For those who are seeking addiction treatment for the first time, it may be surprising to learn just how many treatment options are available. Suboxone is a medication that is used to help people dealing with opioid dependence. While it is an opioid itself, it can be a vital part of addiction treatment as long as it is used responsibly under a doctor’s direction.
Suboxone is often prescribed to help people with their opioid cravings during the first few weeks or months after they begin recovering. There are multiple studies indicating that it is a potentially life-saving medication that reduces the risk of having a fatal overdose during a relapse. People who are prescribed Suboxone have about a 38 percent reduction in their risk levels.
As with any medication for drug use, there are certain risks associated with Suboxone. It’s important that you talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits. Follow your healthcare provider’s guidance on whether this is the right choice for you.
What to Know About Suboxone Treatment
It helps to understand exactly what Suboxone is. This prescription medicine uses a combination of naloxone and buprenorphine. The purpose of the medication is to help with the early stages of recovery, but in rarer instances, doctors might prescribe it as a long-term maintenance medication.
The combination of the two active ingredients makes the medication ideal for treating substance use issues. Buprenorphine works with the receptors in the brain that respond to opiates. That gives the medication the painkilling quality that comes with normal opiates, but with much weaker effects. There also doesn’t tend to be the euphoria or mood boost that comes with regular opiate use.
When Suboxone binds to the opiate receptors in the brain, it helps to keep you from craving a stronger opiate. The brain registers that it has received an opiate and stops sending signals that you need one.
Naloxone is a life-saving medication that is often part of first aid kits. This opioid antagonist helps to block opioid overdoses. By binding to the opioid receptors in the brain, it keeps any opiates you ingest from having an effect. Naloxone usually comes as an injection or as a nasal spray. When used alone, it is most commonly employed in emergencies when a person is overdosing on drugs.
Suboxone doesn’t cause the same high as the most popular opiates on the market, but it works with the same parts of the brain. This makes it one of the most powerful options for reducing cravings and preventing relapse when you’re dealing with early withdrawal.
How to Take Suboxone
Suboxone is taken orally in tablet or film strip form. You’ll receive instructions from your doctor and pharmacist about how to take the medication. Regardless of the formula, the medication will quickly dissolve in the mouth.
Doctors can prescribe four different strengths of the medication. Most people start on a high dose and then slowly wean off it as they progress further in their recovery. Part of medication-assisted treatment is learning how to function without the medication over time.
The dose that you’ll start with will vary depending on how severe the opiate addiction is. Suboxone should generally be used with medical supervision, but you can take it home as well.
The effects of the medication should be helpful enough for opiate recovery. Since the medication is specifically designed to interact with your opioid receptors, it isn’t good for treating other types of addiction. Suboxone is one of the most common medications used to help with the intense withdrawal symptoms from opioids.
Potential Side Effects
Like any medication, Suboxone comes with potential side effects and risks.
Some of the most common side effects include symptoms of withdrawal from opioids, depression and anxiety, sweating, nausea, fatigue, weakness, and an aching back.
There have been rare cases in which people experienced serious side effects. If you do start having severe symptoms, they must be reported to your doctor right away.
Because Suboxone is an opiate, it carries some risk of dependency. Some people may be tempted to abuse the medication to try to get a stronger “high.”
You might also experience hormonal changes, problems with breathing, or an allergic reaction. Some people have developed liver damage or liver disease.
If the medication is stopped and the side effects are promptly addressed, they will not typically cause long-term complications or life-threatening situations.
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