Many people struggling to overcome opioid addiction are getting help—and hope—from Suboxone. Withdrawing from painkillers, heroin and other narcotic drugs brings physical and psychological challenges. But studies show that combining Suboxone with counseling, support groups and other therapies can be an effective, comprehensive approach to treating opioid addiction.
How Suboxone Works
Suboxone contains two prescription medications: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is in a class of drugs called “opioid partial agonist” which helps ease withdrawal symptoms from other opiates. Although buprenorphine “turns on” the same receptors in the brain as other opioids, it produces less intense effects than full antagonist opioids like heroin. So, a person using heroin while taking buprenorphine will feel a less intense euphoria or “high.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), buprenorphine is the first medication used to treat opioid addiction that can be prescribed or dispensed by qualified physicians in different settings, such as a doctor’s office, a health department or a hospital. Buprenorphine stands in contrast to methadone which can only be dispensed in a “highly structured” clinic to treat opioid dependency, according to SAMHSA.
Naloxone is an “opioid antagonist” which blocks the effects of opioid drugs. So, if someone uses an opioid, naloxone brings on withdrawal symptoms. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, naloxone can block the euphoric high that non-buprenorphine users get after injecting buprenorphine. Naloxone is also used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Suboxone in October 2002 to treat opioid dependency. Suboxone comes in tablets and in film strips and both are taken sublingually, which means placing the medication under the tongue. This popular prescription drug is used in medication assisted treatment for addiction to fentanyl, heroin, morphine and other legal—and illegal—opioids.
Suboxone Side Effects
Like other prescription medications, Suboxone may cause side effects. The FDA reports that the most common adverse reactions to Suboxone include: