Suboxone is an approved, opioid replacement therapy (ORT) medication used to treat opioid dependence. Someone using Suboxone should not attempt to stop using the drug on their own, as sudden removal of this medication can result in potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. Studies report people may continue to use Suboxone because they fear experiencing painful withdrawal.
The Key To Getting Off Suboxone Is Tapering
Most clinicians agree that slowly decreasing Suboxone, in small increments, is the most effective way of weaning someone off the medication. Addiction treatment specialists can help develop tapering schedules for individuals wishing to get off of Suboxone. The more rapidly Suboxone is removed from the body, the more likely someone will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
In order to prevent unpleasant withdrawal, Suboxone tapering can be a lengthy process. Each person’s dosages will differ, depending on their exact situation. Coming off of Suboxone may not be for everyone, and some people may need to remain on Suboxone maintenance for life.
What To Expect When Tapering Off Suboxone
When tapering is gradual, most people don’t feel a noticeable difference in their wellbeing until they reach a very low dose (usually between two to four mg). People tend to become more sensitive to smaller doses because Suboxone has a very long half-life, meaning that it stays in the body for a long time. How long it lasts will vary from person to person, depending on their body’s ability to process and eliminate the drug, but, reported times have ranged anywhere from 24 to 60 hours.
When individuals participating in a Suboxone tapering process reach the two mg mark, less than 100 percent of the brain receptors that interact with the drug are occupied. The fewer occupied receptors, the more aware the brain becomes of the decrease in Suboxone. However, individuals on a well-structured tapering schedule should only feel tired, or experience flu-like symptoms for a few days following a reduction in dose.
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If necessary, there are additional tools that can help someone complete the tapering process. Although the lowest available dose of Suboxone in tablet form is 2 mg, Suboxone strips can be cut into smaller doses of .5, .75, 1, and 1.5 milligrams. These lower doses can help someone continue their slow and methodical taper.
In some cases, another drug called Naltrexone may be used. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist and works by blocking the effects of opioids. When used to complete the tapering process, Naltrexone may offer additional anti-craving properties and further promote sobriety.
Potential Dangers Of Stopping Suboxone Too Quickly – Suboxone Withdrawal
Rapidly tapering-off, or suddenly stopping Suboxone use is never recommended, because it can result in withdrawal syndrome. Although the withdrawal syndrome from Suboxone is said to be less severe than that produced by stronger opioids, it can still be very unpleasant.
Possible Suboxone withdrawal symptoms include:
- difficulties sleeping
- abdominal pain
However, a well-structured tapering plan should help prevent many, if not all, negative withdrawal symptoms.
How Suboxone Works
Suboxone is combination drug composed of three-fourths buprenorphine and one-fourth naloxone. Buprenorphine is a potent opioid-agonist and can produce opioid-like effects, such as euphoria and pain relief. The effects of buprenorphine can be long-lasting, as it is metabolized and removed from the body very slowly. The release, effect, and elimination rates of buprenorphine vary considerably, with reported times between three and 44 hours.
Naloxone is an opioid blockade medication, initially added to buprenorphine to deter intravenous abuse of the drug. Opioid blockade medications work by occupying the same central nervous system (CNS) receptors as opioids. Naloxone has a higher affinity or is more compatible with these receptors than opioid molecules are.
There are a limited number of receptors available within the CNS that are capable of binding with these types of substances. Once naloxone occupies these receptors, the effects of the opioids are blocked. Naloxone is also thought to lessen the degree of attraction and reward from opioids on the brain. In some cases, naloxone may even be used (on its own) to treat opioid overdose.
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This combination of buprenorphine and naloxone works well and can be an effective way of reducing tolerance to stronger opioids, like heroin or OxyContin. However, because Suboxone is so similar to more potent opioids, it can be just as challenging to cease using.
Find Help To Get Off Suboxone Safely Today
Some people may believe that getting off Suboxone isn’t possible. However, with proper addiction treatment, it is possible to stop using Suboxone safely. It is best to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a primary care doctor or addiction specialist to make sure all individual circumstances are taken into account before stopping this medication.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to getting off of Suboxone. It will take time and effort to quit the drug successfully. Inpatient treatment can offer a comprehensive Suboxone tapering plan, and a controlled environment to execute that plan, which can increase the chances of successfully getting off Suboxone.
For more information on how to get off Suboxone safely, call an addiction specialist today.