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Suboxone is an approved doctor-prescribed drug used to treat opioid addiction — with a proven track record of success among patients. It is a combination of the drugs Naloxone and Buprenorphine, prescribed in either Suboxone film or pill form. Both work collectively to simultaneously fight withdrawal symptoms as well as remove opium from the brain's opioid receptors, reversing its effect.
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Opioid drugs come from the opium poppy plant. Common types include prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl, as well as illegal opioid drugs including heroin, and pure opium.
Most successful treatment with Suboxone results in little to no withdrawal symptoms for the patient.
Opioid addiction can be incredibly challenging, as those addicted continue to misuse the drug(s) despite adverse consequences. As a result, they eventually develop tolerance, in which the body requires more of the drug to achieve the desired effect, as well as dependency. Once dependent, a person will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can start within just a few hours.
One of the biggest obstacles in breaking the addiction cycle is the withdrawal symptoms that come with dependency and abruptly ceasing the drug's use. Withdrawal symptoms can be unbearable, and many addicted people are highly fearful of the symptoms.
In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. Some of the withdrawal symptoms include:
The following two drugs are combined in Suboxone and work together accordingly:
When opium enters a person's system, the drug attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain, causing a suppression of the central nervous system (CNS). As a standalone drug, Naloxone is the primary go-to drug used to reverse the effect of opium in the brain, as it attaches to the brain's opioid receptors and counteracts the suppression of the CNS.
Hence, Naloxone is included in Suboxone to rid an addicted person of the present opium effects, giving the brain a clean slate as the initial step in their recovery.
Once opium is in the system, it attaches to opioid receptors in the brain. The drug attaches to those receptors and removes the opium, counteracting its effect, essentially restoring a person's mind to normal.
Also an opioid agonist, Buprenorphine, is included in Suboxone to significantly reduce or eliminate the harsh symptoms of opioid withdrawal. This drug also has been proven effective in stopping the intense physical craving the body goes through during active withdrawal. It is critical to combating continued drug use and relapse.
Some of the side effects associated with Suboxone include:
Immediate medical attention is urgent in the case of severe side effects, such as:
Certain prescription drugs and herbal supplements are known to have negative interactions with Suboxone and are advised against usage while on the drug. Including:
Also, breastfeeding mothers are strongly advised against breastfeeding while using the drug, as they can pass the drug on to babies through breast milk.
Suboxone is by no means a universal success, as less than 10 percent of all that try to quit fail, and many people run a high risk of relapse. Often, multiple attempts are taken before being able to achieve long-term success.
It is possible to overdose on Suboxone, though it is extremely difficult to do so. Suboxone is only a partial opioid agonist, therefore, there is a limit to how much it can activate opioid receptors. Rare cases of overdose almost always occur when Suboxone is combined with other medicines that suppress the CNS and slow breathing, such as benzodiazepines.
While the drug Methadone serves the same purpose of combating opioid addiction, it is only available at specialty methadone clinics. A doctor may prescribe Suboxone. However, the prescribing doctor must go through an approval process, and patients are required to sign a waiver.
Suboxone is not intended for long-acting opioid patients, but rather, for short-acting opioids such as certain prescription painkillers and heroin.
Additionally, it is not a long-term solution for any opioid addiction. Once the drug has served its purpose of getting a patient to quit, the doctor will continue to monitor the progress of the patient as they progressively reduce the dosage.
Once clean, doctors strongly advise patients to participate in comprehensive treatment programs.
There are many tools readily available for people to end the vicious cycle of heroin addiction. The first and most crucial step is a desire to quit. While some people can quit on their own, the vast majority of success stories stem from help.
Behavioral therapy is vital to an addicted person's success. Usually, there are underlying issues that lead to somebody falling into addiction, such as depression or PTSD. Some of these long-term support methods may be inpatient or outpatient programs depending on their needs, and include:
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Pubmeddev. Suboxone versus Methadone for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence: A Review of the Clinical and Cost-Effectiveness - PubMed - NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24716256
Grinspoon, Peter. “5 Myths about Using Suboxone to Treat Opiate Addiction - Harvard Health Blog.” Harvard Health Blog, 20 Mar. 2018, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/5-myths-about-using-suboxone-to-treat-opiate-addiction-2018032014496.
LaMotte, Sandee. “Suboxone: What Is It?” CNN, 19 June 2015, https://www.cnn.com/2015/06/19/health/suboxone/index.html.
“Suboxone (Buprenorphine HCl and Naloxone HCl): Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Interactions, Warning.” RxList, https://www.rxlist.com/suboxone-drug.htm