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How does Suboxone work in the brain?

How Suboxone works in the brain

In the brain, buprenorphine molecules (the main ingredient in Suboxone) attaches to opioid receptors, which are molecules embedded in the surface of the receiving parts of certain brain cells (the molecules that bind to receptors are called ‘ligands’). Opioid receptors carry out certain actions when activated by any opiate or opioid, whether it is buprenorphine, pain pills, or heroin. But buprenorphine is unique from other opioids in that there is a ceiling to the drugs’ actions.

Once the blood level of buprenorphine is above a certain point, further increases in buprenorphine cause no greater effect on opioid pathways. The effect allows the blood level of buprenorphine to vary from dosing and metabolism of the drug, without causing a change in the activity of opioid pathways.

Finally, opioid pathways fire more rapidly during Suboxone use after receptors are activated. The pathways then activate a number of areas in the brain and spinal cord, with effects on pain sensation, mood, and a wide range of bodily functions.

Photo credit: Wiki Media Commons

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9 Responses to “How does Suboxone work in the brain?
Karen
2:46 am August 17th, 2014

I just started using suboxone on Tuesday night I have not sleep in 4 nights I no that this is a side effect but I am getting scared I am over medicated by my dr

Shelly
7:13 pm March 1st, 2015

How long should one be prescribed suboxone before lowering dose?

11:54 am March 2nd, 2015

Hello Shelly. There is no general timeline, but suboxone maintenance treatment for opioid addiction can last for at least a year, up to two-three years. When a person develops coping skills, new positive behaviors and builds a new lifestyle, doses can start to be gradually reduced. This gradual tapering, eventually ends with a complete cessation of suboxone treatment.

Arashaad
1:00 am January 10th, 2016

I am addicted to heroin and would diee to stop, but I cant afford medication. Please help

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
7:08 pm January 10th, 2016

Hi, Arashad. I’d suggest you contact our trusted treatment provider to learn more about your treatment options. The number is displayed on the site. Good luck!

donna
7:33 am December 12th, 2016

What about if this can cause changes in actions and thoughts? If so what signs to look for??

Will
10:00 am May 14th, 2017

If you’re considering long term use of suboxone just know that there are no withdrawals on this earth that can compare to this drug imo. Opiate wds last a week AT MOST. Sub wds you don’t peak in utterly intolerable discomfort until 2 weeks in. It is a miracle drug but as serious as I can be if you are wanting to get off of opiates then do not use this for more than a week at a time tops and even then start off w your highest dose and gradually work down and just deal with the mental aspects of stopping opiates, do not blindly create or replace it with another uncomparable dependency, no matter how convenient and easy it sounds at the moment. Subs are by far one of the hardest things to break from physical dependency.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
11:52 am May 15th, 2017

Hi Will. Thank you for sharing!

Erika
3:40 pm February 26th, 2018

Anyone from Canada here ?, I left everything in mtl when I was pregnant to come to Ottawa to get clean. Although then got turned away by 3 or 4 Dr’s over the month whow would sag I was “too high risk for them” . If you are pregnant and addicted to herion or down if you stop and you withdrawal you will have a miscarriage. Then the system throws you away and everyone who doesn’t understand thinks your doing the wrong thing while your trying to do right. I’ve been on suboxon ever since a month after when I found the right office.3/4 years. my kid is tworking now, and I find it so hard. My biggest flaw as a mother is depending on this. And not being able to function when the Dr’s get lazy. I don’t know how many times they have messed up my scripts. Once they were gone over a week . You are forced to try and find something when you can take care of your kid puking. I try to get morphine but sometimes there’s only herion. But so many people are dying. I lost two in one day. With babies or kids they ween you off morphine. We used to have a service for adults but mayor Jim Watson took it away n fights against harm reduction and now we’re in a crisis and nothings being brought. I’ve asked for years to start getting off this stuff. I wasn’t allowed to go to family funerals cause I wasn’t allowed enough med to go. I’m doing everything right and still get treated like I’m at the start of my journey. We need a way to get off this. Has anyone we end off with stuff? Plz share. Dr’s won’t help me.

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About Dr. Jeffrey Junig, MD, PhD

Dr. Jeffrey Junig, MD, PhD is a psychiatrist practicing in northeast Wisconsin, in recovery from opioid dependence. He is Board Certified in both Psychiatry and Anesthesiology and holds a PhD in Neuroscience. He writes about buprenorphine at Suboxone Talk Zone, and manages a forum for patients taking buprenorphine called SuboxForum.

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