Suboxone: The Ultimate Treatment Guide

Suboxone is an effective form of medication-assisted treatment that is FDA-approved for reducing withdrawal symptoms caused by opioid use disorder. Suboxone is an essential part of the harm reduction approach to substance use treatment.

What Is Suboxone?

The answer to what is suboxone is twofold. Suboxone is the brand name of a prescription drug that mitigates the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. The drug suboxone itself is composed of two ingredients: Buprenorphine, a weak form of opioid, and naloxone, the standalone drug Narcan.

So, how does suboxone work as a treatment for substance abuse? When administered during the detox process, suboxone treatment reduces opioid cravings. The substance binds to the body’s opioid receptors, making them less responsive to opioids such as heroin and fentanyl.

Suboxone is dispensed as a sublingual film. The patient holds the strip inside of their mouth, either under their tongue or inside their cheek, until it dissolves.  Suboxone is much less addictive than other opioids and is a safer substitute for managing withdrawal symptoms.

Suboxone Statistics

Suboxone is an effective and widely accepted form of treatment. Since the drug was approved in 2003, more than 3 million individuals have received suboxone in the United States.

60% of people who use suboxone in their treatment maintain their sobriety long-term.

Despite its effectiveness, suboxone treatment is not easily accessible. Less than 15% of people with opioid use disorder are offered suboxone or other medication-assisted treatments.

Only 1 out of 4 public addiction treatment centers and half of all private ones are licensed to deliver medication-assisted treatment.

Top Uses of Suboxone

Suboxone withdrawal treatment is the primary use of the drug. In this case, suboxone is during detox used to reduce addictive cravings and minimize painful withdrawal symptoms. The drug can also prevent overdoses.

Suboxone is sometimes used for a longer timeframe to help with other conditions, such as preventing substance use related-depression.

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What Are Suboxone Alternatives?

There are some situations where suboxone is not the best option for treatment. In these cases, treatment specialists may recommend one of the following alternatives.

Subutex is the brand name for buprenorphine. Naloxone is not suitable for all populations, such as pregnant women or people with naloxone sensitivity. In these cases, Subutex is a better option than Suboxone.

Methadone functions similarly to Suboxone in reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Since methadone is stronger than suboxone, it is recommended for individuals with very high opioid tolerance.

Suboxone vs Buprenorphine

Suboxone contains a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. However, naloxone can cause serious side effects in some populations. Pure buprenorphine, sold as Subutex, is a viable alternative for these patients. However, Subutex is more addictive than Suboxone.

Suboxone vs Naltrexone

While suboxone can help people going through active opioid withdrawal, naltrexone is a medication-assisted treatment that is only available to individuals after completing detox. The drug acts on the brain’s opioid receptors to reduce cravings and prevent relapse.

Suboxone vs Methadone

Methadone is a much older drug than Suboxone and has been in use since the 1950s. Methadone is stronger and more addictive than suboxone. Since the risk of overdose and addiction are much higher with methadone, the treatment must be delivered in a clinical setting. This can make methadone treatment difficult to maintain over the long term.

Side Effects of Suboxone

As with all forms of medication-assisted treatment, suboxone does have side effects. Some of the most common include drowsiness, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, and numbness.

Side effects are more likely if suboxone is stopped cold turkey or taken in very high doses. While overdosing on Suboxone is rare, it is possible.


When Should You Not Use Suboxone?

Suboxone is not recommended for people who are allergic to either buprenorphine or naloxone. Common adverse reactions to suboxone include swelling and breathing issues.

Suboxone is also dangerous for developing fetuses and newborns. For this reason, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing. Suboxone is approved for treating adults and adolescents over 15 years old. Younger patients may require alternative treatments.

Suboxone can be addictive and even cause withdrawal symptoms. However, this rarely occurs under medically-supervised use.

What Class of Drug Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a type of opioid. It reacts with the same brain receptors as heroin, morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl.

Can Suboxone Be Taken in Tandem With Other Medications?

It depends. Suboxone can have mild to serious interactions with other medications and substances. For example, suboxone is not recommended for individuals taking sedatives like benzodiazepines or antihistamines.

Some antivirals, antibiotics, and antifungals can magnify the effects of Suboxone. Alcohol can also worsen suboxone side effects and increase the risk of fatally low blood pressure. Patients going through alcohol withdrawal should not receive suboxone to treat co-occurring opioid addiction.


When Is It Safe to Take Suboxone?

Suboxone is most effectively used during active withdrawal. Addiction treatment specialists recommend taking a dose at least one hour after opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings appear. This usually occurs within the first day of abstinence.

People with liver damage may require lower doses of suboxone. Before starting treatment, doctors will run functional tests to assess liver function. Suboxone is not recommended for patients with respiratory problems.

While suboxone doesn’t require medical supervision, taking the drug under a doctor’s care can prevent serious side effects and complications. Suboxone is also only one aspect of addiction treatment. It is best combined with other approaches, including talk and experimental therapies, lifestyle changes, holistic modalities, and healthy nutrition.

Is Suboxone Taken Daily?

Suboxone is prescribed for daily use and taken after the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Some people take suboxone temporarily and stop once cravings subside. However, it is also possible to take suboxone for long-term use to prevent relapse.

Final Thoughts

Suboxone is a safe and effective treatment for most people going through opioid withdrawal. If you are ready to take the first step of your sobriety journey, Crownview Medical Group is a certified and registered suboxone provider. Our caring, qualified staff can support you the entire way from detoxification to long-term relapse prevention. Contact us today and learn more about how we can help you.

CALL US AT (619) 435-5400