Suboxone is a prescription medication used to treat opioid dependence. The drug, which is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, helps reduce uncomfortable side effects of opioid withdrawal, including cravings.
Because Suboxone is a combination of two medications to treat opioid use disorder, it is known as a MOUD, or medication for opioid use disorder. According to Harvard Health, suboxone “has been shown to lower the risk of fatal overdoses by approximately 50 percent.”
People should not assume Suboxone is safe simply because it is prescribed by a doctor, however. While it may help a person manage opioid withdrawal symptoms, the drug comes with risks of its own.
How Does Suboxone Help with Opioid Withdrawal?
Suboxone and opioids bind to the same receptors in the brain. While buprenorphine mimics the presence of opioids, naloxone blocks the euphoric effects commonly found in opioids. By blocking opioids already present in the body, Suboxone prevents or reduces common opioid withdrawal effects like cramps, muscle pain, diarrhea, tremors, vomiting, cold sweats, agitation, anxiety, and rapid heart rate.
Because Suboxone effectively dulls or prevents cravings for opioids, it is easier for recovering individuals to stick to an addiction recovery program. Recent clinical studies found the use of Suboxone helped individuals with opioid dependency stay in treatment for up to 24 weeks.
Suboxone can be a valuable component of a comprehensive treatment program, including behavioral therapy, for recovery from opioid use disorder. If used under medical supervision, Suboxone may help people stay committed to their treatment program.
However, Suboxone is a controlled substance, meaning it may cause physical or psychological dependence and has a high risk for abuse. Doctors are required to complete specialized training before they can legally prescribe Suboxone.
Opioids are the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States, and Suboxone is one effective way to reduce those numbers. However, Suboxone can be addictive itself.
Side Effects of Suboxone Range from Mild to Severe
Taking Suboxone is not without risk. Some effects may be very mild, while others can be severe and even dangerous, depending on how long the person has been taking Suboxone and at what dose. The manufacturers warn that combining Suboxone with other drugs – including alcohol, other opioids, benzodiazepines, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, or central nervous system depressants – is very dangerous and can cause life-threatening breathing problems, coma, and death. See the manufacturer’s website for a complete list of possible side effects.
The most common side effects may include:
- Headache, body ache, or back pain
- Abdominal cramps, nausea
- Rapid heart rate
- Anxiety or depression
- Confused thinking
- Weakness or fatigue
- Burning tongue, or redness in the mouth
Severe side effects may include:
- Severe allergic reaction indicated by trouble breathing, skin rash or hives, or swelling of the lips, tongue, throat
- Trouble breathing, especially if the breathing is abnormally slow
Call 911 immediately if either of the above side effects occurs.
Can a Person Overdose on Suboxone?
Suboxone combines buprenorphine, which limits the activation of opioid receptors of the brain, with naloxone, which blocks a feeling of euphoria. Scientists refer to these built-in limitations as a “ceiling effect,” meaning the effects of Suboxone plateaus at a low dose, so there is no benefit for a person to take more. If a person takes Suboxone as prescribed, the chance of an overdose is minimal.
Researchers find in most cases of an overdose involving Suboxone, the person has also taken a depressant or another drug, has consumed alcohol, is elderly, or has no history of ever taking an opioid.
Warning signs of an overdose include:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Weakness, dizziness
- Shallow, slow breathing
- Pinpoint pupils
Any overdose is a medical emergency requiring immediate intervention. As with opioid overdose, quick administration of naloxone can reverse a Suboxone overdose. Because thousands of people die from an opioid overdose every day, most states allow the public to purchase and keep naloxone on hand.
With rare exceptions, taking Suboxone as prescribed is far less risky than misusing or illegally taking opioids. However, Suboxone itself does not help a person overcome drug dependence or addiction. If a person remains dependent on Suboxone long term to function in their daily life, they have not resolved the underlying issues that led to their initial addiction and have become “cross addicted” to another substance.
Addiction is a chronic but treatable condition. If you are taking Suboxone to help you recover from opioid addiction, you have already taken a crucial and courageous step. Now it is time to rid your body of Suboxone and embrace a recovery program that gives you the quality of life you deserve, entirely free of addictive substances.
Medical Detox Eases Suboxone Withdrawal
Medical detox centers focus on the first step in addiction recovery, which is ridding your body of toxic substances. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines detoxification, or detox, as “the process by which the body clears itself of drugs.” NIDA explains that medically managed withdrawal “is designed to manage the acute and potentially dangerous physiological effects of stopping drug use.”
Do not quit Suboxone on your own “cold turkey.” Withdrawal symptoms can be unnecessarily severe if you abruptly stop the use of this drug without medical assistance.
When withdrawing from Suboxone, you may experience mild to severe side effects like nausea, headaches, muscle aches, digestive distress, dizziness, confusion, anxiety, depression, fever, chills, cravings, and more. Medically supervised detox helps minimize most discomfort by using tapering protocols and medication management.
The staff at detox centers like Gallus are skilled medical professionals who will monitor your physical and mental well-being throughout the detox process, ensuring you are safe and as comfortable as possible.
What to Look For in a Medical Detox Center
Medical detox centers are not the same as drug rehabilitation programs. Medical detox keeps you medically stable and safe during withdrawal, minimizes uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, and helps you transition to an addiction treatment program that meets your needs once your body is free of Suboxone. Treatment programs offer psychotherapeutic services to assist in your long-term recovery.
Finding the detox center that meets your needs is critical. Talk to the intake staff before you commit to their program to ensure they are the best fit for you. A quality detox program should meet the following criteria:
- Medical director on staff
- Staff licensed and experienced in substance abuse treatment
- Endorsed by the Joint Commission, the most respected certification for health care companies, ensuring they meet the highest quality and performance standards
- Individualized treatment plans
- Continuously monitor vital signs
- IV and oral medication protocols
- Proven record of success
- Patient testimonials available
- Provide long-term support and resources for the next steps in recovery
Once you have completed detox, you are ready to enter a treatment program, which may include medication management and behavioral therapy.
Gallus Medical Detox
Gallus Medical Detox combines the highest standards of professional medical services with the comfort of a luxurious residential facility. We proudly bear the Joint Commission’s gold seal for excellence in patient care and services.
Dr. Patrick Gallus, the founder of Gallus Detox, emphasizes patient safety and careful attention to the needs of each patient. At Gallus, we treat every patient with respect and personalized care.
The expert Gallus team includes board-certified physicians, ICU-level registered nurses, and medical care technicians, all with critical care and emergency medicine backgrounds. Collectively, we have over 75 years of experience helping patients with alcohol and substance use disorders, including Suboxone dependence.
As your body detoxifies from Suboxone or another addictive substance, withdrawal symptoms are not only physical but may include psychological symptoms. Our compassionate staff will stay by your side, ensuring you are supported and protected.
Suboxone use alone is not addiction recovery. Without follow-up therapy, people who become dependent or addicted to Suboxone may still experience negative consequences in their lives, including damaged relationships, financial and legal challenges, and physical and mental health issues.
Although Suboxone may effectively reduce symptoms and cravings associated with opioid withdrawal, it poses risks for abuse and dangerous effects. Even short-term use has the potential for harm, and long-term use can be very damaging. Experts warn that using Suboxone long term can result in depression, decreased pain tolerance, confusion, hormone dysfunction, lowered sex drive, liver damage, tooth, and hair loss, and more.
If you or a loved one are seeking Suboxone detox to help overcome an addiction to or dependence on the substance, Gallus Medical Detox is ready to help.
Contact us today to learn more about the Gallus Method of Detoxification.