How Does Suboxone Work?
Opioid addiction, otherwise known as opioid use disorder (OUD), is fast becoming a tragic and alarming public health concern that affects individuals of all ages and genders worldwide.
The upside is that the devastating impact of opioid addiction has led experts in the field to develop various treatment approaches, including the use of Suboxone treatment for opioid addiction.
Understanding Opioid Addiction
Before exploring treatment options, let’s first understand opioid abuse.
Opioid addiction is a chronic disorder characterized by repeated and compulsive consumption of opioid drugs. In which an individual continues to consume these drugs despite the negative consequences it has on an individual’s health, social life relationships, and overall well-being.
Opioids, including prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and illicit substances like heroin, interact with opioid receptors in the brain, producing euphoric effects and pain relief. However, prolonged use and misuse of opioids can lead to physical dependence, tolerance, and addiction.
Some repercussions of opiate abuse include:
Opioid addiction is known to cause various health issues. These include respiratory depression, overdose, and liver and brain damage. It can also cause an increased risk of mental health disorders such as depression. Opioid addiction is often a predisposing factor for infectious diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis due to shared needle usage.
Social and Relationship Problems
Opioid addicts often suffer from strained relationships with family members, friends, and colleagues. It may be due to behaviors associated with addiction, such as lying, withdrawing from social commitments, stealing, demonstrating financial irresponsibility, and neglecting responsibilities, all of which can erode trust and lead to dysfunctional interpersonal relationships.
Opioid addiction often contributes to financial strains on addicts. It is due to the high cost of obtaining opioids and street drugs. Addicts are also prone to face legal issues related to drug use, which can cause fines, loss of employment, or reduced productivity-decreasing earning ability. The adverse effects of opioid use on health cause an increase in healthcare expenses. All these factors can heavily burden finances, causing difficulty.
Individuals struggling with opioid addiction may engage in illegal activities to obtain these drugs. They may purchase from illegal street drug dealers or engage in activities (stealing or identity theft). It can result in legal consequences, including arrests, criminal charges, and incarceration.
Overdose and Death
Opioid overdose is a significant risk for individuals with addiction. Addicts are known to increase opioid intake to achieve desirable effects. The purity and potency of certain opiates can cause an accidental overdose which can be fatal.
Impact on Mental Health
Opioid addiction often causes or co-exists with other mental health disorders such as
depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD. These conditions can worsen with prolonged opioid use, as drug dependency and social withdrawal hinder one’s ability to hope and recover.
Stigma and Discrimination
People with opioid addiction often face stigma and discrimination. It can lead to isolation from society and reduced access to healthcare and support services. Addicts also face barriers to housing as well as employment opportunities.
Community and Societal Costs
Opioid addiction burdens communities and society. According to the National Institute of Health, the annual U.S. economic burden for prescription opioid misuse alone is more than $504 billion.
The costs associated with healthcare, criminal justice system involvement, lost productivity, and social welfare programs strain resources and impact overall societal well-being.
However, not all hope is worth the cost. Treatment options like behavioral therapy, rehabilitation programs, support groups, and medication-assisted treatment programs with drugs like Suboxone offer hope for addicts and their long-term recovery.
What Exactly is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a brand-name prescription medication that combines two active ingredients:
- Buprenorphine: which is a partial opioid agonist
- Naloxone: which has opioid-antagonistic effects
Composition: Each sublingual tablet of Suboxone (8/2mg) contains 2mg naloxone and 8 mg buprenorphine. Sublingual tablet forms are to be placed under the tongue as a whole. You don’t need to cut, chew or swallow them. They form an oral film and the drug is slowly absorbed into the system.
There are often a lot of questions regarding the role of Suboxone in treating opioid addiction, its mechanism of action, common side effects, and its integration into a comprehensive treatment plan. Let’s talk about them in a little more detail below.
Suboxone Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Suboxone is emerging as a valuable tool in the treatment of opioid addiction. Its formulation, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, helps to address different aspects of addiction. Buprenorphine, as a partial opioid agonist, helps manage opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings, while naloxone acts as an opioid antagonist to prevent misuse.
Mechanism of Action: Buprenorphine as a Partial Opioid Agonist
Buprenorphine is one of the primary active ingredients in Suboxone. It functions as a partial opioid agonist.
It means that it binds to and causes the activation of opioid receptors in the brain. It produces a milder opioid effect compared to heroin or oxycodone, which act as full agonists on these receptors.
The partial agonist property of buprenorphine allows it to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce drug cravings, without producing the intense euphoric effects associated with other opioids.
One key advantage of buprenorphine is its ceiling effect. Unlike full opioid agonists, buprenorphine’s opioid effects plateau, even with escalating doses. It means that even if you take more of the drug, the effect won’t increase after a certain extent.
This characteristic reduces the risk of respiratory depression, a potentially life-threatening side effect that involves dangerously slowed breathing.
The ceiling effect of buprenorphine makes it a safer alternative to other opioids, particularly in terms of overdose risk and contains no risk of addiction in itself despite being an opiate.
Naloxone: Prevention of Misuse and Overdose
Naloxone is the second active component of Suboxone. It serves as an opioid antagonist.
It means it blocks the effects of opioids by competing with them for opioid receptors in the brain, so instead of opioid binding to the opioid receptors, naloxone binds to them, preventing the activation of these receptors.
In the context of Suboxone, naloxone plays a crucial role in preventing opioid misuse. If Suboxone is dissolved and injected or inhaled, naloxone quickly binds to the receptors, effectively blocking the euphoric effects of opioids.
This mechanism is a deterrent against intentional misuse and an antidote in case of overdose.
Integration Of Suboxone into a Comprehensive Treatment Plan
Suboxone is more effective when incorporated into a comprehensive treatment plan for opiate addiction than as a stand-alone therapy.
These treatment plans typically involve a combination of:
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) (the use of suboxone)
- Behavioral therapies
- Support services
This comprehensive approach addresses all aspects of health; including physical, psychological, and social aspects. It greatly assists in providing individuals with the necessary tools and support for sustained recovery.
Benefits of Suboxone In A Comprehensive Treatment Plan
The integration of Suboxone into a comprehensive treatment plan offers several benefits for individuals struggling with opioid addiction, some of which include
Alleviation of Withdrawal Symptoms: Suboxone helps manage the withdrawal phase that arises when individuals initially discontinue opioid use.
Its partial agonist properties due to buprenorphine provide relief while minimizing the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. These include intense cravings, delirium, sweating, etc. It makes the detoxification process more manageable since withdrawal is sometimes the most difficult first step for addicts.
Reduction of Cravings: Cravings for opioids can be overwhelming for long-term addicts and often contribute to relapse.
By its partial opioid agonist action, Suboxone reduces cravings, allowing individuals to focus on their recovery without constantly battling the urge to break down and take the drug.
Prevention of Illicit Drug Use: Suboxone’s formulation discourages individuals from using illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl.
Buprenorphine has a higher binding affinity to opioid receptors than other opioids, it effectively blocks the effects of full agonists, reducing the likelihood of relapse and the use of illicit drugs.
Improved Treatment Retention: According to research and trials, suboxone has been associated with increased treatment retention rates for opioid addicts.
The reduction in discomfort associated with withdrawal symptoms and reduction of cravings for the drug contributes to individuals staying engaged in their treatment programs for longer periods, increasing their chances of successful outcomes.
Reduced Risk of Overdose: Suboxone’s ceiling effect and naloxone’s presence reduces the risk of overdose. The limited opioid effects of buprenorphine and the antagonist properties of naloxone make Suboxone a safer choice compared to other opioids.
As beneficial as this drug is, to ensure the safe and effective use of Suboxone, it is essential to seek the guidance of healthcare professionals who specialize in addiction medicine. They can determine the appropriate dosage and treatment duration based on an individual’s needs.
It is also essential to combine Suboxone with regular therapy and support services like support groups to increase its efficacy and produce more sustainable effects.
Side Effects and Considerations
While Suboxone is generally well-tolerated, it can cause side effects.
Common side effects may include:
These side effects are usually mild and diminish over time as the body adjusts to the medication. Most of these are self-resolving and do not require immediate medical attention.
However, if you’re experiencing severe or persistent side effects, report these to healthcare providers for appropriate management.
It is important to remember that Suboxone treatment requires medical supervision to ensure optimal outcomes.
Treatment providers closely monitor patients and adjust dosages according to treatment response and tolerance. They also help provide support and reassurance throughout the recovery journey.
It is crucial to follow the prescribed treatment plan and communicate any concerns or changes in symptoms to healthcare providers without making adjustments on your own.
Addressing Concerns and Misconceptions
Suboxone usage is often a subject of misconception for people intimidated by its partial opioid agonist activity. Let’s address them one by one:
Suboxone is Simply Substituting One Addiction for Another
The notion that Suboxone treatment is substituting one addiction for another is completely wrong.
While Suboxone contains an opioid component, its unique properties, such as the ceiling effect, prevent overdose, and naloxone’s presence prevents activation of opioid receptors.
It makes it distinct from other opioids and prevents addiction. Suboxone treatment for opioid addiction is key.
Suboxone Should Be Abandoned Abruptly
Another common misconception is that Suboxone should be stopped abruptly once individuals achieve a certain period of sobriety.
Abrupt discontinuation of Suboxone can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and increase the risk of relapse.
It is crucial to follow a tapered approach under the guidance of medical professionals to gradually reduce the dosage and safely discontinue the medication.
Suboxone Treatment is not a One-Size-Fits-all Approach
The dosage and duration of Suboxone treatment vary depending on individual needs and progress.
Some individuals may need more intense, in-patient treatment and can’t rely on suboxone alone. Others may not need medication-assisted treatment at all.
Healthcare professionals work closely with individuals to develop personalized treatment plans that consider factors such as the severity of addiction, medical history, and co-occurring conditions.
Hence, what may work for someone may not work for someone else. Suboxone, with its combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, offers a valuable approach to the treatment of opioid addiction when integrated into a detailed treatment plan that includes counseling and behavioral therapy.
It is crucial to seek the guidance of healthcare professionals specializing in addiction medicine to ensure individualized care and maximize treatment outcomes. With correct usage under medical supervision, Suboxone plays a crucial role in helping individuals break free from the cycle of opioid addiction and embark on a path of long-term recovery.
If you are looking for addiction treatment centers for yourself or a loved one, SoberSpeak has a resource for you. By calling 888-831-4586, you’ll be in touch with a free service that will find you the best possible solution. Helpful links for addiction:
SAMHSA Treatment Finder at SAMHSA.gov
National Institute On Drug Abuse at DrugAbuse.gov
Mental Health & Substance Abuse at USA.gov