It may seem counteractive to use an opioid to combat opioid addiction. Nevertheless, that’s precisely what physicians have been doing.
In 2013, Suboxone was unknown to many. Yet the year before that, its sales surpassed the more widely known drugs Viagra and Adderall. In fact, Suboxone generated $1.55 billion in the U.S. alone. But this lucrative business may have compromised the positive intentions of the public health industry.
Buprenorphine has been used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for people with addictions to opiates, heroin, and pain relievers.
Since the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000, qualified doctors in the U.S. have been able to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid dependency in many settings, including offices, hospitals, health departments, and correctional facilities.
According to the SAMHSA, buprenorphine can:
- Lower the potential for misuse.
- Diminish the effects (withdrawals and physical cravings) of physical dependence to opioids.
- Increase the likelihood of a fatality during an overdose.
However, the issue develops when the benefits become too addicting. At this point, they influence the user to abuse Suboxone.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is the brand name for the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, a drug that’s often used to treat withdrawal and reverse overdoses from heroin and oxycodone. It can also be administered to facilitate detox and ease withdrawal symptoms.
Suboxone is available as a tablet or a sublingual film that can dissolve under the tongue.
In 2002, The FDA approved two buprenorphine products to treat opioid dependence: Subutex (primarily buprenorphine) and Suboxone (a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone).
Buprenorphine works by attaching to the brain’s opioid receptors. While it minimizes the effects of other opioids, buprenorphine doesn’t completely block them, which leads to a buildup of tolerance to the medication’s euphoric effects.
When taken as prescribed, Suboxone is both safe and effective. However, problems arise when a patient starts abusing it. As a result, a drug that’s meant to curb addiction can create another addiction, so Suboxone can become a gateway drug to morphine and heroin.
Not only does Suboxone reduce cravings for other opioids and mitigate the sensations of physical pain, but it also produces feelings of euphoria, calmness, and wellbeing.
Unlike methadone, Buprenorphine is available through prescriptions from federally authorized doctors with restricted patient loads. These restrictions may have inadvertently created cash-only buprenorphine clinics for addicts who can’t afford doctors and are desperately looking to stave off withdrawal symptoms.
The most common effects of Suboxone abuse include:
- Lack of focus
- Blurred vision
- Respiratory depression
Furthermore, injecting Suboxone can lead to severe vascular inflammation and infections.
The street names for Suboxone include Subs, Stop Signs, Bupe, Sobos, and Oranges.
What Are The Signs Of Suboxone Addiction?
The typical signs of Suboxone addiction and abuse involve:
- Using it for anything other than the prescribed use
- Unusual behavior
- Anxiety, depression, and irritability
- Strained relationships with loved ones
What’s Involved In Suboxone Addiction Treatment?
Detoxification should be the first stage in weaning oneself off the drug. Addiction specialists work with individuals to ensure they have a relatively painless detox. Detox is generally one of the most important steps in recovery. While in detox, you’ll be under round-the-clock medical supervision, and you may receive medications to treat withdrawal symptoms as your body gets accustomed to a lack of Suboxone.
The next step often includes different forms of therapy through residential treatment, in order to discern the roots of the substance abuse. The focus will now be on recovery, not withdrawal. Therefore, therapeutic methods like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will also be provided to help combat your addiction.
Furthermore, experts urge individuals to explore outpatient treatment and join support groups to continue the road to recovery. Both inpatient and outpatient allow you to participate in the same therapies. But in outpatient, you’ll have the flexibility to commute to treatment, which is ideal for students and full-time employees.
Encouraging A Loved One In Recovery
A variety of factors determine whether treatment is effective. If treatment doesn’t seem to be working, you may ask yourself, “What can I do to help?” While it seems like there’s not much one person can do to help an individual suffering from addiction, there are actually a variety of easy and effective possibilities.
One thing you can do to help a loved one is to avoid playing the “blame game.” Instead of trying to prove the user wrong, you should focus on the positive.
If your loved one is in a residential program, try calling them every now and then. Never say discouraging things, especially when the patient seems to be having a rough time. If they find treatment to be “too hard,” you should try to encourage them even more.
How Dangerous Is Suboxone?
Although it’s difficult to overdose on buprenorphine, it’s still a real possibility, particularly when coupled with other substances such as alcohol and benzos. This lethal combination can gradually slow heart rates, induce comas, and cause death.
Here are some of the symptoms of a Suboxone overdose:
- Profound drowsiness, sluggish reflexes
- Slowed breathing
- Lack of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Problems with vision
- Intermittent loss of consciousness
Suboxone Abuse Statistics
- In 2012, 9.3 million buprenorphine prescriptions were dispensed in the U.S., according to Health National Prescription Audit Plus.
- Between 2006 and 2011, the number of buprenorphine-related ER visits quintupled.
- As of 2013, fewer than 16,000 doctors were allowed to prescribe Suboxone in the U.S.