Suboxone Treatment for Opioid Addiction
You may have heard of Suboxone but have questions and concerns about what it is and how it’s used for treating opioid addiction. This page will explain what Suboxone is, how it is used to treat an opioid use disorder, if it can be misused, and what Suboxone use treatment programs are available.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is the brand name of a combination medication containing two drugs: buprenorphine and naloxone. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating opioid use disorder (OUD).
When a person uses an opioid, the opioid attaches to certain receptors in the central nervous system and results in pain relief as well as pleasurable effects that can feel euphoric at high doses and in the absence of pain.1
The pleasurable effects are associated with the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in how we feel pleasure. By misusing opioids or using heroin, a person can overwhelm the brain’s natural reward system to feel “high,” while at the same time reinforcing the continued use of opioids.1
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which means it attaches to these same opioid receptors in the brain but doesn’t induce maximal activation of the receptors the way a full opioid agonist does, such as misused opioids or heroin.1
So while buprenorphine’s opioid effects increase with each dose, it begins to level off at moderate doses, even if a person takes additional doses. This “ceiling effect” prevents the medication from producing the euphoria that many people who misuse opioids seek.
Buprenorphine also has a very high affinity at the receptor, which essentially means the medication can displace full agonist opioids already occupying the receptor and it then binds so tightly that other opioids have nothing to bind to or exert their effects on.
The high affinity and “ceiling effect” prevent buprenorphine from making someone feel high, lowering the risk of misuse and side effects, and helping to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.2 A person taking buprenorphine experiences fewer cravings or compulsions to return to opioid use.1,2
Naloxone is included in Suboxone to help prevent diversion and misuse of the medication. Naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist with a strong binding affinity, which means it can both displace and block the effects of opioids.1 It is commonly used to reverse opioid overdose.
Suboxone is intended to be taken as a tablet or film dissolved under the tongue. Naloxone isn’t absorbed orally and thus has no effect when the medication is administered properly.
However, should a person try to inject buprenorphine in an effort to achieve a euphoric rush, the naloxone will block this effect from happening and is likely to precipitate withdrawal in someone who is opioid dependent.1
Side Effects of Buprenorphine
When a person uses buprenorphine, they may experience some common side effects that can include:1
- Blurred vision.
As with other medications, these should be weighed against the benefits Suboxone offers.
What Are the Different Forms of Suboxone?
Suboxone, the brand name medication, comes in the form of a sublingual film, which can be dissolved under the tongue or against the cheek. A generic version of Suboxone is also available and is offered as a sublingual film or a sublingual tablet.1
The combination of buprenorphine and naloxone may also be sold by the name Zubsolv. This comes in tablet form that is dissolved under the tongue.1
Bunavail is another brand name for the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, which is made into a buccal film. A buccal film is dissolved by placing it on the inside of the cheek.1
What Is Suboxone Used For?
Suboxone is used for treating opioid use disorder, both as a way to help manage cravings during withdrawal as a rehab detox medication, as well as for long-term maintenance to help people maintain recovery and keep the disease of opioid use disorder in remission.1
Suboxone Use for Opioid Addiction Treatment
Benefits of using Suboxone to treat opioid use disorder include the following:1
- Reduces or eliminates opioid withdrawal symptoms during detox
- Eliminates or reduces cravings to use opioids
- Blocks the effects of illicit opioids if used
- Reduces risk of overdose death
Suboxone is a powerful medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) and although it can be the sole treatment for someone with an opioid addiction, a comprehensive treatment plan can provide additional support to address the full range of symptoms and service needs that people with opioid use disorder often have.
A comprehensive treatment plan from an addiction treatment provider typically includes behavioral therapies, counseling, and support services to additionally aid in a person’s recovery.4
Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) is one of 3 FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder. These include:1
When comparing Suboxone versus methadone, methadone is only available at special treatment centers that are federally licensed and tightly regulated, and while Suboxone is also regulated, it’s lower abuse potential and higher safety profile means it’s more widely available, not only in addiction and drug rehab treatment programs but also in many doctor’s offices.1
Is Suboxone Addictive?
Buprenorphine is an opioid, so there is a potential for misuse of Suboxone, particularly by people who are not opioid dependent.4 For the treatment of opioid use disorder, Suboxone is the standard of care.
Safeguards have been put in place to prevent diversion and misuse of Suboxone.1 The addition of naloxone to the buprenorphine lessens the chances the drug will be misused because the naloxone blocks the effects of all opioids.4
People who take Suboxone continue to be dependent on opioids, which means they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using the medication.1
Being physically dependent on a drug does not mean that you are addicted to it, but that your body has adapted to the constant presence of a drug, and you will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you abruptly stop taking it or dramatically lower your dose.5
Suboxone (Buprenorphine) Use for Addiction Treatment
If you or your loved one is dealing with opioid addiction, professional treatment is available to help you.
When treating opioid use disorder, a combination of medication and behavioral therapy can be beneficial. The symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be uncomfortable and unpleasant, and using a medication like Suboxone for detox can minimize or even eliminate withdrawal symptoms.
Suboxone and other buprenorphine medications are safe to use for long-term management of opioid use disorder and support long-term recovery.
Oxford Treatment Center offers various levels of addiction treatment, including a medical detox program. If you are looking for inpatient drug and alcohol rehab in Mississippi, Oxford Treatment Center can provide customized inpatient therapy, as well as outpatient therapy.
Call us today at to speak with one of our admissions navigators; they are available 24/7 to answer any questions you might have regarding addiction treatment and help you understand the rehab admissions process.
Please don’t lose hope. Regaining your life and achieving remission from opioid use disorder is possible. Reach out for help today.
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