Does Suboxone help with opiate withdrawal?

Yes. Suboxone can treat opiate addiction by preventing symptoms of withdrawal from heroin and other opiates. More on this type of medication assisted treatment here.

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Suboxone is a form of help with opiate addiction which works by preventing symptoms of withdrawal from heroin and other opiates. In addition, Suboxone is also prescribed during the maintenance phase of treatment after acute opiate withdrawal has resolved.

Here, we investigate the effects of Suboxone during opiate withdrawal and how it can help. Then, we invite your questions in the comments section at the bottom of the page. In fact, we try to respond to all questions personally and promptly.

What is opiate withdrawal?

The opiate class of drugs includes natural derivatives of opium such as heroin, morphine, and codeine…as well as synthetic opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, and others. These drugs are inherently highly addictive. In fact, cases of addiction have been reported even after ONE USE. But why does your body go through withdrawal when you stop using these types of drugs?

When you stop or dramatically reduce opiate drugs after heavy and prolonged use (several weeks or more), you will probably feel a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms are known as opiate withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs when your central nervous system adapts to the presence of opiates and becomes dependent on them for “normal” operations. In fact, some systems of the body “speed up” in order to counter the effects of opiate depressants. So when you stop taking opiates, your body needs a period of time to adjust to regular homeostasis, and it’s the “speeded up” systems that bring discomfort.

How can Suboxone help with opiate withdrawal?

Suboxone is a prescription medicine used to treat people who are addicted to (and physically dependent on) opiate or opioid drugs (either prescription or illegal). It’s not a “magic pill”, however, and Suboxone should be used as part of a complete treatment program that also includes counseling and behavioral therapy. Suboxone is a controlled substance (CIII) because it contains buprenorphine. At low doses, buprenorphine produces an agonist effect that helps people quit other opiates without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. How?

Suboxone works in the brain by engaging opioid receptors that are usually triggered by opiates. It occupies these part of the nerve cells to suppress withdrawal. In effect, it occupies the same nerve receptors that opiates formerly occupied, “tricking” the brain into delaying withdrawal. However, Suboxone is a medication approved for the treatment of opiate addiction and carries minimal risk of abuse. It also contains an additional ingredient called naloxone to guard against misuse. So even though you won’t be craving stronger opiates, you cannot get high on Suboxone. In this way, Suboxone is used during the maintenance phase of treatment.

Suboxone prescription for opiate withdrawal treatment

Suboxone is less tightly controlled than other opiate addiction medicines such as methadone because its ingredients have a lower potential for abuse and are less dangerous in an overdose. You can get prescriptions for medications containing buprenorphine like Suboxone by seeing a qualified doctor with a DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) identification number. Then you can start in-office treatment and receive prescriptions for ongoing medication.

Q: Where can you find such doctors?

A: The CSAT (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment) maintains a database to help patients locate qualified doctors.

Always take Suboxone exactly as your doctor tells you. Your doctor may change your dose after seeing how it affects you. Do not change your dose unless your doctor tells you to change it. Do not take Suboxone more often than prescribed by your doctor. Further, do not give Suboxone to other people, even if they have the same symptoms you have. It may harm them and it is against the law.

Who SHOULDN’T use Suboxone in opiate withdrawal treatment?

Do not take Suboxone if you are allergic to buprenorphine or naloxone. Suboxone may not be right for you. Before taking Suboxone, tell your doctor if you:

  • are breast feeding or plan to breast feed. Suboxone can pass into your milk and may harm your baby. Talk to your doctor about the best way to feed your baby if you take Suboxone. Monitor your baby for increased sleepiness and breathing problems.
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if SUBOXONE will harm your unborn baby. If you take Suboxone while pregnant, your baby may have symptoms of withdrawal at birth. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
  • have a curve in your spine that affects your breathing
  • have a head injury or brain problem
  • have a history of alcoholism
  • have been diagnosed with Addison’s disease
  • have adrenal gland problems
  • have an enlarged prostate gland (men)
  • have any other medical condition
  • have gallbladder problems
  • have liver or kidney problems
  • have low thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • have mental problems such as hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there)
  • have problems urinating
  • have trouble breathing or lung problems

Suboxone help with opiate withdrawal questions

We are here to provide any information that you may need regarding opiate withdrawal treatment. If you are trying to stop opiate use or you have a loved one who’s struggling, maybe Suboxone is a medication that can help. We welcome your questions and comments in the section below. And we will try our best to provide answers or refer you to experts that can.

Reference Sources: FDA: Subutex and Suboxone Questions and Answers
FDA: Subutex (buprenorphine hydrochloride) and Suboxone tablets (buprenorphine hydrochloride and naloxone hydrochloride)
MedlinePlus: Opiate withdrawal
SAMHSA: Buprenorphine Therapy
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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