Learn about Suboxone®
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 agonist 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. The 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:
• Burning mouth (glossodynia)
• Inflammation of the oral mucous membrane (oral mucosal erythema)
• Numbness (oral hypoesthesia)
• Signs and symptoms of withdrawal
Suboxone users experiencing any type of side effects should report the symptoms to their treating physicians.
Clinical studies conducted on Suboxone and buprenorphine have found individuals suffering from opioid addiction had positive outcomes when used as directed by their doctors and as part of a comprehensive treatment program.
The first clinical study for Suboxone found young adults who took the medication and underwent counseling for 12 weeks showed considerable improvement over young adults who only received the standard treatment of short-term counseling and detoxification. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in November 2008, involved 154 patients ranging in age from 15 to 21 years old.
A study involving 90 men found that a single, high dose of buprenorphine can decrease cravings for other opioids during opioid withdrawal. According to the study, published in August 2018 in the Trials medical journal, the men were in an inpatient psychiatric ward and addicted to legal prescription opioids and illegal opioids, such as opium and heroin. The men were randomly placed into three groups and given buprenorphine when in moderate opiate withdrawal. Researchers found that the groups who received higher doses of buprenorphine had a greater reduction in opioid cravings.
Treatment with Suboxone Expected to Continue
After seeing positive outcomes of medication-assisted treatment accompanied by a full range of behavioral therapies, the FDA approved the first generic versions of Suboxone in June 2018. The federal agency is also encouraging the “innovation and development” of new buprenorphine treatments to combat the opioid crisis.
With medication such as Suboxone and addiction treatment facilities, people struggling with opioid addiction can take back control of their lives and end the devastating consequences of opioid dependency.