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Suboxone is a prescription medication used to treat people who are addicted to opiate drugs like heroin and oxycontin. The medication is used to wean heavy users off opiates and alleviate painful symptoms—known as opiate withdrawal—that occur when addicted users stop taking the drugs.

Also known as Subutex, Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine, an opiate drug that eases withdrawal symptoms, and naloxone, which works to prevent the “high” associated with opiates. Suboxone should be administered with medical supervision. Users consume the drug as a strip that dissolves beneath the tongue. Although this medication is used to help those addicted to opiates, people can also become addicted to Suboxone if the drug is abused.

Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Suboxone in 2002, prescriptions have spiked with the opioid alternative surpassing popular medications such as Adderall and Viagra, according to The New York Times. Health professionals consider Suboxone a safer treatment than methadone,a similar drug used to treat opiate addiction. However, Suboxone still can be habit-forming.

People who become addicted to Suboxone and try to quit the drug by going cold turkey can experience painful symptoms known as Suboxone withdrawal. Suboxone withdrawal is marked by flu-like symptoms, and its severity depends on the medical condition or the duration of addiction of the user. A drug rehab or detox program can help taper users off Suboxone so they can safely withdraw from the medication.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Heroin Signs

Similar to most opiates, Suboxone or buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms can be felt almost immediately after the medication is stopped. Depending on the severity of the addiction and how long the client has been dependent on the drug, the withdrawal stage varies. In some of the early stages of withdrawal, mood swings and fatigue are common, but as the withdrawal progresses more dangerous symptoms may occur. If you are feeling extreme discomfort or slowed breathing, call 911 immediately and seek immediate medical attention.

  • Body and muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Discomfort
  • Headache
  • Lack of concentration
  • Heart palpitations
  • Slowed breathing

It’s also common for cravings to develop throughout detox and even after detox. The cravings should subside from the medication over time. Though these symptoms are uncomfortable and can drive a person back to the doctor’s office where he has access to the crucial prescription; staying abstinent is essential to recovery.

TIMELINE

Heroin Timeline

Suboxone or Subutex withdrawal is comparable to other opiate withdrawal timelines. Generally, the first three days of withdrawal is when acute symptoms will start to develop and affect the addict. Because the drug is used to treat the physical and psychological effects of addiction, behavioral therapy can help an addict cope with withdrawal while confronting the root of their addiction.

The withdrawal timeline for the drug can last up to six months, but the timeline may be slightly different for each person. Up to 50 times stronger than morphine, the powerful drug’s effects are usually felt even after the withdrawal phase.

The first 72 hours of withdrawal is the most challenging; it is also the period when users are more susceptible to relapse. Withdrawal symptoms may begin to set in anywhere within 24 hours after the last dose taken begins to wear off. This is when users in withdrawal may experience abdominal cramps, flu-like symptoms, and increased irritation. This stage of discomfort can last for a few days.

After the first 72 hours of withdrawal, symptoms continue as the person abstains from using the drug. The inability to sleep, shakes, and intense cravings for the drug are experienced during this time.

Symptoms start to subside and even out as the body becomes normalized during the second week of withdrawal. Sleep patterns may start to improve, but abdominal pains, diarrhea, and nausea and vomiting may occur.

Users start to feel better physically, but may still find themselves managing anxiety, depression, and other psychological effects, such as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), as a result of long-term abuse of the drug.

TREATMENT

Heroin Treatment

In this case, the treatment medication is the source for addiction, so the only way to treat the addiction is to slowly taper off the medication. While tapering the medication, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be beneficial to help the client deal with their addiction, and group counseling can provide a support system to help coach the individual to continue their recovery.

Physical Activities Can Ease Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical activity can help boost the brain’s natural dopamine as well as promote good health and nutrition. Some treatment programs provide yoga to calm the client and teach him a new way to physically cope with addiction. By reducing stress and cravings, engaging in exercising during treatment will help the body naturally repair itself from addiction and withdrawal.

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions that developed before or during your opioid addiction, don’t be intimidated. Start off light with stretching and bike riding until your stamina increases, and you can enjoy activities such as running and swimming.

  • Art therapy
  • Aftercare programs, including Narcotics Anonymous, 12-step programs, and sober
  • living communities
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Meditation
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy
  • Yoga
  • Aerobics
  • Aquatic exercises
  • Dancing
  • Outdoor/beach sports
  • Walking
  • Weight training
  • Yoga
SUBOXONE WITHDRAWAL FAQS

Heroin FAQ

Suboxone use is supervised by a medical professional; therefore, the dosage varies depending on the severity of addiction and withdrawal. According to Drugs.com, on the first day of treatment, 8mg/2mg Suboxone sublingual film is recommended, increasing to 16mg/4mg sublingual films on the second day of treatment.

Suboxone is addictive because it works to numb the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms felt by opioid addicts. If not tapered off properly, those in recovery can begin to abuse the maintenance drug, making it a new addiction rather than a treatment.

Suboxone withdrawal is rarely fatal, but quitting the drug cold turkey could lead to a possible relapse. Since the drug is prescribed, a relapse may lead an addict back to its cheaper, much dangerous alternative: heroin.

The side effects of Suboxone are meant to ease withdrawal pain felt by an opioid addict for 24 to 72 hours. But when abused the side effects are distinctively different and can lead to physical or medical problems, such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Jitteriness
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM SUBOXONE DRUG TREATMENT

WHEN YOU GET THERE

At a drug rehab center, you can start your recovery with a healthy support group of trained clinical staff, other like-minded recovering addicts, and addiction counselors that only want you to succeed.

PROGRAMS VARY BY INDIVIDUAL

Addiction treatment programs will vary by individual and substance, depending on the severity of their addiction and whether other treatment methods need to be included, such as dual-diagnosis or holistic therapies.

MEDICATIONS USED IN SUBOXONE DETOX

In this case, the treatment medication is the source for addiction. So, medication maintenance for Suboxone maintenance may not be used, but instead have a gradual taper off the drug.

THE DANGERS OF QUITTING SUBOXONE COLD TURKEY

Quitting the drug all at once without medical help—known as “going cold turkey”—can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, such as pain, nausea, vomiting, and heart palpitations. Those who have a dependence on Suboxone or Subutex should consider tapering off the medication instead. That way, the effects of the medication are still felt as the body begins to adjust back to its equilibrium.

Because someone who has a dependence on the medication has been addicted to opiates for a prolonged period, it may take some time before the body completely readjusts. Periodic symptoms of fatigue, irritability, and restlessness are common even after detox is completed.

One of the most dangerous consequences of quitting the drug cold turkey is relapse or a return to addiction. Attempting to detox from the medication alone can lead someone back to using more dangerous opiates, such as heroin and prescription painkillers.

SUBOXONE STATISTICS

74%

of people buying Suboxone on the black market were using it to ease withdrawal symptoms while 64 percent used Suboxone because they couldn’t afford treatment.

11%

of buprenorphine doctors have been sanctioned for criminal offenses, including insurance fraud and excessive narcotics prescribing.

9%

of all substance abuse treatment facilities had Opioid Treatment Programs in 2011.

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