Suboxone is the first opioid approved for the treatment of opioid dependence in an office based setting. Suboxone may be dispensed by an approved physician or taken at home just like any other medication. This means that patients addicted to opioids may now choose to receive opiate-based treatment as an outpatient instead of in a hospital setting. Patients are evaluated and treated during office visits and receive a prescription for suboxone which they may fill at any pharmacy.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is dispensed in 2 mg and 8 mg orally dissolving tabs and is comprised of two separate medications: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning its opioid effects are significantly reduced compared to that of full opioid agonists, such as vicodin or heroin. The naloxone in suboxone is not appreciably absorbed from the digestive track when suboxone is taken orally and is in place to prevent the misuse of suboxone by injection drug users. The combination of these two medications leads to suboxone’s effectiveness in treating opioid dependence.
How Suboxone Works
The buprenorphine in suboxone attaches to empty opioid receptors located in the patient’s brain, suppressing withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings. While the buprenorphine is attached to the opioid receptors, patients are unable to feel the rush and euphoria from opioids such as heroin, vicodin, or oxycontin. This is because the buprenorphine blocks all other opiates from binding to the opiate receptors in the brain. Suboxone is placed below the tongue and allowed to dissolve for a period of 5 to 10 minutes. The patient is instructed not to swallow their saliva during this period. This allows the buprenorphine to be absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.
How Suboxone Treatment Works
Suboxone treatment is entirely different from that of standard opioid treatment methods like “cold turkey” detox and methadone maintenance. “Cold turkey” detox is when the user discontinues the use of all opiates, thus causing the body to go into full opiate withdrawal. This opiate withdrawal is painful for the patient both mentally and physically, and due to the severity of this pain, many patients will relapse back to using opiates.
Methadone treatment requires a patient to visit a clinic on a daily basis to receive a prescribed dose of methadone. Once beginning methadone, patients may be gradually weaned off of the drug or may continue its use indefinitely, an approach known as maintenance therapy. Methadone can be abused by the patient and may even be used in conjunction with other opiates like heroin which may lead to a fatal overdose.
Like methadone, suboxone may be used to slowly wean the user from opioids or for long term maintenance therapy, but suboxone treatment differs from methadone treatment in several important ways. Firstly, a prescription for suboxone can be obtained at a specially licensed physician’s office and filled at any pharmacy. This means the patient does not have to make daily visits to a methadone clinic in order to receive their medication. Secondly, because suboxone is a mixture of naloxone and buprnorphine, a partial opiate agonist with a long duration of action, the potential for abuse and overdose are much less than with methadone. Thirdly, because buprenorphine is a partial opiate agonist, suboxone may be easier to taper off of than full opiate agonists like methadone.
Suboxone treatment begins when the opiate patient is in mild withdrawal. The initial doses of suboxone are given in a physician’s office as part of an induction period designed to find a comfortable daily dose for the patient called the maintenance level. The maintenance level is defined by a lack of withdrawal symptoms and the ability of the patient to function comfortably. Typical maintenance level range from 12mg-16 mg. Once the maintenance level is reached, suboxone is administered once daily. The full maintenance dose is taken at one time, normally in the morning. Once the maintenance dose has been reached, the patient may decide to taper off suboxone at any point thereafter. The tapering period typically lasts 2-4 weeks but may be substantially longer depending on the amount of the maintenance dose. During this tapering period, the daily suboxone dose is typically decreased every 2-5 days until the patient is free of suboxone and opiates entirely.
Who Should Take Suboxone?
Suboxone is designed for anyone addicted to opiates. Opiate addiction affects people from all walks of life, from the executive addicted to vicodin or oxycontin to the young heroin addict. Suboxone offers hope to all who suffer from addiction to opiates.
If you or someone you know is suffering from deoendence upon vicodin, oxycontin, oxycodone, percocet, morphine, fentanyl, dilaudid, heroin, opium, or any other opiate, please contact us today for a free referral to a certified physician offering suboxone.
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Drug Addiction Q&A
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