Buprenorphine, sold under the brand name Suboxone, is a partial opioid antagonist—meaning it attaches and activates the opioid receptors in the brain; however, the effects are much more subtle than full agonists. Suboxone also contains naloxone, which is a pure opioid antagonist that shuts off the opioid receptors in the brain. This means that if you were to use any type of opioid, naloxone would block the effects and could potentially cause immediate withdrawal.
Although Suboxone does not affect the brain as harshly, the drug is still highly addictive, and many individuals who use it easily become dependent on it.
Suboxone is mostly used to alleviate the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. However, if used for an extended period of time, you can actually experience a nasty addiction alongside Suboxone withdrawal symptoms.
Many people turn to Suboxone as a means of treatment. As a form of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), many opioid abusers are put on the medication long-term to help keep them away from other deadlier opioids, such as heroin or prescription pain medication. The hope is that by remaining under the medical surveillance of a doctor and medical team, the opportunity for relapse and potential overdose decreases. However, this method of treatment may not be suited for everyone, and the medication does cause the body to develop dependence after some time.
Suboxone misuse is common because, like opioids, it produces a somewhat euphoric “high” and respiratory depression. It slightly mocks the side effects of other opioids in a less intense manner. The only difference is that Suboxone contains naloxone, whereas other opioids do not. Naloxone can also block the effects of Suboxone if you are abusing it.
Suboxone withdrawal might be slightly more difficult to overcome, due to its long-acting properties. However difficult, it is possible to successfully detox from Suboxone.
What are the Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms?
Although Suboxone is beneficial for treating opioid withdrawal, those who become dependent on it will eventually experience symptoms of addiction such as tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal due to the effects it has on the body.
The symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal mimic those of other opioids, but they can last much longer and be more severe depending on the amount you are using.
Also, your genetic makeup and how long you are using the substance plays a factor in the length and severity of withdrawal. The symptoms you will experience if you are experiencing Suboxone withdrawal consist of:
- Cold sweats
- Gooseflesh skin
- Intense cravings
- Emotional instability
- Restless leg syndrome
- Muscle and joint aches
- Body aches
- A runny nose
- Teary eyes
- Excessive yawning
- Other flu-like symptoms
- Pupil dilation
Although Suboxone withdrawal is not fatal, it is highly unpleasant and unbearable at times. The withdrawal symptoms on their own cannot cause significant health complications. However, mixing other substances like benzodiazepines, in active addiction or withdrawal, can lead to severe and sometimes irreversible consequences.
Any opioid withdrawal experience can cause anywhere from mild to severe discomfort for the person with opioid addiction attempting to stop using the substance. Suboxone, in particular, can be one of the more difficult withdrawals compared to its opioid counterparts because the length of time spent in withdrawal is typically longer.
What are the Stages of the Suboxone Withdrawal Timeline?
The Suboxone withdrawal timeline is similar to that of other opioids, except the symptoms might take anywhere from a little to a lot longer to appear and disappear.
Suboxone withdrawal is difficult to treat because the drug itself is used to treat withdrawal. Initially, it might seem counteractive, but tapering down from a high dose is effective in completely stopping Suboxone use. Also, the length of withdrawal and the lingering symptoms might last longer due to the half-life of Suboxone.
The first one to three days without the substance might not be too severe, depending on your tolerance and how long you have been using. Physical symptoms will appear within the first six to 12 hours after your last dose. You will experience symptoms such as:
- Muscle pain
- A runny nose
- Pupil dilated
- Cold sweats
hese symptoms may also come and go, as well as vacillate in severity. The beginning stages of Suboxone withdrawal are usually milder but increase in frequency and magnitude as you progress throughout the withdrawal process.
After four to seven days without Suboxone, the withdrawal symptoms will peak. This will be between 36 to 72 hours after your last dose.
Depending on the length and extent of your use, the symptoms can be severe and unpleasant. By this time, you will begin to feel the psychological effects of withdrawal as well as most or all of the physical effects listed.
This is the time period that most opioid users succumb to relapse — to stop the withdrawal symptoms. Detoxing on one’s own can be dangerous due to this increased likelihood of relapse.
The withdrawal process can last anywhere up to two weeks when it comes to Suboxone withdrawal.
From weeks two to four — most of the physical symptoms should dissipate minus a few lingering symptoms related to Post- Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS. PAWS consists mostly of the psychological aspect of withdrawal and addiction. Also, the symptoms of PAWS might be worse if you struggle with pre-existing co-occurring disorders.
Why Should I Detox?
While Suboxone withdrawal on its own is not overtly dangerous to one’s health, as it cannot cause potentially life-threatening symptoms such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, it can still be dangerous. The increased physical and mental stress put on the body can exacerbate any preexisting health conditions that you may suffer from which can in turn cause life-threatening health problems.
Detoxing from Suboxone is also crucial in order to achieve long-term sobriety. It is imperative to attend a medical facility when experiencing Suboxone withdrawal as it can be extremely unpleasant and difficult to correctly taper on your own.
Suboxone withdrawal requires the help of addiction and medical professionals in order to ensure safety and comfortability throughout the entire process. The grips of addiction can prevent a number of people from seeking help or committing to treatment, which is why the success rate of individuals who do it on their own is low. Although maintaining long-term sobriety relies on the individual, it is more likely when they have professional staff guiding them through the most crucial times in the early stages of recovery.
What is the Next Treatment Step?
The next stage of the treatment process is attending an inpatient treatment program. The benefits of long-term programs are endless and are sure to provide you with a solid foundation to begin your recovery journey. Inpatient programs typically last around 45 days, which you will be offered a series of proven methods such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy sessions
- Relapse prevention
- Family sessions
- Addiction education
Although the length of this program seems long and extensive, the benefits are worth your energy. Participating in programs that use proven and effective methods for treating addiction will solidify your understanding of addiction and help you learn the coping mechanisms you need to sustain sobriety.
After an inpatient or residential program, you will be encouraged to attend an outpatient facility. This program is less intense as an inpatient program; however, you will still have access to the same benefits. Outpatient programs can last anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months and help you transition into society after years of drug addiction.
Also, outpatient programs give you a safe environment to process your issues and discuss the solutions with peers and professionals.
Managing Opioid Addiction Without Medication
“For a majority of those in recovery, the use of Suboxone should only be temporary. Suboxone will be eventually tapered to achieve total sobriety, and this process should be done in a slow and measured way. It must accommodate the individual’s experience and ensure their stability. ”
When Suboxone becomes the subject of addiction, and use of the medicine is no longer servicing the individual positively, it becomes crucial to create a new path to recovery that does not include opioid medications. It will require the guidance of substance abuse professionals.
They must excel in these areas, which include:
- Experience in substance abuse treatment
- Understanding of the issues that contribute to their client’s current situation
- Dedicated to offering tailored care to meet the client’s specific criteria
- Offering comprehensive treatment plans that the client will respond to
- Ability to offer long-term support
Coping With the Withdrawal Symptoms
Several coping strategies exist to deal with the stresses of withdrawal. The approach can be implemented when coping with any stress. Rather than engaging in harmful behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol, people who engage in positive coping behaviors will maintain their recovery.
Some of the best coping mechanisms to help with Suboxone withdrawals can include:
- Social activity: You must keep in touch with family and friends, even without telling them about your withdrawal symptoms and recovery process. They can help provide you with the emotional support that you’ll need to get through detox.
- Relaxation or hobbies: It’s difficult to make time to relax amid everyday life, but it’s crucial for those maintaining recovery. Many of those people struggling with Suboxone withdrawal may struggle with relaxing healthily. Finding a hobby, such as arts and crafts or writing, can help you avoid relapsing.
- Adapting to the situation: Withdrawal is a part of the process, and accepting that notion can help you move forward. A positive outlook can go a long way, and applying it to the recovery process will help replace feelings of anger, shame and depression with satisfaction and pride.