Suboxone is a prescription medication FDA-approved to treat opioid addiction. It is combined with the drugs buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is known as a partial agonist which relieves the symptoms of a powerful opiate withdrawal. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist which reverses the effect of opioid drugs.
While the drug for opiate withdrawal has shown effective through a variety of studies, Suboxone withdrawal symptoms can make it hard to stop. Suboxone is often a long time treatment for those recovering from addictive opioids like heroin. As it is addictive, staying on it for the necessary time causes a high risk of dependency. There are various Suboxone tapering plans that will last for up to 28 days. This is long enough to cause addiction to Suboxone.
The withdrawal effects are very much like quitting opioids if the “cold turkey” approach is attempted. It may be the less of two evils but should also be acknowledged as a prescription medication that can cause great problems in your life.
As Suboxone somewhat replicates effects of opioid drugs that are much stronger and addictive, it does have a place in recovery. It does minimize withdrawal symptoms and gives you the chance to recover gradually. The problem is that Suboxone can also be very addictive. Here’s what you should know about Suboxone withdrawal.
Risks of Taking Suboxone
Aside from the potential of dependence on Suboxone, there are other health risks. If people become dependent on it, they may start to abuse it. This can be anything from crushing it or simply taking bigger doses than prescribed. It also can become dangerous if you mix with other drugs like antidepressants, narcotic pain medication, sleeping pills or other sedatives. Drinking while on Suboxone pose major health risks.
Vivitrol vs. Suboxone
A study compared Vivitrol and Suboxone on their anti-addiction capabilities. What they found was that they are both equally effective for treatment. Vivitrol, which contains naltrexone, is an injection that lasts for 28 days. It is non-addictive so the addict will have to make it through detox prior to receiving Vivitrol. Vivitrol is just as effective in preventing relapse once treatment start says a Lancet study. Where Suboxone can cause dependence, Vivitrol has the same success rate with no tapering once treatment subsides.
What Makes Suboxone Effective?
There are two ingredients that make up this prescription medication to help people with their opioid addiction. Suboxone has buprenorphine and naloxone in it. They work together to help people get off much stronger drugs. Buprenorphine mimics effects of opioid drugs that are highly dangerous and addictive like heroin. It is challenging for people to withdraw and manage getting off full agonist opioids. Buprenorphine helps by giving the addict a dose of the effect they miss so withdrawal is less intense.
Naloxone is the opioid antagonist that blocks effects of opioid drugs. It has stopped the effects of opioids during overdoses. Suboxone was designed to wean people off opioids and also minimizes the chance to overdose through self-medication.
Tapering Off Suboxone
Of course with Suboxone, there should be a strategic treatment plan from day 1 to avoid addiction. The whole idea is a progressive tapering method that reduces withdrawal symptom significantly. The dose reduction should be no more than 25% daily. The length of the tapering schedule can vary but the least amount of time is ideal. Some plans will include reducing Suboxone doses every day. Other plans may reduce doses every few days. Dose reduction schedules may become a tapering plan that lasts up to 28 days. Others may have a plan that is just seven.
A study found that there is no major difference on effectiveness when you compare the 7-day and 28 day tapering plans. One difference was that patients were more satisfied with the 28-day treatment.
The Suboxone Effects
As buprenorphine is an opioid, it can produce similar effects to drugs like heroin or methadone. This includes the feeling of euphoria and relaxation. The effects of buprenorphine are much less than the full agonists when taken properly. The feeling one gets from taking Suboxone makes it potentially habit forming.
Another issue with Suboxone is the abuse factor. Suboxone can be crushed and then snorted or injected. This can give nearly the same effect as morphine or heroin. Some people will mix buprenorphine and methadone together which causes the effect of enhancing them both. Those who abuse methadone will often seek out Suboxone because of the buprenorphine.
Withdrawing from Suboxone
The fact that Suboxone withdrawal cold turkey symptoms occur when a person abstains speaks a lot of the dependency risks. Whenever you take Suboxone, you should be in close communication with your doctor throughout the process. When the decision has been made to stop using Suboxone, you’ll want to speak with your doctor. They can help you learn how to deal with Suboxone withdrawal.
Withdrawing from Suboxone can be different in severity and length for everyone. It depends how long the person was taking it and what the dose was. Usually the physical Suboxone withdrawal symptoms will dissipate after one month. There is still a possibility that psychological dependency will exist for longer.
Physical Signs of Suboxone Withdrawal
As Suboxone leaves the body for someone who is dependent on it, there are physical symptoms that will arise. These can include symptoms such as:
- A feeling of heat or coolness in the body. It may change often with no notice or reason.
- There’s a possibility of feeling as though bugs are crawling on your body. Goosebumps may also come and go.
- You will likely feel exhausted as the body starts to detox.
- Pain and cramps in the muscles all throughout the body.
- Cravings for Suboxone or opioids that are physical and mental.
- Night sweats may occur due to the fact that you’d been dehydrated by Suboxone and now it’s being released. Also, it’s a good sign if you’re sweating because the body is removing Suboxone from the system.
- As Suboxone impacts the brain’s opioid receptors, it can cause nausea which may lead to vomiting.
- Withdrawing from Suboxone can cause you to lose your appetite.
- You may experience diarrhea.
- Insomnia often occurs through Suboxone withdrawal.
Suboxone Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
Suboxone floods the brain with dopamine which tends to make you feel happier and at ease. When that’s taken away, it can cause psychological withdrawal symptoms that can include:
- You may feel irritable and moody.
- Depression and suicidal thoughts may occur.
- You can become highly anxious as you deal with living normally again. There is a fear of not having Suboxone and feeling as though that feeling will never end.
- Withdrawal can bring mental health problems to surface.
Suboxone Withdrawal in Detail
Some may try Suboxone detox at home cold turkey. This isn’t the recommended method and there is plenty of other options. Withdrawal from Suboxone is multi-stage process. Throughout the phases, various symptoms will arise. Drug rehabilitation clinics will give the addict a safe place to detox with constant supervision. Treatment is administered during this challenging phases of Suboxone withdrawal that make it easier to manage. Here is what you can expect in terms of the Suboxone withdrawal timeline:
Usually within 6 – 12 hours since the last time Suboxone was taken, withdrawal symptoms such as muscle pain, diarrhea and nausea may occur. You may begin to experience anxiety and moodiness. It is not usually very intense on day 1. The symptoms will however begin to occur.
Symptoms from day 1 will escalate and become worse. Some will say that the first few days aren’t that bad while others say the first 72 hours are the hardest. Typical opiate withdrawal symptoms may occur which includes hot/cold flashes, a feeling that something is crawling on your skin, and no appetite. You will likely feel a lot anxiety and irritability during the second day.
Withdrawal symptoms will likely be at their worse on day 3. The normal symptoms that happen within the first few days after getting off Suboxone are at their height on days 3 and 4. Your stomach may turn in knots, there will be a sense of something crawling on you all the time and extreme hot/cold flashes. It may be the worst day for moodiness and irritability.
As the body continues to eliminate Suboxone, you may find it challenging to sleep. Insomnia is quite common. Psychological withdrawal symptoms may likely start to kick in at this point too. It could include anxiety and irritability. Mild hallucinations may occur once you make it to day 4. This could also be due to lack of sleep for some.
While many will begin to feel as they’ve made it past the most challenging part of Suboxone withdrawal, there might be pain in the joints and muscles of varying degrees. You should start to get your appetite back. Emotions are likely to run high and if you haven’t already broken down and cried by day 5, you might do it today. At the same time, you may also be starting to feel like yourself again. It may feel like a turning point.
Depression may feel like the hardest during day 6. It may have begun on day 4 or 5 and you’ll wonder if it’s there to stay. The depression does last up to 4 days historically. Insomnia can begin to create havoc in one’s life if you haven’t been able to sleep. Day 6 will likely bring moments of good as well as bad.
Pain may increase such as back pain or just a deep muscular pain that can be from slight to debilitating. This may be part of the reason it’s challenging to sleep, although insomnia is also likely during this time. You may be able to start sleeping again and symptoms may feel much less intense. Fatigue is common during this time but it’s manageable.
Day 8 will have you feeling better than the last. There may be some pain and of course the psychological withdrawal symptoms are far from over. It’s just going to be much easier because of the reduction of intensity with any symptom you experienced over the week.
Once you get into the second week of Suboxone withdrawal, you may be feeling physically better but you may start to feel depressed. This is when talk therapy can be a valuable tool.
Managing Detox for Suboxone
Suboxone detox at home cold turkey is not recommended because ultimately, it’s just not that successful. The best option is an inpatient addiction center but there is a more convenient option of outpatient detox and rehabilitation also. There are physical and physiological withdrawal symptoms you will have to cope with. This is why there is a high relapse rate.
Tools for Managing Opioid Addiction Without Medication
As Suboxone really is just meant to get a person off stronger opioids like heroin, it is the last drug to get past in the journey to recovery. Suboxone tapering should be part of the process when someone is recovering from opioid addiction. It should be done slowly and intentionally through guidance of your doctor or addiction specialist.
When Suboxone becomes the object of your addiction, it doesn’t serve you as an opioid recovery method. This means that you’ll now have to detox from Suboxone and potentially manage your original addiction. Going on further medication may not be the solution for you. You will likely have to find holistic means to getting past your addiction.
Firstly, you’ll want to work with addiction professionals to help you form a plan. Here are some of the means available to help you detox from Suboxone:
- Peer support.
- Different styles of therapy that help to manage the physical withdrawal symptoms.
- Relapse prevention education.
Suboxone Non-Medical Withdrawal Remedies
There are many ways that you can withdraw from Suboxone. Some of the strategies can be done at home while others are available at addiction treatment facilities. Addiction therapists are essential in helping you understand emotions that you might be feeling during Suboxone withdrawal. Some healthy alternatives include:
Physical Activity – Exercise is going to help you stay relaxed and at ease while coping with Suboxone addiction. Endless studies have found that exercise is essential in addiction recovery. This is thanks to the natural boost of endorphins that occur. This is especially important when it comes to withdrawal from drugs. It helps redevelop the brain from the damage it’s gone through and straightens out the chemical imbalance.
A Healthy Diet – Proper nutrition also has a major effect on addiction recovery. As your body copes with the lack of buprenorphine, it will feel uncomfortable in your own skin. Food can actually soothe this feeling. The best kind of food to eat are fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Even if you’re feeling hungry (which is common when you’re going through opioid withdrawal), eat regularly.
Drink Plenty of Water – When you’re going through Suboxone withdrawal, you will feel dehydrated for a variety of reasons. Some of the withdrawal symptoms is vomiting, diarrhea, and sweating. You can actually become dangerously intoxicated so it’s important to drink a lot of water. You’ll feel much better for it as it flushes toxins out of your body faster. Hot herbal tea can be relaxing but also just drink a lot of water at room temperature.
Socializing – This may seem like a strange suggestion for addiction recovery but being social can be extremely helpful. Perhaps the reason 12-Step programs are so helpful is because they allow you to feel deeply supported. This is really important when you’re coping with Suboxone withdrawal. Reach out to people in your life.
Is Suboxone Addictive?
Sadly, what can be a means to get over addiction can also cause addiction. Suboxone can be a highly useful tool when someone is detoxing from a highly dangerous, illicit opioid. The problem arises when it’s abused. The tapering schedule for Suboxone can be long enough to cause dependency. Trading one drug for another is not the ideal way of recovering from addiction. There is a danger to using Suboxone for opioid addiction.
For those using Suboxone as part of their recovery journey, there should also be holistic therapy. Opioid addiction needs to include a variety of methods to truly get over it. You have to understand your reasons on why you started using. You need to be educated on what addiction is and you need to make major changes in your life to ensure you don’t relapse. Suboxone has its place in opioid addiction recovery but there is also the danger of dependency.