woman with hand on mans shoulder

Most people cannot simply walk away from drug addiction; they need help to change their behavior, how they think, and how they understand their social environment. In the case of opiate addiction, cold turkey methods have a very low success rate and are not widely recommended for addicts. Recovering opiate addicts who have quit cold turkey have been shown to be highly likely to relapse within the first year of abstinence. This is where medication-assisted, such as Suboxone in treatments, come in and many physicians recommend the process, especially in cases of extreme addiction.

Various medications are used during drug rehab to ease the side-effects of withdrawal and can reduce the cravings that most often lead to relapse. A relatively new medication-assisted drug rehab treatment uses Suboxone to help drug addicts detox, and can also block the negative effects of opiates. Since 2002 Suboxone has been very successful in helping cure addiction: 60% of patients who underwent Suboxone treatment were still sober a year after treatment. The treatment has to be closely monitored by physicians and so is always done while in an inpatient drug rehab. As with other medications used to assist with opiate addiction, such as Methadone, there is always the risk of the medication becoming habit forming. There is always a risk of patients abusing the medication, and Suboxone dosages have to be highly controlled, as an overdose can cause respiratory failure.

How does Suboxone work?

Suboxone was developed in response to the weaknesses observed in earlier medication-assisted treatments, namely Methadone and Naltrexone. These medications have achieved some success in rehabilitating opiate addicts but they share the risk of being highly addictive. Some critics believe that using these medications is simply substituting one addiction for another. The reason that these medications posed such a risk is that they are considered ‘full opioid agonists’, simply meaning they attach to the same receptors in the brain as opiates and stimulate the same effects: euphoria, sleepiness, and confusion. These effects replicate the ‘high’ of opiates and so are at a larger risk of being abused.

Suboxone is a ‘partial opioid agonist’, which means that the effects of the medication are not as strong. Users do not report feeling euphoric or sleepy, and some have said the medication makes them feel more energetic. Suboxone allows users to feel normal and go about their day without the cravings that occur during withdrawal.

The pros of using Suboxone in treatment

Because Suboxone does not create the same feelings of well-being and relaxation in patients, it is far less at risk of being abused. Suboxone essentially tricks the brain into thinking it is being satisfied with some other opiate, but without any of the potentially addictive effects.

The cons of using Suboxone

In this way, it is more unlikely that the patient will develop a new addiction to the medication. This doesn’t mean, however, that there are no risks with Suboxone treatment. The dosage of Suboxone has to be closely monitored by a professional as larger doses have more powerful effects and can become addictive. If the user begins to abuse the medication to achieve that euphoric high of an opiate they risk relapsing. Very large doses of Suboxone are potentially fatal in the same manner as other opiates: it can lead to respiratory failure and death. Because of these risks Suboxone treatment should ideally take place at an inpatient drug rehab facility.

If you or a loved one needs drug addiction help with opiate addiction, contact Beachside Rehab to find out about your options and our Suboxone treatment program.