suboxone treatment stop addictionSuboxone Treatment

When Suboxone was first approved for opiate treatment by the FDA in 2002, the goal was to find a medication that would help individuals stop abusing opiate drugs with minimal withdrawal symptoms, unlike methadone which had its own withdrawal problems.  It was the first narcotic drug available for the treatment of opiate dependence that could be prescribed in an office setting by a doctor.  Methadone treatment requires patients to go to specifically authorized clinics, which greatly restricts its availability for many people.

Suboxone Ingredients

Suboxone is a thin film to be dissolved under the tongue that contains two ingredients: Buprenorphine (buprenorphine hydrochloride) and Naloxone (naloxone hydrochloride).  The primary active ingredient in Suboxone is Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist which attaches itself to the opioid receptors in the brain.  As a partial opioid it provides less or none of the euphoric effect than full opioid agonists like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, heroin and methadone provide.   The primary benefit of buprenorphine over methadone (other than greater availability) is this limiting or eliminating of the euphoric feeling. Also, because the opioid receptors in the brain are occupied by buprenorphine, cravings and withdrawal symptoms are suppressed or eliminated.

The other ingredient, Naloxone, is an opiate blocker.  It has been added to discourage people from snorting or injecting Suboxone.  If Suboxone is dissolved under the tongue as prescribed, the Naloxone does not really enter the blood stream.  However if Suboxone were snorted or injected, the naloxone would speed to the brain and occupy the opioid receptors.  This could lead to severe withdrawal symptoms and no euphoric feelings.

How to Get Suboxone

Suboxone can only be prescribed by qualified doctors with the necessary DEA number.  You can find suboxone prescribing doctors by going here.  It is advised that someone seeking Suboxone find a doctor who understands addiction. Anyone interested in taking Suboxone needs to work closely with their doctor to develop a specific treatment plan that would be successful for the individual. 

Suboxone Treatment for Detox

Some clinics use Suboxone (or its Naloxone-missing counterpart, Subutex) only for detox. For an opiate addict, the most uncomfortable, painful part of their addiction is typically withdrawal. Subutex and Suboxone help a person wean down opiate use without feeling the worst of withdrawal symptoms.

Long Term Suboxone Treatment

Suboxone has increasingly been used as an adjunct to traditional evidence-based behavioral treatments and 12-step philosophy with success.  A recent study by Yale concludes that in treating prescription opiate addiction Suboxone maintenance is superior to detox.

Although the use of Suboxone has undoubtedly changed the way people get sober from opiate addictions, and has helped many individuals withdraw from their drug of choice and stay sober over an extended period of time, there are concerns over the use of the Suboxone. The top-most issue is the possibility for abuse.

Suboxone Abuse

Use of Suboxone has been somewhat controversial and one of the biggest reasons for this controversy is that the fact that Suboxone can and sometimes is abused by patients receiving it.  Patients may feel that it is impossible to abuse their Suboxone because of the fact that it is very difficult to feel "high" from it, however, when taken in doses 2-3 or more times what is prescribed, it is possible to feel drowsy, sedated and fuzzy.

Another way that Suboxone is often abused is by selling it or giving it away illegally to individuals without a prescription or who are not under a doctor's care.  These people may use it as a means of warding off the withdrawal symptoms of opiate dependence that make some feel violently ill.

As chemical addiction is associated with many compulsive behavioral and psychological symptoms, some patients may be tempted to abuse the drug by taking more of it or by attempting to dilute the films into a liquid that can be injected.   These behaviors are done less out of an attempt to get "high", but rather as a repetition of behaviors that are familiar from their active addiction.  Even when one embarks on a rigorous program of recovery that includes counseling and 12-step involvement, it can take long periods of time for some of these compulsive behaviors to fade.

Warning Signs of Suboxone Abuse

It can be difficult to determine whether or not someone is abusing suboxone. In general, people who take the medication properly shouldn’t seem sedated or slow as a result of their use. People who display slurred speech or slowed breathing after taking Suboxone might be abusing the drug.

Signs of Suboxone abuse include: going through the medication faster than normal, running out of it prior to the refill date, reports that patient has lost their Suboxone or had it stolen, random or unmarked packages arriving to the home or business, and excessive sleepiness (also known as nodding off) at random times during the day.

How to Avoid Suboxone Abuse

There are many factors that a Suboxone patient can keep in mind in order to avoid falling into an abuse pattern.  First off, it is very crucial for a patient interested in taking Suboxone take time to find a qualified physician who is highly knowledgeable and trained in addictions medicine.  There are many doctors who can and will prescribe the drug, but not all have gone above and beyond the bare minimum of training necessary to prescribe the drug, which is only 8 hours.

Secondly, it is important that a person taking Suboxone over a period of time engage in some form of counseling, therapy and/or group support with an addictions counselor who is knowledgeable about Suboxone maintenance therapy.  This should be done along with, not as a substitute for, seeing his/her physician on a regular basis while on Suboxone.

The solution to successfully avoiding any type of Suboxone abuse is to always take it as directed (even if one feels it is not working or isn't enough), to be honest and open with the prescribing physician, to take time to find the right doctor, to engage in ongoing counseling and other addiction recovery work, and to be willing to take regular lab and/or drug screens to check the levels of Suboxone in the body.

Deciding to Use Suboxone

The decision to take Suboxone is always an individual one and should be a decision made between the patient and his/her doctor, but knowing the risks involved and working hard to avoid them is the best way to have the most success with this medication.


New Hope Recovery Center has experience treating clients who are using Suboxone.  If you have any questions or would like more information, you can reach us at 888-707-4673(HOPE).

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center