Suboxone, also known as buprenorphine, is a drug used to treat opioid addiction. Suboxone is known as an opioid agonist/antagonist that works to prevent withdrawal symptoms when an individual stops taking opioid drugs by inducing similar effects, notes MedlinePlus. Due to the fact that Suboxone produces similar effects to opioids, and although it is prescribed to negate the onset of withdrawal effects of stopping an opioid addiction, if it is stopped, it can also have its own withdrawal symptoms.
This semi-synthetic opiate was originally marketed as a pain reliever in the 1980s, according to Opioids.com. Suboxone is a brand name for buprenorphine and it actually contains buprenorphine and naloxone. The FDA approved Suboxone in October of 2002 for use as a high-dose sublingual pill to treat opioid addiction, notes the Rapid Drug Detox website. More recently, buprenorphine has been introduced in Europe in the form of a transdermal patch to treat chronic pain.
Use in Addictions
Suboxone is used to treat addiction to opiates drugs that include morphine, heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone and oxymorphone. This type of drug addiction treatment is called replacement therapy or maintenance therapy because another drug is being used to control the addiction.
Most commonly, Suboxone is taken as a sublingual tablet, which dissolves under the tongue, notes MedlinePlus. These tablets are normally taken once a day and at the same time every day. Dosing is normally increased or decreased until the medication works properly for the individual. This is accomplished under the supervision of a doctor.
How it Works
The agonist aspect of Suboxone exerts its effects on the brain and nervous system by attaching to opioid receptors, just like the other opioid drugs do. Suboxone has a very high affinity for the opioid receptor. The antagonist action has no effect unless an opioid is injected, at which point it blocks its action, notes the Rapid Drug Detox website.
Like the other opioid drugs, Suboxone can cause addiction and tolerance often becomes a problem with daily use. Approximately three days after stopping this medication, individuals are typically very sick as the suffering from withdrawal sets in, notes the Rapid Drug Detox website. Withdrawal symptoms can include severe anxiety and depression, fever and sweating, muscle cramps, sleep problems, diarrhea, upset stomach and abdominal pain, convulsions and dehydration.
The period of withdrawal for Suboxone users varies in length depending on several factors including the pattern of typical use and individual differences. Under the supervision of a physician, Suboxone can be tapered down gradually in order to offset the withdrawal effects as much as possible. However, there is still a period of withdrawal, even with the gentlest tapering. The most severe withdrawal symptoms occur during the first week after discontinuing use and gradually decrease over the following 2 to 5 weeks.
Suboxone should not be discontinued unless it is under the supervision of a physician due to the withdrawal symptoms that can quickly result. A doctor will be able to decide when and how Suboxone should be stopped.