On average, 130 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses. The opioid epidemic is tragic and despite some efforts, our country and the world, in general, are nowhere near getting it under control. Although it is difficult, it is possible to break free from addiction. The best way to do this is different for each individual, but many have found suboxone to be a big help to them on their recovery journey. However, some people feel that taking Suboxone is just trading one drug for another. Many worry about the possibility of Suboxone addiction, as well.
Are people in recovery from addiction to opioids at risk of becoming addicted to Suboxone? If so, how can they stop this from happening? Is addiction to Suboxone better than an addiction to opioids, or is it almost the same thing? Is the risk high enough to avoid Suboxone, even if it might save your life?
For the answers to these questions and more, read on.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is the brand name for a medication that is a combination of two different drugs: buprenorphine and naloxone. It is used for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
People addicted to opioids will experience intense and painful withdrawals when they try to quit the use of prescription opioids or heroin. Suboxone eliminates withdrawal completely.
Suboxone can be taken in tablet or film form. In both cases, the drug is dissolved in the patient's mouth and absorbed directly into the blood stream. This type of administration creates the option for users to take it themselves at home, instead of forcing them to visit a clinic each day for their treatment as in the case of methadone.
How Does Suboxone Work?
The primary ingredient in Suboxone is buprenorphine. It is a partial opioid agonist. Buprenorphine binds the opioid receptors very strongly, but does not activate it as strongly as opioids of abuse. So, while it eliminates withdrawal it doesn't create the high like other opioids. Buprenorphine also stops cravings, thereby helping to keep that person from returning to abusing opioids.
How Many People Use Suboxone?
This medication has helped and continues to help many thousands of people that are trying to break free from opioid addictions. In 2018, $1.9 billion dollars worth of Suboxone was sold in the United States, but fortunately, its purchase and use are covered by health insurance in most cases.
Experts estimate that about two million Americans are addicted to opioids today, and only about ten percent of them are receiving treatment..
Does Suboxone Really Work?
Overdose rates are reduced by 75% through buprenorphine usage. Success with buprenorphine increases over the first year of usage. With people who choose to stop burprenorphine after 1 year of use succeeding 49% of the time at not restarting other opiates. Compare that to someone who tries to quit cold turkey, statistically they have less than a 10% chance of success. Buprenorphine gives you time to get your life in order while it wards off withdrawal and eliminates the disruptive craving/seeking cycle of other opoids.
When it comes time to stop taking it, users are tapered off at their own speed. It's likely that they will experience some relatively mild withdrawal symptoms,but this is minimized through changing doses very slowly.
Because of the length time for which patients must continue using Suboxone, some worry about the possibility of Suboxone addiction. Is it possible to get addicted to Suboxone?
This is really the wrong question to be asking. The patient is already addicted, suboxone is the treatment. People don't use suboxone to get high, it doesn't produce the intensity of experience as the opioids of abuse. It is more likely that someone would return to abusing other opioids than develop a new addiction to buprenorphine/suboxone.
Buprenorphine has a built-in ceiling. If a person takes more Suboxone than directed, he or she will not experience stronger effects. This helps to limit Suboxone abuse.
Is Suboxone Trading One Addiction for Another?
No, this is not the case. Suboxone users use buprenorphine to ward off withdrawal and cravings for opioids. They do not use it to get high. Its' use is functional and not fueled by craving, but rather the physiologic consequences of prolonged opioid usage. It serves as a crutch for a period of time, while a person heals the consequences of addiction. This allows them to make amends and improve social relationships and initiate a commitment to healthy living, so when the time to stop the medication arrives their support network and stress management abilities are well developed.
Suboxone gives users an opportunity to step down their addiction in a way that is manageable over time. For many, having this option saved their lives. Although medication-assisted treatment does not work for everyone, for some it is the factor that makes addiction recovery possible in both the short and long term.
Dr. Starsiak's Healthy Thoughts Blog.