Suboxone is a recommended first-line medication for opioid dependence, including heroin addiction. It is approved for this use by the U.S.Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A blend of buprenorphine and naloxone, Suboxone works by binding to the same cell receptors that opiates do. This means that people who take it will stop craving heroin and will not experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
In 2002, Suboxone was approved for use by people with substance use disorders, as one of the first drugs approved under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000.
When used as part of a complete addiction treatment program that includes therapy, Suboxone can be effective in managing opioid addictions.
As with other drugs, some people use Suboxone for nonmedical reasons. There is a higher risk of addiction to Suboxone in people who have not previously used opioids. It may cause them to feel euphoria.
More research is needed on ways to quit Suboxone specifically, but the withdrawal process from Suboxone works similarly to withdrawal from other opioids. As with heroin and prescription painkillers, it is recommended to withdraw from Suboxone in a medically supervised environment.
This is referred to as tapering off the drug, or medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT uses a “whole patient” approach to treating substance use disorders. Federal guidelines and protocols ensure the safety of MAT to help those who want to quit using opioids and medication that imitates them.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dependence on opioids is not likely to form if the medications have been taken for less than two weeks. People who take opioids for longer than two weeks are at a higher risk of developing withdrawal symptoms. The same could hold true for people who use Suboxone.
A doctor can help you stop taking Suboxone by coming up with a plan to decrease your intake of this medication (a tapering plan). How long it will take you to taper off Suboxone depends on when you began taking it and your average dosage levels.
For some people, reducing the dose could take weeks or months. A successful plan will include:
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are things you can expect when you take part in a tapering plan such as:
Tapering is considered the best way to stop using medications like Suboxone because it decreases the chance of these withdrawal symptoms:
Withdrawal can be intolerable for some people. It makes relapse more probable because the body craves an instant cure.
No doctor recommends trying to get through withdrawal symptoms alone. The difficulty of dealing with them makes people more likely to start using opioids again. Since any withdrawal period can lead to a reduction in tolerance, overdose becomes more likely with relapse.
Though withdrawal should only last a few days, it can last for months or years in some people. Though opioid withdrawal is not generally life-threatening, complications can be, according to the University of New South Wales. Extreme vomiting and diarrhea could cause dehydration, an increase in sodium levels, and even heart failure.
Quitting Suboxone cold turkey is not recommended. Some people would rather quit cold turkey because they think it might be easier than quitting gradually. It is not easier. The known risks of quitting certain drugs and medication cold turkey include:
Since most people begin using Suboxone as part of an addiction treatment plan, managing withdrawal from it alone should not be considered. The likelihood of relapse and deepening the cycle of substance abuse is high. After medical detox, comprehensive addiction therapy is needed to address the issues that led to Suboxone abuse.
Even in cases where Suboxone is taken exactly as prescribed, cold-turkey withdrawal is not recommended. The supervising physician will devise a tapering schedule to gradually wean off the drug.
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