What to Know About Suboxone for Detox from Opiates

suboxone-for-detox-from-opioids

Written By: Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.

Published on Jun 4, 2020 | Getting Help For Myself, Rehab Treatment Options

Medications like Suboxone are prevalent to help people ease their withdrawal process. These medications are often part of medical detox regimens that can help prevent fatal withdrawal side effects. However, can Suboxone for detox from opiates be safe? Let’s learn more about the controversial drug and find out if this is the right treatment option.

What’s Suboxone?

Suboxone is a drug approved by the FDA in 2002 for the treatment of chronic opioid abuse. The active ingredients in Suboxone are buprenorphine and naloxone. 

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. It binds with the opioid receptors in the brain, resulting in a decrease in pain. It halts withdrawal symptoms and reduces the craving for opiate-based drugs such as heroin.

Naloxone fills opioid receptors and prevents other drugs from activating them. Unlike other medications for detox from opiates, Suboxone includes naloxone, which might help prevent users from drug misuse in the future. 

Both are proven to be effective in treating the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. However, both can cause addiction. 

Suboxone for Opiate Addiction Treatment

When an addiction treatment center prescribes Suboxone, it should do so with a clear exit plan. Generally, an exit plan includes a licensed chemical dependency therapist, a psychiatrist, and a medical doctor. Because Suboxone can be misused, prescriptions only last between 7 to 30 days.

Dr. Steven R. Scanlan, a board-certified psychiatrist, says, “I find that the optimal time to have someone on Suboxone is between to and 25 days, tapering down the medication every few days.”

Unfortunately, Suboxone is one of those drugs often misused. Many treatment centers and doctors encourage opioid addicts to source Suboxone as a long-term treatment management solution. However, the long-term effects of Suboxone use are quite similar to those from prolonged opioid use. 

The Promise of Drugs Like Suboxone

These drugs are promising choices for helping addicts get back on their feet and manage withdrawal symptoms. However, that’s not to say these are drugs that can cure or resolve the core cause of opioid dependence. 

Without addiction treatment, permanent recovery is unlikely. 

Suboxone user statistics graphic

The primary purpose of these drugs is to prevent fatal withdrawal symptoms and ease individuals back to a substance-free life. Addicts must also learn coping mechanisms, self-care practices, and relapse prevention techniques to achieve long-term sobriety.

While Suboxone treatment isn’t for everyone, promising statistics offer hope to those detoxing from opioids:

  • Over 12 weeks, over 49% of people taking Suboxone reduced painkiller abuse
  • When doctors used Suboxone alongside behavioral therapy and treatment programs, people noticed a significant increase in lasting sobriety

Frequently Asked Questions About Suboxone

With many treatment centers and doctors recommending Suboxone, it’s common for patients, family, and friends to have questions about the medication. Here are some of the most common questions:

Is Suboxone an opioid?: By definition, it is. However, it contains buprenorphine, which produces a minimal high. 

Why would opioid addicts use this drug?: People think Suboxone will result in cross-addiction. While this might happen without proper supervision, the purpose of taking Suboxone is to help people get off more potent drugs and avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Also, it’s paramount to include this in your treatment with the supervision of a medical doctor and addiction treatment to prevent Suboxone addiction

Are there any side effects?: Yes. Those who use Suboxone long-term can experience emotional irregularities. When combined with alcohol or benzos, side effects can be fatal. However, most side effects include headaches, pain, insomnia, and constipation. 

Will Suboxone show in drug tests?: Many recovering addicts question about taking opioid-like medications as a treatment plan. Suboxone will not show in standard drug tests unless they individually test for buprenorphine. Although Suboxone is an opiate, it doesn’t mean it’s unsafe or illegal to take when prescribed.

How long will it take to get off Suboxone?: It depends. Some studies say only 9% of participants in a study completed the taper and remained opiate-free. Other studies show that 60% of patients stayed opiate-free for over 40 months. 

Can I take this at home?: People tend to use Suboxone as at-home addiction treatment. However, people without medical training to help someone through a detox and withdrawal process should avoid using these medications at home. Suboxone should only be used under medical supervision.

Clinical Opioid Withdrawal Scale

When Is It Safe to Start Taking Suboxone

Withdrawal can occur quickly and have devastating effects on someone’s health. Before taking Suboxone, patients should already be in mild withdrawal, and they cannot be high on opioids when given prescription medication like Suboxone. 

To help doctors know the safest time to start Suboxone for detox from opiates, the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs explains that doctors should wait until a patient scores a minimum of 5 or 6 on the Clinical Opioid Withdrawal Scale (COWS). The scale rates the most typical symptoms linked to opiate withdrawal and helps assess the severity of someone’s withdrawal. 

The symptoms measured by COWS are:

  • Resting pulse rate
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness during the assessment
  • Pupil size
  • Bone or joint aches
  • Runny nose or teary eyes
  • Gastrointestinal issues for over 30 minutes
  • Noticeable tremors 
  • Yawning during the assessment
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Goosebumps on the skin

Scores under 5: Little-to-none withdrawal symptoms.

Between 5-12: Mild withdrawal symptoms.

Scores between 23-24: Moderate withdrawal symptoms.

Over 36: Severe withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening.

A chemical abuse therapist or a medical doctor scores each symptom when the assessment starts, then they repeat the exam after the first dose of Suboxone. 

Seeking Suboxone Treatment Near You

As with any treatment protocol, Suboxone for detox from opiates should be determined on a case-by-case basis. While there’s no doubt it can help many in their recovery, it might not be right for others. 

While Suboxone helps treat substance dependence, it isn’t a miracle pill to treat addiction. These drugs should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that incorporates other recovery solutions to ensure long-term sobriety. 

If you or a loved one struggles with opioid addiction, don’t just jump to the first solution. Finding a Suboxone provider near you can be easy, but this won’t guarantee your recovery. 

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we believe in offering personalized and comprehensive addiction treatment programs. We believe individuals have a better chance of living a sober and clean life through medication-assisted treatment, intensive outpatient treatments, and group therapy sessions. Contact us today to learn more about our addiction programs and to talk to a specialist who can guide you on what the best treatment plan is for your needs. 

Cite This Article
Geraldine Orentas. "What to Know About Suboxone for Detox from Opiates." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Published on Jun 4, 2020, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/how-long-should-an-opiate-addict-use-suboxone/.

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