Opioid addiction is now a crisis in the United States with over 2.5 million Americans suffering from opioid use disorder which led to more than 28,000 overdose deaths in 2014. It is a chronic disease that can trigger health, social, and economic problems. Along with therapy, a major treatment for opioid addiction includes suboxone.

What Is Suboxone? 

Suboxone is a fixed-dose combination medication that includes buprenorphine and naloxone, two of the drugs legally prescribed by the FDA. The medication is being increasingly used for helping people suffering from opioid addiction as it reduces the risk of overdose on other drugs like heroin by 50%.

Understanding Opioids 

Opioids are a class of drugs that primarily produce pain-relieving effects. While opioids are used for medical uses, such as suppression of diarrhea and replacement therapy for opioid use disorder, many people use them illegally to get euphoric effects or to prevent withdrawal. Some of the commonly abused opioids include heroin, fentanyl, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and methadone.

As the FDA has approved a few of the opioids for legal medical use, people misuse the drugs for recreational purposes and often get in the rut of tolerance (when you need a higher dosage to achieve the same results).

How Does Suboxone Work? 

Suboxone or the combination medication was approved for medical use in the U.S in October 2002 with over one million prescriptions to date. The medication primarily works by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid use disorder.

Suboxone is taken in two forms: under the tongue or in the cheek. Buprenorphine is considered the major ingredient in Suboxone and acts as an opioid partial agonist, meaning it acts like an opioid that produces relatively weak opioid effects.

Buprenorphine has a high binding affinity which allows it to block other opioids from activating the opioid receptors in your brain, preventing the misuse of other opioid drugs. Being a partial agonist, it contains a lower risk of overdose and helps reduce the risk of respiratory depression ( slowed breathing), a major side effect of opioid overdose.

Speaking of Naloxone, it is an opioid antagonist medicine that is used to reduce the dangerous effects of opioid overdose. It is also included in Suboxone to restrict the misuse of buprenorphine when consumed in higher doses. Suboxone treatment insists on better long-term outcomes with a lower risk of overdose.

Suboxone Treatment for Opioid Addiction: Benefits 

Considering its efficacy in the treatment of opioid addiction, it is a recommended first-line medication as per the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Below are some of the benefits of Suboxone treatment for opioid addiction.

Less Habit-Forming

Suboxone for opioid addiction is popular as it is less habit-forming than methadone. Methadone is an opioid analgesic and is used to reduce dependence on opioids and relieve pain. Suboxone medication was initially developed to fight opioid addiction and is known to have a lower risk of dependency.

Blocks the Opioid Effect 

The opioid effect is when you intake opioid agonists (like heroin and morphine) and they activate the pain-blocking receptors in your brain which exhibit euphoria and pleasure. However, taking opioid antagonists stops the effects of opioids by preventing them from binding to those pain receptors.

And suboxone belongs to the class of opioid antagonists which are generally used in MAT (medication-assisted treatment). This is how suboxone blocks the opioid effect and reduces the cravings for drugs.

Long-Acting Effects 

Suboxone acts as one part of recovery and is designed to provide long-acting effects to the patients. It comes in the forms of a tablet and a sublingual film, and both methods of administration offer the same results. The medication works well in combination with counseling and psychosocial support.

Also Read: How Suboxone Treatment For Drug Addiction Work

Side Effects of Suboxone Use

Just like any other medication, suboxone also has side effects similar to buprenorphine and other opioids. Some of the common side effects of Suboxone include:

  • Headaches
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • vomiting
  • Opioid withdrawal syndrome
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Constipation
  • Tongue pain
  • Redness in the mouth
  • Swelling in arms and legs

Other Treatments for Opioid Addiction

The common reason for relapse is the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms. Taking long-term medications along with talk therapies can bring effective results. Here are the common treatments for opioid addiction:

  • Medications
  • Counseling and behavioral therapies
  • Residential treatment

Also Read: How The Treatment Of Suboxone For Addiction Works

Medications

As mentioned earlier, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a popular treatment option that includes the combination treatment of medication along with counseling and other social support. Other than suboxone, common medications to treat opioid addiction are Methadone and Naltrexone.

Methadone is an opioid agonist which helps in the elimination of withdrawal symptoms and reduces drug cravings by acting on opioid receptors in the brain. The medicine has been used as a potential treatment for opioid addiction for more than 40 years. Buprenorphine and methadone are on the same scale in terms of effectiveness.

Naltrexone is another medication that does not produce tolerance or withdrawal and was approved to be taken in a pill form. Comparatively, the use of naltrexone for opioid addiction is new and suggested to be effective by medical experts. These medications are prescribed by a doctor under a structured drug detoxification program or for maintenance therapy if required.

If you live in California and are looking for a licensed doctor to take suboxone treatment, you can search ‘suboxone clinic near me’ and you will get the best recommendations. Clinics like Steady Care Medical are quite popular for providing suboxone treatment.

Counseling and behavioral therapies 

Counseling therapy when combined with medication is proven to be effective in patients with an opioid disorder. Different types of counseling therapies are available.

  • Individual Counseling: This is the most common type of counseling where a therapist works with you to set goals focused on your growth and the power of self-control. You get the liberty to share your thoughts, feelings, and problems with your therapist who can in turn give you some strategic ways to handle your situation.

Counseling generally includes behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational therapy and contingency management.

In cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), your therapist helps you figure out the negative thinking pattern and teaches you strategic ways to respond to those negative thoughts and feelings. It also teaches you stress management and other tips to make your life better.

  • Group Counseling: In group counseling, you get a chance to hear the stories of people with the same challenges as yours. This helps you learn, grow and make you feel heard by others. It boosts your morale and motivation to cope with your condition.
  • Family Counseling: Family counseling is one of the best ways to help a patient with opioid addiction. This allows you to be heard by the people who are close to you. Sharing your feelings and struggles with your loved ones gives you the strength to tackle your problems.

Residential treatment 

Residential treatment programs include housing and treatment services for the patients. In this type of treatment plan, you live with your peers and recover together with the help of medication and counseling therapies. Hospital-based treatment programs help a patient recover in a hospital where he is provided with all the necessary treatment.

Considerations 

While suboxone treatment does help people with opioid addiction, it holds the potential for misuse. It might be habit-forming when consumed in higher quantities for a longer period of time. People with liver dysfunction should carefully consume the medication as it can worsen the symptoms. And remember, suboxone medicine can only be prescribed by a licensed doctor or maintenance program. Consult with a professional medical health provider if you think suboxone treatment can help manage your opioid addiction.