An opiate addiction is one of the hardest addictions to recover from. Opiates are a broad range of painkilling substances, from prescription painkillers like Oxycontin to illegal drugs like heroin. The opiate epidemic in the United States has been the subject of heated debate among politicians, as well as news stories and public speculation. Amidst this growing crisis, Miami drug rehab centers are fighting back through the use of a medication called Suboxone.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is one of several medications commonly prescribed for people with opiate addictions. Its active ingredients are naloxone and buprenorphine. Unlike many other medications, Suboxone is formulated specifically for individuals with opiate addictions. It has not been approved by the FDA for any other use.
The primary active ingredient is buprenorphine. This chemical is called a partial antagonist, which means it attaches to the same receptors that opiates attach to. When the buprenorphine is attached to these receptors, the opiates cannot “dock” or find purchase in the receptors. Essentially, the medication acts as a shield against the opiates.
The secondary ingredient is naloxone, which is part of the formula to prevent misuse of the drug. Sometimes people will become fully dependent on opioid antagonists and use them in ways that were not prescribed. Suboxone is meant to be ingested orally once each day. If a person tries to inject it, the naloxone will activate and cause withdrawal symptoms.
Is Suboxone Safe to Use?
Suboxone is technically an opioid medication which has the potential for physical dependency. However, physical dependency is not the same as addiction. When people are physically dependent on Suboxone, usually it’s to reduce opiate cravings which return in full force after the Suboxone use is discontinued.
You shouldn’t use Suboxone without the supervision of your doctor or another medical professional. They’ll need to monitor your reaction to the medication and make sure that it works the way it’s meant to. You should also inform your doctor immediately if you experience any strange side effects.
But studies increasingly show that detoxing with the use of Suboxone helps to prevent relapses far more than detoxing without medication or detoxing with a different medication. The only other medication shown to be as effective at relapse prevention is Naltrexone.
In short, Suboxone is safe to use as long as it’s used responsibly. While in the past, some treatment centers shied away from such a powerful opiate blocker, more and more rehab centers are beginning to embrace it.
How Does Suboxone Work?
As previously mentioned, Suboxone is a partial blocker for opiates. When the Suboxone is ingested orally, the buprenorphine attaches itself to the opioid receptors in a person’s body. The opioid effects of the drug greatly reduce cravings, but the drug doesn’t produce a “high” or feeling of euphoria like opiate abuse does.
Naltrexone is the only other comparably effective medication, but Suboxone has a clear advantage over Naltrexone in the initial stages of detoxification. Naltrexone is a full opiate blocker rather than a partial blocker. Because of this, it cannot be used during the detox process. Suboxone, on the other hand, can be taken while the patient is withdrawing from opiates.
One dose of Suboxone typically lasts for about 24 hours. Doctors recommend that it be taken once a day at the same time each day. Most of the time, Suboxone is prescribed to help patients through the initial withdrawal process. When acute symptoms set in, sometimes the agitation and discomfort of the symptoms drives people to quit their detox early and relapse. Suboxone decreases the likelihood of this happening.
Long Term vs. Short Term Effects
There is considerable debate in the medical community about whether to prescribe Suboxone for long periods of time. Some medical professionals will only prescribe it to alleviate the acute symptoms of opiate withdrawal, and they either prescribe another medication or forgo opiate blockers altogether during the follow-up treatment.
In the short term, Suboxone has been proven to drastically lessen cravings for opiates. In one Swedish study, 75% of patients on buprenorphine succeeded in completing their detox while 0% of patients on a placebo completed theirs. Other studies have shown that the use of Suboxone in the period immediately following detox helps to avoid relapses.
The risk of relapse is most dangerous in the period directly following detoxification. If the person ingests the amount of the substance that they were taking prior to their detox, they’ll be at a much higher risk of overdose because their body cannot process the high dosage anymore. For this reason, medical professionals will sometimes prescribe Suboxone for the first month following the detox.
Long term use of Suboxone is hotly debated. It’s the most effective medication to curb opiate cravings, so its usefulness might seem obvious. But detractors worry that the risk of physical dependence is too high. Others claim that patients are only trading one substance for another.
More and more studies suggest this is an irrational point of view, though. Suboxone does not carry the same risk of addiction as opiates, even if it does carry risk of physical dependence. And patients can participate in individual therapy and self-assessment even when taking opiate blocking medication.
What Miami drug rehab centers are discovering is that long-term use of Suboxone might be a game-changer. More widespread long-term use of Suboxone could prevent hundreds of opiate-related deaths every year.
How Do I Get a Suboxone Prescription?
You’ll need to enroll in a detox center and complete a medical detox program. To be prescribed Suboxone, you’ll need a diagnosis of an opiate addiction. You’ll also need to discuss the medication with your doctor, who may suggest alternative options for you.
If you want more information on how to check into a detox center, please call (866) 840-6411. Our empathetic, trained counselors are available to answer questions twenty-four hours a day. There are options to treat your addiction and get your life back under control. You don’t have to struggle alone.