According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a combination of medication and behavioral therapy is the most effective way to treat addiction, and this is particularly true with opioid addictions.
The cravings and other withdrawal symptoms associated with opiate addiction can be excruciating, and the cravings, in particular, can linger long after the physical dependence has been broken through medical detox. Maintenance medications like methadone and Suboxone stave off cravings and withdrawal symptoms so that those with opiate addiction can focus on restoring their lives while slowly being weaned from these medications over weeks, months or even years.
What Exactly is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a combination of the drugs buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a synthetic opiate. As a partial opioid agonist, it produces effects similar to heroin, OxyContin and other opiates, but these effects are far weaker, and they won’t become stronger even if the dose is increased. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opiates, and it’s added to Suboxone in order to reduce the likelihood of abuse.
Safeguards to Prevent Suboxone Abuse
Although buprenorphine is an invaluable medication for those who want to beat an opiate addiction, it’s commonly abused. This is why naloxone was added to buprenorphine to produce Suboxone.
When taken as directed, the opiate effects of the buprenorphine dominate while the naloxone prevents opiate withdrawals, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. If the Suboxone tablets are crushed and snorted or injected, however, the naloxone dominates, preventing the opiate effects and causing withdrawal symptoms to set in.
The Drug Enforcement Administration moved buprenorphine from a Schedule V drug to a Schedule III drug in 2002, increasing the penalties for using or possessing it illegally, and physicians are limited to 30 Suboxone patients to ensure a high level of supervision while on the drug.
How Suboxone is Abused
Nevertheless, the National Drug Intelligence Center also reports that Suboxone abuse has become a concern for the medical and law enforcement communities. Pharmacists and law enforcement officials have determined that Suboxone can be successfully abused when it’s snorted. It’s also been found that Suboxone tablets are being diverted and sold on the street throughout the U.S.
Although some people are unable to feel the effects of Suboxone, others are, and since the effects are far milder than those of other opiates, they’re commonly abusing it along with other drugs, including alcohol and benzodiazepines. These combinations are highly dangerous, and they can cause respiratory depression that leads to coma or death.
The Bottom Line
For those who are motivated to recover from an opiate addiction and who require long-term maintenance in order to work through various issues with the help of behavioral therapy, medications like Suboxone and methadone are invaluable, despite their potential for abuse.
Those who abuse Suboxone and methadone are at a high risk of developing a number of physical and mental health problems associated with opiate abuse, including organ failure, overdose, coma and death.
If you or a loved one abuses or has an addiction to Suboxone or another opiate, a high-quality rehab program that takes a holistic approach to treatment can help you overcome the dependence and addiction through medical detox and intensive cognitive and behavioral therapies.
Ending an opiate addiction isn’t easy, but it can be done. In doing so, you can restore your physical and mental health and improve your sense of well-being.