Suboxone Addiction: The Dangers of Long-Term Suboxone Use
“Doctors often times are over-prescribing. It’s difficult to tell how much a person needs. What most people don’t understand is this drug is a narcotic. It’s safer if taken as prescribed and under a doctor’s supervision, but this drug is as dangerous as other narcotics. So, if used properly, it can be very effective. If it becomes a street drug, it can be very dangerous.”
~ Eric D. Wish, Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University Of Maryland
Suboxone addiction is just as real and almost as prevalent as addictions to other types of opiate drugs. For example, heroin addiction, oxycodone addiction and Percocet addiction are all quite familiar to most people. However, you also may be familiar with a drug called Suboxone, which was designed as a way to help those with opiate addictions to stop using these drugs safely. Even though it can be effective, and even though it has allowed some people to recover from their addictions, the risks involved with using it far outweigh the benefits. In fact, some would argue that the idea of using an opiate drug to stop someone from using other opiate drugs seems somewhat absurd. Many experts in the addiction treatment industry agree with that way of thinking.
For someone who is addicted to opioid drugs, introducing Suboxone can become a way of trading one addiction for another. Unfortunately, this happens all the time in the United States, and so many people have formed a secondary addiction to Suboxone when they actually had the best of intentions of leaving their addictions behind for good when they started taking it.
What is Suboxone? Your Questions About This Drug Answered
Suboxone is a medication that contains both buprenorphine and naloxone. It is an opioid medication that is often referred to as a narcotic. It works by blocking the effects of other opioid medications. It does not allow the effects of pain relief or feelings of euphoria to come through that are often associated with opioid abuse and addiction.
It might seem odd to think that it would be possible to become addicted to this medication when it is a drug that is used to help people stop their addictions. However, that happens more often than people think it does. Suboxone can be addictive even when it is taken at prescribed dosages.
Perhaps you have some questions about taking Suboxone that you’d like to have answered. Some of the most common questions people ask are:
Q: How do you know when to take Suboxone?
A: When you’re taking a drug like Suboxone, it’s important to wait the right amount of time after you’ve used heroin to take it. If you don’t wait, then you may end up experiencing precipitated withdrawal symptoms. When these symptoms occur, you’ll experience opioid withdrawal symptoms at a much more rapid pace than you normally would without the medication. Because heroin has a shorter half-life than some other drugs, it’s important to wait between 12 and 24 hours before you take Suboxone.
Q: How do you take Suboxone?
A: Suboxone comes in two different forms; a tablet form and medication on a film. Neither the films or the tablets are to be swallowed whole. They are taken and dissolved under the tongue.
Q: How do you use Suboxone, and how often do you take it?
A: Everyone is different as far as what dosage strength is right for them, and your doctor will advise you about how much you should take. Usually, people take Suboxone once or twice a day.
Q: How do you know if you’re taking Suboxone too soon after using heroin?
A: If you are taking Suboxone after heroin use, it’s important to wait the appropriate amount of time according to your doctor’s recommendation to avoid serious precipitated withdrawal. You’ll know if you haven’t waited long enough if you suddenly start to experience quick withdrawal symptoms. Most doctors agree that it’s best to wait until you start to experience a little bit of withdrawal to ensure that the drugs are out of your bloodstream.
Q: How long does it take for Suboxone to kick in?
A: When you’re struggling with withdrawal symptoms, of course, you’re going to want to know, how long does it take Suboxone to work? This is a medication that starts to work relatively quickly. Most people begin to see a change in their withdrawal symptoms within 1.5 or 2 hours after they take it. The most important thing you can do while taking Suboxone is to remain calm and let the medication work as it was intended to.
Q: How long after taking Suboxone can you get high?
A: Hopefully, if you’re using Suboxone, you’re not planning to use heroin or any other type of opiate drug to get high. However, if you do relapse, you should know that everyone is different as far as when they will be able to feel the effects of the drugs they’re using again. Some doctors say that it takes about 24 hours, while others caution their patients that they won’t be able to feel the effects for several days, or even weeks. Suboxone is a medication that was intended to block the effects of other opiates, and so, those who attempt to use while on the drug might take larger amounts than they should, which puts them at high risk for overdose. Obviously, it is never recommended for anyone to use heroin after Suboxone.
Q: Is it OK to take Suboxone after Methadone?
A: Methadone is another opioid medication that is also used to help people through the withdrawal symptoms associated with opiate addiction. However, it is also used to help people cope with pain. Because Methadone is an addictive medication, it is possible to become addicted to it, even if you are taking it in the prescribed dosages, if you use it long enough. The same rules apply when using Suboxone after Methadone. You need to be sure all of the Methadone is out of your bloodstream before you take Suboxone. This is a drug that has a longer half-life than some other opiates, so you may need to wait between 36 hours and a week before taking Suboxone in order to do it safely.
The Opioid Addiction Problem in the United States: How Bad is it Really?
It’s certainly true that the opioid problem in the United States is the worst it’s ever been. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called the country’s problem with prescription opioid painkiller overdoses an “epidemic.”
Other statistics indicate that:
- Every day in the United states, 44 people die because of an overdose on prescription opioid painkillers.
- In 2014, there were up to one million heroin-dependent people in the United States.
- That number is almost three times the number in 2003.
- 36 million people all over the world currently abuse opioid drugs.
- In the united States, more than 12 million people every year abuse prescription opioid drugs, and another 5 million people are chronic heroin users.
- The number of unintentional overdose deaths on prescription pain medications has quadrupled in the United States since 1999.
Once you begin using heroin, an addiction is quite probable. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 23% of the people who use heroin develop an opioid addiction. Also, many of these who start using heroin become addicted after their very first use of this toxic and potent drug.
This doesn’t even take into account the number of teens and youth that are currently using opiates.
- In 2015, there were 276,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 who reported nonmedical use of pain relievers.
- 122,000 of them had an addiction to prescription drugs.
- During that same year, 21,000 adolescents reported having used heroin at least once during the last year.
- 5,000 of them were current heroin users.
- In 2014, about 6,000 youth were diagnosed with a heroin use disorder.
- The number of prescriptions written for opioid drugs for adolescents and young adults nearly doubled between 1994 and 2007.
Yes, it is safe to say that the United States clearly has an epidemic on its hands, and opioid addiction is a problem that is clearly not going away. If anything, it’s only getting worse as time goes on.
Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms and the Reason Suboxone Was Created
Opiate withdrawal symptoms are the reasons that most people have such a hard time stopping their use of these drugs on their own, without professional help and guidance. These symptoms can cause a great deal of physical and emotional pain, which is what drives almost everyone back to taking opiates just so that they can get some relief from their symptoms.
A few of the symptoms people often experience include:
- Painful muscle cramps and these can be agonizing
- Hypertension (increase in blood pressure)
- Yawning excessively
- Bouts of insomnia
- Chronic runny nose
- Profusely sweating
- Extreme anxiety and restlessness
- Abdominal cramping
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bouts of diarrhea
- A faster heart rate (racing heart)
Taking Suboxone can provide relief for these and any other symptoms that may develop when you stop taking opiates. If you’re currently taking Suboxone, it was prescribed for you to help you through your withdrawal symptoms. Some people even experience complete relief from them, which is one reason why this drug is so popular among opiate addicts.
The Good News About Suboxone
The good news about Suboxone is that not only does it work well to help people through the early withdrawal stage – which is when most people are more likely to give up and go back to using drugs because a relapse – but it also effectively blocks the euphoric high of other opiate drugs. For example, if an individual is taking Suboxone properly, and then they attempt to abuse heroin or oxycodone, that person will not experience a high.
Because Suboxone is so effective at blocking the effects of opiates, it has been called one of the most important breakthroughs in addiction treatment in the last 30 years. This is especially true for those who are addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers.
How Does Suboxone Work in the Brain and Body?
For years, and even still today, Methadone was the drug of choice for those who presented with an opioid addiction. Methadone offered long-term opiate replacement therapy for those who need it, and it is actually very effective. People who used heroin or other opiates would simply take controlled doses of Methadone instead. The problem was that Methadone was also an opiate drug that was found to be very addicting.
In an effort to improve the outcomes for these patients, Suboxone was created. Suboxone works by binding to the opioid receptor in the brain, and this is the same area where opiates like morphine, heroin and prescription painkillers bind. Suboxone is considered to be a partial agonist, which is the main reason why it is such an effective part of addiction treatment and opioid detox.
When Suboxone is taken at lower doses, it suppresses pain the same way that other opiates do. At higher doses, it blocks the opioid receptor from getting stimulated any further. For the most part, when Suboxone is being taken correctly, it eases the worst of the addict’s withdrawal symptoms, and doctors are generally not too worried about whether or not he or she will abuse it.
Suboxone Addiction: The Bad News About This Medication
There are two different ways that Suboxone is used to help people recover from opiate addiction. The first way is during opiate detox, which is when the symptoms of withdrawal are generally at their worst. When used in a short-term setting, such as this one, Suboxone can be very effective at helping addicts remain free of the strong physical compulsions to use opioids.
The second way is the most problematic. Many doctors will treat patients who have long histories of opiate addiction, and because of their chronic abuse history, they will be placed on a Suboxone maintenance plan. During this time, the patient will be kept on Suboxone for a very long period of time. Some patients take it for months or even years. While the goal is to help keep cravings at bay until the addict’s brain slowly returns to normal, this solution is far from perfect.
There are many critics of the long-term Suboxone maintenance plan because they claim that these individuals are simply swapping one opiate, or one addiction, for another. Long-term maintenance using Suboxone only hinders a person’s ability to return to normal, and this is because research has shown that the body will only continue to create new opioid receptors as it decreases its production of endorphins.
Someone who is using Suboxone long-term is doing the exact opposite of attempting to live a drug-free life. The root of the addiction is never uncovered so that healing from the cause of the addiction can take place in the individual’s life. As a result, the person will often turn to other substances in order to ease that pain. Drugs like Xanax and cocaine are popular, and many Suboxone users will also start drinking alcohol, which is very dangerous when taking this medication.
In short, someone who is taking Suboxone is still an active addict because he or she is still taking opiates, and possibly using other substances as well.
Suboxone Abuse: Understanding the Potential
The potential for Suboxone abuse is evident, and usually, when addicts have their minds set on abusing a drug, they will figure out a way to be successful. Even though Suboxone was created as a way to help people stop taking other opiates, and even though there are many safeguards in place for this particular drug, it is still abused on a regular basis.
Users can easily take their Suboxone tablets and crush them and then snort the powder. Some physicians give their patients Suboxone on films or strips, which are supposed to be dissolved under the tongue. One way around this is to melt down the film strips and then inject the liquid that results from that.
It’s also important to note that as more and more regulations are put on Suboxone and the doctors who prescribe it, the more it seems it be supporting the heroin industry. Suboxone is getting to be more expensive, and there aren’t many practitioners who are authorized to prescribe it, which makes it harder to obtain. For these reasons, people who do manage to get their hands on some will often sell it in order to get heroin, which is much cheaper, and much easier for them to get.
The Long-Term Dangers of Suboxone Use Explained
It seems as though there are more and more stories of Suboxone diversion with every passing year, and many experts are realizing the fact that this type of medication might not be the best solution for long-term recovery from opiate addiction. The goal of successful and healthy addiction recovery is to actually recover. Recovery does not mean “not getting any worse,” but it does imply that life will get better because the addict will return to a life that’s free of active addiction to drugs.
A drug addiction is a disease for which there is no cure, and for which there is no single best treatment option for everyone. In order to battle an active addiction, it’s important to engage the disease on several fronts:
- The physical front
- The chemical front
- The mental front
- The emotional front
- The nutritional front
- The environmental front
Doing so helps to restore stability, balance, and manageability to the individual’s life. That is the goal of recovery, or at least it should be when recovery is defined in the right way.
When Suboxone is used as the primary means of recovery in a long-term maintenance plan, the individual receiving the treatment is only placed in a holding pattern, and never actually improves. What’s more, the potential for addiction to Suboxone, or for going back to heroin or opiate use is quite high. Suboxone becomes a crutch instead of a tool that is used to achieve sobriety and recovery. It must be stated that depending on any drug – even though it may be beneficial – to achieve a life that’s free of drug addiction is a serious contradiction in terms.
Opiate Addiction: Alternative Treatment Methods
Fortunately, there are other ways to treat opiate addiction in those who need it, and drugs like Suboxone are not necessarily the right option for everyone; particularly those who might otherwise be placed on a long-term Suboxone maintenance plan.
Many physicians believe that the best way to start treating addiction to Suboxone or to prescription pain medications is, to begin with giving their patients tapering dosages of their medications. This can help to wean patients off of them carefully and slowly. It presents less of a shock to the system, and even though there may be withdrawal symptoms that occur, these are generally minimized when the medications are tapered.
It is important to note that tapering should only be done by a trained professional or a physician who understands the effects of the medications and the proper way to do it. Tapering a medication too slowly or too quickly can have adverse effects that can make recovery from the opioid addiction even more difficult.
Even though many drug treatment centers rely on medical detox as a way to help patients overcome their withdrawal symptoms, because this method has been proven to be largely ineffective in the long-term, a holistic detox method is starting to be the preferred option.
During holistic drug detox, patients may or may not undergo tapering of their medications first. This is very individualized according to each patient’s needs. So much is known today about the benefits of nutrition and how it can have such a profound effect on the body. When someone is using opiates regularly, quite often, the drugs become their “food.” In other words, they rarely eat healthy, nutritious food on a regular basis because they’re so focused on using the drugs. That means that the body is depleted of all of the vitamins and nutrients that are needed to process toxins in order to remove them from the body efficiently. These toxins are what are causing the withdrawal symptoms to occur.
With holistic detox, nutrition is a major component because it conditions the body to do what it was designed to do and remove those toxins from the body.
Another major component of holistic detox is the addition of physical exercise and activity. The body will also excrete toxins through the pores, through sweat. When these and other therapeutic methods are combined, the result is a body that is able to get through the withdrawal phase much faster than with medications, or by using the “cold turkey” quitting method.
How Long Does it Take to Detox From Suboxone?
People who have become addicted to Suboxone will experience withdrawal symptoms when the medication is stopped. These withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to handle, and without professional help, the risk of relapsing back into using Suboxone is very real.
Some of the more common Suboxone withdrawal symptoms include:
- Problems with concentration
- Hot or cold sweats
- Painful headaches
- Cravings for the drug
- Nausea and vomiting
- Insomnia at night and drowsiness during the day
- Problems with indigestion
- Mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression
- Irritability and anger
- Body aches
As far as the Suboxone withdrawal timeline goes, during the first 72 hours, the physical symptoms of withdrawal tend to be at their worst. The peak usually occurs sometime between day 3 and 7. At the one week mark, you can expect to experience body aches, pains, insomnia and mood swings. By the second week, symptoms of depression may start to set in, and at the one-month mark, depression, and cravings should be the only symptoms that remain.
Getting the right kind of Suboxone addiction treatment can go a long way toward shortening the duration of withdrawal and even minimize these and any other symptoms you might experience during your recovery. Detoxing from Suboxone is always recommend, and of course, it is important to get professional help at a Suboxone rehab in order to get to the root cause of your addiction so that you can heal the right way.
Are You Addicted to Suboxone? Get Help From Northpoint Recovery
A Suboxone addiction is possible anytime you have been taking this drug in order to help you cope with the withdrawal symptoms because of your opiate addiction. Even though doctors prescribe Suboxone with the best of intentions, because it is an opioid, the risk of addiction should never be ignored or taken lightly. So many people have become addicted to this drug when they thought that it would help them to recover from their addictions.
Fortunately, there are alternate methods of recovery available for you if you have an opiate addiction, or if you have become addicted to Suboxone. Here at Northpoint Recovery, we know how serious your addiction is, and we understand that in order for you to experience recovery to the fullest, it’s important to ensure that you don’t form a secondary or a cross-addiction in the process. We’re very committed to helping our patients recover from drug addiction the right way, through utilizing holistic methods that have been proven to work and keep you safe.
Are you looking for help with your Suboxone addiction, or are you concerned about your long-term Suboxone use? If you are, we can help you. Please contact us today.