Does Subutex help with opiate withdrawal?

Yes, Subutex actually delays withdrawal from stronger drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, or heroin. More on how Subutex works in the brain here.

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Q: Does Subutex help withdrawal symptoms?

A: Yes, Subutex can help with opiate withdrawal.

How? We review the basics of opiate withdrawal and how Subutex can help. More here. With a section for your questions at the end

Main uses of Subutex

Subutex (buprenorphine) is an appropriate treatment for people who find themselves dependent on opiates or opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers. Subutex works to stop cravings, block withdrawal symptoms, and prevents “dope sickness”. It is usually prescribed over the long term, rather than the acute period of opiate withdrawal. In fact, it delays opiate withdrawal altogether.

While the use of Subutex requires specific medical supervision, it can truly help people deal with opiate withdrawal and addiction as an assisted treatment therapy. So, what happens during opiate withdrawal, exactly?

What is opiate withdrawal?

Opiate withdrawal refers to the wide range of symptoms that occur after stopping or dramatically reducing opiate drugs after heavy and prolonged use (several weeks or more). Common opiate/opioid drugs found on the market include heroin, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, Oxycontin (oxycodone), Dilaudid, methadone, Percocet (oxycodone) and others.

Opiate withdrawal occurs because the brain adapts to the presence of these mind-altering substances over time. To counter their depressant effects, the system “speeds up”. Take away the opiate drugs, and the symptoms that manifest are no longer masked and require time in order for the body to achieve homeostasis again. Common symptoms that people typically experience during opiate withdrawal include:

  • anxiety and restlessness
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • muscle and bone aches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sweating

How can Subutex help with opiate withdrawal?

Subutex is a medication approved for the treatment of opiate dependence. How can Subutex help with opiate cravings? It contains the active ingredient buprenorphine hydrochloride, which works to reduce the symptoms of opiate dependence.  At low doses, buprenorphine produces sufficient agonist effect to enable opioid-addicted individuals to discontinue the misuse of opioids without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Subutex is typically given during the first few days of treatment, while Suboxone (medicine that contains an additional ingredient called naloxone to guard against misuse) is used more during the maintenance phase of treatment. The reasons that Subutex is most often used for the first 1 or 2 days to help you start with treatment is because it helps regulate the way you feel so that you can participate in complete treatment program that also includes counseling and behavioral therapy.

Subutex prescription for opiate withdrawal treatment

Currently, opiate dependence treatments like Subutex can be dispensed only in a limited number of clinics or by certified doctors that specialize in this type of treatment. Only qualified doctors with the necessary DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) identification number are able to start in-office treatment and provide prescriptions for ongoing medication. The CSAT (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment) maintains a database to help people locate qualified doctors that you can find here:

Who SHOULDN’T use Subutex in opiate withdrawal treatment?

Your doctor should know about all your medical conditions before deciding if Subutex is right for you or what dose is best. Tell your doctor about all of your medical problems. Do not take Subutex if:

1. Your doctor did not prescribe Subutex for you.
2. You are allergic to buprenorphine, or any of the inactive ingredients in the medicines.
3. You have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions (ex. head injury, brain or mental conditions, liver or kidney problems, or gallbladder problems)
4. You are pregnant or plan to become pregnant; it is not known whether it could harm your baby.
5. You are breast feeding; Subutex will pass through your milk and may harm your baby.

Subutex help with opiate withdrawal questions

Do you or a loved one have a Subutex abuse or addiction problem? Learn more about the addiction potential, available treatment options, the course of rehab and recovery for Subutex. We explain more about what you can expect from your Subutex recovery in this comprehensive guide on opioid addiction treatment programs.

In case you have any specific questions related to taking Subutex in early recovery, please feel free to post them in the following section. We’ll try to provide you with a personal and prompt response, or refer you to someone who can help.

Reference Sources: SAMHSA: About buprenorphine therapy
FDA: Subutex medication guide
FDA: Subutex and Suboxone
FDA: Patient Information Leaflet
MedlinePlus: Opiate withdrawal
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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