At Southeast Addiction Center we recognize the sensitive nature that surrounds the process of seeking and receiving care for mental health concerns and substance abuse issues.
Suboxone detox is a challenging but necessary first step in the recovery process. Like all detox programs, its chief goal is to rid the body of a given substance in a safe and relatively comfortable way. However, suboxone detox also has features that are unique to it. In the following sections, we’ll examine the suboxone detox process in some detail.
Before we get to that, however, it’s important that you have a reasonably deep understanding of suboxone and what it’s typically used to treat.
What is Suboxone?
In pharmacological terms, suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, although buprenorphine is the main active ingredient. Buprenorphine is an opiate drug that is similar to methadone, while naloxone attaches itself to the opioid receptors and blocks the typical opioid’s euphoric effects.
This is a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s sufficient to explain why Suboxone is an effective component of medication-assisted treatment programs. This is a subject we’ll return to in just a bit.
Buprenorphine and Naloxone
However, buprenorphine is actually a partial opioid agonist. Partial agonists act on the brain’s opioid receptors, but to a much lesser degree than drugs like heroin, morphine, and opium.
Because buprenorphine is an opioid drug, it is very effective at reducing the agonizing withdrawal symptoms of full opioid agonists. Taken by itself, buprenorphine would have effects that are very similar to stronger opioid drugs. The key to buprenorphine’s effectiveness in treat opiate withdrawal is the fact that these effects are greatly reduced.
The other active ingredient in suboxone is naloxone. Unlike buprenorphine, naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of full agonist opioid drugs. Naloxone serves to prevent the buprenorphine from getting the patient high.
The two components work very well together when they are used on a tapering schedule over an extended period of time. When Suboxone is taken properly, naloxone allows the buprenorphine to activate the opioid receptors just enough to reduce the withdrawal symptoms associated with full agonist drugs like Oxycontin and heroin, but not enough to let it produce a powerful high.
How is Suboxone Typically Used?
Suboxone was developed to help people stop using opioids. Physicians typically prescribe it for persons who have used opioid drugs long enough to develop powerful addictions. Suboxone can be administered in either tablet or liquid form and it blocks the effects of drugs such as methadone, heroin, and other full agonist opioids.
This allows the person to experience a milder form of withdrawal without the enticing sense of euphoria that usually comes with opioid substances. This is why it works so well in the context of a medication-assisted treatment program. When used in conjunction with various forms of cognitive and behavioral forms, suboxone increases the former addict’s chances for long term recovery significantly.
Is Suboxone Addictive?
When thinking about suboxone withdrawal, it’s important to remember that it is far less addictive than most opioid drugs. Remember– suboxone is a partial opioid agonist. This means that it stimulates the opioid receptor cells to a much lower degree than drugs like morphine, heroin, or oxycodone. The presence of naloxone reduces the stimulation of the opioid receptors even more. In short, suboxone is not addictive in the way that we usually think of the word.
However, this does not mean that someone using suboxone won’t experience withdrawal symptoms. Despite the factors we mentioned above, suboxone does contain an opioid drug, and any member of this class of medications is bound to lead to some level of withdrawal symptoms.
In the following sections, we’ll discuss these withdrawal symptoms and the various ways that a medically supervised suboxone detox can make them easier to manage.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
Like with other opioid drugs, people who stop taking suboxone abruptly will experience both physical and psychological symptoms. First, we’ll look at some physical withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms tend to appear 6-12 hours after the last dosage and can include:
- Hot or cold sensations all over the body
- A sudden feeling of fatigue that results of the metabolic work the body does during withdrawal
- Cramps and other muscle aches in various parts of the body
- Some people experience psychological and/or physical drug cravings
- Excessive sweating that comes from Suboxone’s tendency to cause dehydration
- Nausea, vomiting, and generalized abdominal discomfort
- Loss of appetite
Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
For some suboxone users, the psychological withdrawal symptoms are more difficult to tolerate. Here are some of the most common psychological or emotional that users experience when they stop taking suboxone abruptly:
- Mood swings that arise when the brain stops receiving the high amount of dopamine that suboxone creates
- It is very natural to feel anxious or depressed when you stop taking suboxone. These feelings will subside over time, but it is common practice for a suboxone detox to be on guard against extreme manifestations of them.
- Underlying co-occurring disorders can also manifest themselves during suboxone detox.
As you can see, the possible withdrawal symptoms that can arise during suboxone withdrawal range from uncomfortable to alarming and should be taken very seriously. The possible severity of these symptoms is one of the main reasons that a medically supervised detox is recommended.
Suboxone Detox: What to Expect
The only way to detox safely (and in relative comfort) from suboxone is through a medically supervised detox process. Again, the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms typically appear between 6-12 hours after the last dose is taken. Everyone experiences detox a little differently, but it is very common for these symptoms to worsen after the first 48 hours and remain acute for several days afterward.
A medically supervised suboxone detox offers a precise tapering schedule along with various non-addictive drugs to keep their clients’ discomfort to a minimum. Obviously, this is of great value in an of itself, but it’s important to understand that a professional detox also decreases the chances of a realapse later in the recovery process.
In other words, the measures a professional detox takes during suboxone withdrawal make it more likely that clients will achieve long-term recovery instead of returning to an actively addicted state.
In conclusion, please remember that there simply isn’t any reason to go through suboxone withdrawal without the help and support that a professional detox can offer. If you or a loved one is struggling with suboxone withdrawal, please seek help immediately.
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