How Is Suboxone Taken?
Suboxone is initially administered under the tongue in tablet form or as a sublingual film.
Suboxone used as maintenance therapy may also be administered as a buccal film that is applied to the inside of the cheek.
Due to its formulation, if users were to inject Suboxone, the naloxone component might precipitate immediate heroin, or opioid withdrawal symptoms. If taken orally as prescribed, however, this risk is nonexistent.
How does Suboxone Detox work?
Suboxone helps reduce cravings while also blocking the euphoric, addictive effects of opioid and heroin use.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, both of which help with opioid and heroin recovery:
Buprenorphine is a “partial opioid agonist” medication – meaning that it partially mimics the effects of heroin by activating the same types of receptors that heroin does. But because it lacks the intense, euphoric “high” that heroin produces, buprenorphine should not be habit-forming when taken as prescribed. Buprenorphine also does not have many of the risky side effects that other opioid medications do.
Naloxone is an “opioid antagonist” medication that works in the opposite way as buprenorphine – naloxone actually blocks opioid receptors in the brain, immediately preventing heroin from having its normal effects on the body. It is often used in emergency situations and is injected to treat heroin overdose by putting a halt to the drug’s effects.
The combination of these two drugs – known as Suboxone – results in reduced cravings (due to the buprenorphine) without risk of overdose or drug abuse (due to the naloxone).
Functionally speaking, there is no difference between buprenorphine and Suboxone, and would be interchangeable therapeutic measures as long as the heroin user in recovery is not at risk for – or already abusing – buprenorphine.4 Suboxone is taken at higher, more frequent doses early in the stabilization process, with gradually decreasing doses as detox is accomplished and as maintenance medication therapy begins (if maintenance is needed).
In moderate to heavy heroin users, doctors often recommend medication maintenance therapy to help patients cope better with longer-lasting withdrawal symptoms and to prevent relapse. The starting dose will vary by the individual and by the severity of heroin use. Once a person is in the maintenance phase of recovery, however, Suboxone is typically dosed as a single administration of the drug per day.
What are the Pros and Cons of Suboxone?
- Suboxone has demonstrated efficacy in helping people stop using opioids.
- Suboxone can be administered at home with a prescription.
- Cravings are reduced without the addictive “high” of opioids or heroin.
- Cognitive performance is improved compared to methadone.
- Less intense side effects are experienced compared to other detox medications.
- Decision-making is improved, compared to detox with methadone.
- Respiratory function is improved, compared to detox with methadone.
- Suboxone causes fewer adverse interactions with other drugs compared to methadone.
- Some opioid abusers may use Suboxone as a “filler” to prevent uncomfortable periods of time in between using, rather than using it to help them through recovery.
- Suboxone has the potential for dependency, though the abuse potential is still lower than that of methadone.
- Suboxone can pose potential risks for recovering opioid users who drive or operate heavy machinery.
- Suboxone can be risky for elderly recovering users and users under the age of 16.
- Suboxone has some serious potential side effects:
- Respiratory problems.
- Sleepiness, dizziness or problems with coordination.
- Potential for dependency.
- Liver problems.
- Allergic reaction.
- Opioid withdrawal (shaking, sweating, fever, runny nose, watery eyes, goose bumps, diarrhea, vomiting and muscle aches).
- Decrease in blood pressure.
Who Should Consider Suboxone Detox?
Suboxone detox tends to be most effective for moderate to heavy opioid and heroin users. It helps reduce cravings while at the same time blocking the euphoric, and addictive side effects of heroin.
Suboxone detox tends to be most effective for moderate to heavy opioid and heroin users.
In decreasing doses over time, Suboxone is an effective abstinence maintenance medicine. The maximum potential benefit of Suboxone therapy occurs in combination with counseling or therapy.
Suboxone treatment is not right for everyone, however.