Opioid addiction is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome.
The “cold-turkey” approach to opioid addiction is not successful, with nearly 25 percent of patients relapsing within a year of quitting. Overcoming this addiction requires individuals to change their behaviors, thought processes and environments to be truly successful. Treating opioid dependence may require the use of medication in order to increase the success rate of withdrawal and abstinence. Suboxone, also known as Buprenorphine or Subutex, is a medication approved for the treatment of opiate dependence. In addition to Suboxone, Methadone and Naltrexone are two medications commonly used in the treatment of opiate addiction.
How Suboxone Works
Medication-assisted treatment is the process of using medications in addition to education, counseling and behavior therapies to treat addiction. Medication-assisted treatment is especially important in treating addiction to opiates. Suboxone helps patients regain a normal state of mind, free from withdrawal symptoms and cravings, so that they may focus on their recovery. Suboxone may produce pleasurable sensations, but does not produce the euphoric effects of an opioid high. Even if an individual takes more than the recommended dose, they will not experience a high from the medication. Instead, Suboxone tricks the brain into believing it has opioids in the system, causing the suppression of withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Suboxone is a long-acting drug that stays in receptors for up to 24 hours. The medication is “stuck” in receptors, which means that even if an individual uses an opioid, the drug will block the effects, preventing users from experiencing highs.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Suboxone Treatment
Suboxone is one of the most popularly used medications because it has advantages over other, similar medications. Suboxone, for instance, suppresses withdrawal symptoms and cravings, blocks the effects of other opioids for at least 24 hours and does not cause euphoria in dependent patients. Suboxone is known, however, to produce some mild side effects that include headaches, nausea, sweating and mood swings. Generally, the medication works to stabilize a person’s emotional status as well, immediately relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. Those who use Suboxone as a component of their treatment have reported higher rates of successful sobriety compared to those who do not use this medication.
While Suboxone has its advantages, there are disadvantages in using the medication as well. Suboxone has addictive qualities that leave some individuals who overcome opioid addiction addicted to Suboxone instead. While it is considered a “milder” addiction, when not taken properly, individuals may find themselves replacing one addiction with another. The addictive potential of Suboxone makes other drugs, such as Naltrexone, a better alternative because it is able to block the effects of opioids without producing physical dependence or the ability to build tolerance. Naltrexone cannot be abused because it is not an opioid but a opioid receptor antagonist, meaning it does not produce pleasurable or euphoric effects but blocks the receptors and thus the person’s ability to get high. Unlike Suboxone, however, Naltrexone does not block withdrawal symptoms or cravings, making it important to assess an individual’s needs prior to prescribing one medication over another.
Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Addiction
The use of Suboxone and other medications in treatment greatly improves outcomes in recovery when taken properly. Depending on an individual’s history with addiction, Suboxone may not be the appropriate medication to prescribe. Suboxone should only used during the detoxification process to help individuals overcome debilitating side effects that interfere with recovery. While the use of medication in the initial stages of recovery is critical in helping an individual overcome arguably the most difficult phase, it is important that it is accompanied by therapies that support a sober lifestyle. While Suboxone helps treat the physical aspect of addiction, it is only one piece of overall recovery. Addiction affects an individual physically, mentally and emotionally, and requires a holistic approach to fully recover from its effects. Suboxone will help an individual get clean initially, but is not suitable for long-term maintenance of sobriety. Long-term sobriety is achievable with behavioral and environmental changes.