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Addiction Behavior Drug Trends Glossary

What to Know About the Use and Abuse Risk of Suboxone

3 months, 1 week ago

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Posted on Feb 15, 2022, 6 p.m.

Opioid addiction has been a growing problem for over three decades now. You could know someone who is struggling with this drug. Or maybe you’ve come across this article hoping for information to guide your steps in your battle with opioid dependency. Here’s what to know about the benefits and potential risks of Suboxone, the most common drug used to treat opioid addiction.

Suboxone in Detox Programs

Suboxone is a prescription drug made up of two main ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is an opioid, but it is a much less potent type compared to others such as OxyContin or Vicodin. It activates opioid receptors in the brain at a lower level, which makes it a go-to drug for tapering off opioids. Naloxone is a drug used to treat opioid overdose. It reverses and blocks the effects of opioids and is meant to be administered along with medical intervention.

Overall, the verdict on Suboxone use is very positive. Research shows that its use has lowered the risk of fatal opioid overdoses by about 50%. Because of this, many people see Suboxone as a key to ending the opioid epidemic. They are advocating for ways to make Suboxone widely available to all who are addicted to opioids. One way to do this is by widespread production and increased affordability of the drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been working in this direction over the past few years, approving the first generic versions of Suboxone in 2018. 

However, more production doesn’t automatically mean Suboxone will be more available. As a Schedule III substance, doctors are allowed to prescribe this drug only if they receive the required training and certification from the U.S. government. This brings up the importance of knowing the specifics about abuse risks related to Suboxone use.

Opioid’s Silver Bullet?

To understand Suboxone’s specific function in opioid addiction treatment, it is helpful to compare Suboxone to methadone. Because it does not produce the euphoric effects of other opioids, Suboxone is a great option for long-term sobriety. Methadone, on the other hand, is preferable as part of the initial phase of a detox program. While weaker than illicit opioids, methadone produces euphoric effects. Because of that, it has a greater potential for addiction, which makes Suboxone safer by comparison. 

Although Suboxone is an effective drug to treat opioid overdoses, it should not be mistaken as the silver bullet for opioid addiction. Like any drug, Suboxone can be abused. Because of Suboxone’s growing popularity, it has outsold other substances, including Adderall. While this might sound encouraging, part of the sales ends up as part of the Suboxone black market, primarily for those worried about the cost of Suboxone treatment or potential insurance coverage issues. This leads some to try taking their opioid addiction into their own hands. 

Using Suboxone illicitly greatly increases the potential for buying a form of Suboxone that has been cut with other drugs, including the abuse risk of mixing Suboxone with other substances. Doing this can lead to potential overdoses of the drug or replacing one addiction with another. If someone not already addicted to opioids used the drug, they would experience a mild high and potentially become addicted to it. However, even in cases of using Suboxone as directed for weaning off opioids, some users can become addicted to it. A tapering process can help avoid this outcome, and it should be followed for coming off Suboxone safely.

Going Forward

While some Suboxone withdrawal symptoms are easy to identify, such as irritability, loss of interest, anxiety, and depression, the trouble with the drug is that these symptoms tend to develop slowly and last longer than other drug withdrawal symptoms. Because of these various cautions concerning Suboxone, it is not advised to stop taking it cold turkey or try tapering off the drug outside of a medically supervised environment. If you or someone you know is struggling with Suboxone addiction or trying to taper off the drug outside of medical supervision, it is important to connect with professional medical help to do it safely. 

This article was written by Kevin Morris from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a dedicated family of facilities committed to offering individualized treatment for all levels of addiction working to treat it at its core to provide those suffering with the tools to start a journey of long-lasting recovery.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.

Content may be edited for style and length.

Materials provided by:

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Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). A Definitive Guide to Tapering Off Suboxone Safely. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/opioids/suboxone/taper/

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