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Introduced to the market in 2002, Suboxone is widely touted as the “miracle drug” for individuals suffering from opiate addiction. Opiates like OxyContin and heroin are highly addictive and the withdrawal symptoms associated with prolonged use can be incredibly severe. To many addiction experts and well-respected treatment programs, Suboxone is the solution to both of these issues.
Suboxone is a combination of the semi-synthetic opiate, buprenorphine, and the drug naloxone, which counteracts the euphoric and depressant effects of opiates. Suboxone is administered in either a pill or film form placed under the tongue. As a partial opiate agonist, buprenorphine only partially activates the brain’s opiate receptors, greatly reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings, while naloxone prevents the euphoric and dangerous affects of taking opiates, minimizing risk of abuse or overdose.
This formula makes Suboxone highly effective in both opiate detoxification and maintenance. However, some people don’t understand the pivotal differences between Suboxone-assisted detox and Suboxone maintenance programs.
Suboxone is commonly used in treatment facilities to assist someone through the detoxification phase of treatment.
Generally, Suboxone-assisted detoxification provides a safe and more comfortable withdrawal process, minimizing withdrawal symptoms such achiness, anxiety, and nausea. While some facilities only administer Suboxone during the treatment phases of detoxification and early stabilization, other facilities continue to administer Suboxone to diminish cravings once treatment is over. The long-term use of Suboxone is referred to as maintenance.
Much like methadone maintenance programs, Suboxone maintenance is grounded in the idea that taking Suboxone is much safer than taking other opiates, including methadone. Methadone is a full opiate agonist, which means increasing its dosage increases its opiate effects, such as euphoria and respiratory depression. This heightens the risk of abuse and overdosing. However, as a partial opiate agonist, Suboxone has a limited ceiling of effect.
Due to its effectiveness and safety, Suboxone maintenance programs have steadily grown over the years, and prescriptions for Suboxone have skyrocketed. With that said, some addiction professionals and recovery programs criticize the idea of long-term Suboxone maintenance.
While supporters of Suboxone maintenance cite its safety and effectiveness, critics point out that Suboxone maintenance does not actually treat the individual’s addiction; it merely maintains it. Critics also voice concerns over individuals using Suboxone to smooth out withdrawal symptoms in between using other illicit opiates.
In addition, as an opiate, withdrawal from Suboxone can be incredibly uncomfortable after long-term use. What’s more, Suboxone maintenance programs are often very costly. For these reasons and more, individuals who seek treatment for opiate addiction should be well-informed about Suboxone, especially the details surrounding detoxification and long-term maintenance.
Additional Reading: Opiate Overdose: 7 Steps to Saving a Life
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