Suboxone contains two active ingredients. The first is buprenorphine, which blocks opioid receptors in the brain and decreases cravings. The second is naloxone, which works to reverse the effects of opioids.
A medication very similar to Suboxone is Zubsolv. Zubsolv has the same active ingredients as Suboxone. There are a few differences between the two. Zubsolv has a mint flavor; Suboxone has a citrus taste. Also, Zubsolv comes as a small tablet that is placed under the tongue; Suboxone comes in the form of a film that also goes under the tongue. The two medications also have different dosing guidelines. The way they work in the body, though, is almost identical, and so are the withdrawal symptoms that occur when the medications are discontinued.
The Decision to Stop Taking Suboxone
Your doctor usually prescribes Suboxone or Zubsolv to help you stop taking stronger opioids such as heroin or oxycodone. While one of the ingredients, buprenorphine, is also an opiate and binds with the opioid receptors in the brain, it does not create a sensation of being high.
You and your doctor may decide to keep you on Suboxone for months, years or indefinitely. You may also decide to stop taking Suboxone at some point. This may be your choice if you have a problem with side effects such as trouble getting your breath, or if you are pregnant or nursing.
Although it’s not common, buprenorphine can also lead to dependency and addiction. If you find yourself taking more of the medication than prescribed, you and your doctor may decide that it is best for you to stop taking Suboxone altogether.
When you stop taking Suboxone, you may experience Suboxone withdrawal symptoms. The type and intensity of Suboxone and Zubsolv withdrawal symptoms are influenced by many factors. These include how long you’ve been using the medication, how much medication you’re taking, whether you taper off Suboxone or stop taking it cold turkey, and individual biological and emotional differences.
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Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms You May Experience
Not everyone experiences the same Suboxone or Zubsolv withdrawal symptoms at the same intensity. The most common symptoms people experience when withdrawing from Suboxone include
- Agitation, restlessness, feeling as if you can’t sit still
- Body aches, pain in the joints, headaches
- Brain fog, problems with concentration and memory
- Cravings for opioids
- Depression, mood swings
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Low energy, fatigue
- Racing heart, palpitations
- Insomnia, other sleep problems
- Excessive perspiration
Suboxone Withdrawal Timeline
No two people who stop taking this medication will have exactly the same experiences, but there is a general Suboxone withdrawal timeline.
One to three days. Suboxone has a relatively long chemical half-life, so it stays in the body longer than many other addictive substances. Therefore, you may not notice any withdrawal symptoms at all for the first day or so after your last dose of Suboxone.
Three to five days. Physical symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, aches and pains, heart palpitations, restlessness, and excessive sweating are at their worst. You may also notice some emotional symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and irritability.
One to two weeks. The worst of your physical symptoms should start to fade. Emotional symptoms, though, may become more prominent.
One month to three months. Emotional symptoms such as depression, lack of interest in the world around you and anxiety improve over time. You may continue to experience strong cravings for Suboxone or Zubsolv, but in most cases, the cravings become less frequent.
Of course, there is nothing magical about the three-month mark. Your symptoms won’t vanish, but they will improve significantly.
Tips for Dealing with Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms
If you want to stop taking Suboxone or Zubsolv, the most important thing to do is stay in close touch with your treatment team. The doctor who prescribes your medication can help you taper off Suboxone or Zubsolv. He or she can also help you manage withdrawal symptoms. The following ideas may also be helpful.
- Substance abuse treatment. It may be helpful to see a counselor who specializes in substance abuse issues. Attending a support group may also help you deal with symptoms. Depending on the dose of medicine you are taking and your medical condition, your doctor may suggest going to an inpatient detox program to get through withdrawal.
- Over-the-counter medications. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications such as Imodium to help with an upset stomach or diarrhea or Aleve to ease body aches. If sleep is an issue, your doctor may suggest melatonin or the occasional use of an antihistamine like Benadryl.
- Prescription medications. Some doctors prescribe antidepressants if mood problems linger longer than a few weeks. There are also medications for anxiety that your doctor can recommend, but use these with care. Some may be habit-forming.
- Lifestyle changes. Consider taking up a new activity to give you something to focus on besides unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Start an exercise program, take up a craft, learn a new skill or volunteer for a community project. Some people find comfort in caring for a pet.
If you have struggled with opioid addiction, Suboxone or Zubsolv may have helped you end your addiction and get your life back on track. Deciding to stop the Suboxone can be a difficult choice. If you and your doctor decide that it is the right one, though, it is a good idea to be aware of withdrawal symptoms and to plan in advance, with the help of your medical team, how you will deal with them.
Going through withdrawal is nobody’s idea of a good time, but you can survive it and come out, thriving, on the other side.