According to the Centers for Disease Control, deaths caused by opioids increased from 70,029 in 2020 to 80,816 in 2021. With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that we need effective, immediate, and evidence-based medications for opioid use disorder (OUD). Suboxone®, or buprenorphine/naloxone, is one of these medications. We use buprenorphine (Suboxone®) at ReVIDA® Recovery because we know how effective it is in treating OUD and promoting recovery.
Unfortunately, no matter how many lives it saves, there’s still a stigma attached to buprenorphine (Suboxone®) for OUD. Some people think that buprenorphine is just another opioid or that taking this medication for opioid dependence is like swapping one drug for another. Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) is a partial opioid agonist and a schedule III narcotic. Its effect is much weaker than opioids like morphine or fentanyl. Its primary purpose is to soothe withdrawal symptoms while preventing relapse and overdose. Still, the stigma remains. Let’s discuss buprenorphine (Suboxone®), what it does, and how it works.
How Does Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) Work?
Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) affects the areas of the brain that handle things like pleasure and pain. Just like morphine or other opioids, buprenorphine (Suboxone®) binds to our opioid receptors, causing relaxation, pain relief, and sometimes euphoria.
The difference between buprenorphine (Suboxone®) and other opioids is that buprenorphine (Suboxone®) has a “ceiling effect.” After a certain amount of it is taken, it no longer affects a person in the same way. People who are used to opioids know that the more you take, the more “high” you get. This isn’t the case with buprenorphine (Suboxone®).
Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) is a mixture of two medications: buprenorphine and naloxone. We know buprenorphine attaches to our opioid receptors, but what does naloxone do? And why is it integrated into buprenorphine (Suboxone®)?
While buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, naloxone is a full opioid antagonist or a “blocker.” This synthetic drug blocks the opioid receptors in the nervous system. This means that it cancels out strong feelings of euphoria, contentment, relaxation, or any of those “feel good” effects that opioids bring. This is important because many who suffer from OUD have difficulty monitoring their own usage. They’ll take more opioids to experience stronger effects, no matter the cost. Naloxone prevents this from happening. Taking more buprenorphine (Suboxone®) doesn’t significantly alter mood or perception of pain. This makes overdose less likely.
When buprenorphine and naloxone are combined to make Suboxone, they work in harmony to suppress opioid cravings. The part of the brain that usually responds to opioids will also respond to buprenorphine (Suboxone®). This will trick the brain into thinking it’s getting the opioid it’s used to getting, which prevents withdrawal symptoms from surfacing.
When buprenorphine (Suboxone®) is prescribed by a doctor and taken alongside an effective treatment program, it can help people stop using illicit opioids and begin a life of recovery.
Is Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) Dependency Possible?
There are some circumstances where buprenorphine (Suboxone®) is prescribed as a part of a long-term treatment plan for OUD cessation. How long someone takes buprenorphine (Suboxone®) depends on what they decide with their doctor. Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) maintenance programs include options for long-term treatment, and for some people, this is necessary.
In these cases, when buprenorphine (Suboxone®) is suddenly stopped, precipitated withdrawals can be expected. The body becomes dependent on the medication, and it needs time to adjust without it. The precipitated withdrawals from buprenorphine (Suboxone®) can be uncomfortable, and they usually require physician supervision and alternate treatment methods. It’s typically only the prolonged use of buprenorphine (Suboxone®) that leads to physical or mental dependence.
Common withdrawal symptoms from buprenorphine (Suboxone®) usually begin about 6-12 hours after an individual’s last dose. Here are some reported symptoms of withdrawal from buprenorphine (Suboxone®):
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Chills/cold sweats
- Large pupils
- Feeling on edge or restless
- Gastrointestinal distress like nausea or diarrhea
These symptoms can be managed under a doctor’s care. The chance of experiencing these withdrawal symptoms is smaller when someone adheres to a taper schedule from their prescribing physician. It isn’t recommended to suddenly stop taking buprenorphine (Suboxone®). If you’re ready to stop taking it, talk to your therapists and your doctors about the best course of treatment moving forward.
Do People Ever Misuse Buprenorphine (Suboxone®)?
Yes, some people misuse buprenorphine (Suboxone®).
Dependency on any medication, prescribed or otherwise, is complex and usually involves a significant emotional aspect. Medications themselves are not “addictive” – it’s more complicated than that. Becoming dependent on a substance could also have to do with your traumas, stressors, or the current state of your mental health. That’s why taking buprenorphine (Suboxone®) alongside a therapy program is a smart choice. It’s also a good idea to attend support groups with others in recovery.
Fear of withdrawal symptoms can also cause buprenorphine (Suboxone®) misuse. Physical dependency can and will cause misuse if it isn’t managed properly. Constant contact with your doctor or prescriber is vital to this process. Everyone reacts differently to buprenorphine (Suboxone®) – some people can miss a dose and feel fine, while others start feeling withdrawal symptoms before they’re supposed to take their next dose. If your doctor knows how your body reacts to buprenorphine (Suboxone®), they can adjust your medication to compensate.
There are also things you can do at home to prevent the misuse of buprenorphine (Suboxone®):
- Eat healthy, nutritious meals and snacks
- Cultivate a comfortable, fulfilling routine
- Attend support groups or group therapy
- Enroll yourself in an outpatient treatment program
- Stay in regular contact with your doctors and therapists
- Seek out support from the people that love you
Do Any of My Current Medications Interact with Suboxone?
If you’re currently on medication, but you’re worried you won’t be able to continue taking it with buprenorphine (Suboxone®), talk to your doctor first. While buprenorphine (Suboxone®) interacts with certain medications prescribed for anxiety or depression, the pros of taking both might outweigh the cons.
Your dosage of both also matters. If you’re on a lower dose of your anxiety medication, your doctor might decide to continue your current course of treatment and add buprenorphine (Suboxone®). Another thing your doctor will look at is your height, weight, and medical history. If you’re experiencing panic attacks and can’t make it to your treatment appointments, your doctor might decide to keep you on both medications.
Here are some medications that have been recorded to have major interaction risks with buprenorphine (Suboxone®):
- Alprazolam (Xanax®)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro®)
- Diazepam (Valium®)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin®)
The concern with these medications is that they either a) cause a sedative effect, which would only increase the sedation of buprenorphine (Suboxone®), possibly causing respiratory depression and, b) cause something called “serotonin syndrome”, an influx of too much serotonin in the body, which can lead to serious health complications. Again, your doctor might decide the risk is minimal for you. Make sure you tell your prescribing physician about every medication you’re currently taking and their dosages, including supplements, before starting buprenorphine (Suboxone®).
Getting Treatment for Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) Dependency
If you’re struggling with dependency issues, either with buprenorphine (Suboxone®) or other medications, you’re not alone. Our staff at ReVIDA Recovery® is experienced in helping people find their way out of dependency and into recovery. Whether you’re in need of a Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) treatment program or just short-term help, we’re here to answer any questions and guide you along your path to a healthier life. To learn more or to set up an appointment, please call us at (844) 972-4673 today!
FAQs About Is Suboxone An Opioid
Who prescribes buprenorphine (Suboxone®) near me?
ReVIDA® Recovery has locations in both Tennessee and Virginia. We are available to help with your recovery needs. Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) can also be prescribed by your treating physician and does not require enrollment in a treatment program.
Is buprenorphine (Suboxone®) a narcotic?
Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, which are partial opioid agonists and opioid antagonists. Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) is a schedule III narcotic.
Does buprenorphine (Suboxone®) help with addiction?
Yes. Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) was created specifically for use by people struggling with OUD. It can help by eliminating an individual’s dependency on illicit or dangerous opioids.