain.5 In 2002, the FDA approved the use of Suboxone sublingual tablets for opioid use disorder.6 It is now prescribed as a sublingual film that dissolves under the tongue or in the cheek.3

Suboxone is recognized as a good alternative to methadone, partly because it is less likely to be misused due to it being a partial-opioid agonist as opposed to a full-opioid agonist.5

Despite its efficacy, safety, and ease of use, Suboxone is often underutilized for the treatment of opioid use disorder.5

Which Drugs Does Suboxone Work for?

Suboxone is used to treat people with opioid use disorders.4 Opioids include:

Side Effects of Suboxone

Suboxone may cause some side effects, including:3

  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Constipation.
  • Vomiting.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Pain.
  • Insomnia.

Does Suboxone Help Withdrawal Symptoms?

Yes, using Suboxone can help relieve withdrawal symptoms for those who dependent on opioids. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can include:7

  • Muscle and bone pain.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Cold flashes.

There is no reason for someone to suffer unnecessarily during this process when medication-assisted treatment is available and proven effective.

When Can You Begin Taking Suboxone?

Patients must be in the before starting Suboxone. Some individuals are at risk of withdrawal when given Suboxone if opioids are already in their system and as a rule of thumb, Suboxone is usually administered once an individual starts showing signs of opioid withdrawal, which is a sign that opioids are being excreted from the body. Although opioid withdrawal is not technically dangerous or lethal, it can be very uncomfortable and many individuals will use opioids to prevent further uncomfortable withdrawal side effects, therefore it is important to closely monitor the individuals for withdrawal symptoms and be knowledgeable about when to give Suboxone during this process. It typically takes anywhere from 12-24 hours after a person’s last use of opioids before a dose of Suboxone can be given.4,5  

When a person is in addiction treatment, their treatment team can determine the right time to initiate Suboxone. This may be during medical detox to help manage acute withdrawal symptoms or after detox to support recovery, help manage cravings, and prevent relapse. 6

Medication to assist in the treatment of opioid addiction should be managed by a person’s physician or healthcare providers and integrated with the appropriate treatment modality, whether that is inpatient/residential treatment or outpatient services.6

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Instead, treatment should be individualized to meet each person’s specific needs.A person’s healthcare team will work with them to determine whether medication-assisted treatment such as Suboxone is right for them and when to begin using it.

How Effective Is Suboxone?

Using Suboxone is proven to be clinically effective.9 Suboxone has been shown to have similar efficacy to methadone when conditions are alike and dosages are appropriately managed.5

Continued buprenorphine use has been shown to increase retention rates in treatment programs and reduce the risks of:4,5

  • Illicit prescription opioid use.
  • Adverse outcomes.
  • Mortality.

Suboxone can effectively assist in managing cravings and withdrawal so that patients can focus on making healthy lifestyle changes. In addition to medication, another important component of treatment for opioid addiction is counseling and behavioral addiction therapies.10

Where Can I Find Suboxone?

Suboxone for opioid use disorder treatment can be prescribed by authorized doctors or other licensed medical professionals.4 Patients must follow the recommended dosage and treatment plans that their healthcare providers establish.11

Incorrect usage may not only be ineffective but combining Suboxone with other medications can have dangerous consequences. For example, taking Suboxone sublingual film with other opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, or other central nervous system depressants can cause respiratory distress, coma, or even death.3

As with other prescription drugs, it is important to avoid buying Suboxone off the street, as it can be difficult to determine if it has been contaminated or mixed with harmful substances. Suboxone should not be shared with others as the results could be serious and may differ from person to person.4

Suboxone for Opioid Treatment in Mississippi

Oxford Treatment Center—a facility that offers both outpatient and inpatient drug and alcohol rehab in Mississippi—utilizes Suboxone as appropriate, along with evidence-based therapy.

Call to learn more about the rehab admissions process and rehab payment options. Admissions navigators are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have regarding addiction treatment.

You can also quickly verify your drug and alcohol rehab insurance coverage by filling out the secure . Don’t wait to get help. Find out more about medication-assisted treatment and  Suboxone today.

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