Suboxone, a Schedule III opiate narcotic, exists as one of a handful of opiate addiction treatment medications. Much like methadone, Suboxone helps to restore normal brain chemical activity and support a person’s ongoing efforts at abstinence.
According to the U. S. Food & Drug Administration, Suboxone maintenance treatment works as a type of medication replacement therapy, supporting normal brain chemical function on a long-term basis. As an opiate addition treatment, Suboxone maintenance therapy most benefits people with long histories of opiate abuse and addiction.
Suboxone’s Therapeutic Effects
Suboxone, a brand name form of buprenorphine, contains two drug compounds: buprenorphine and naloxone. As a synthetic opiate, buprenorphine works along the same lines as methadone, stimulating needed neurotransmitter secretions in the brain without producing the “high” effects brought on by addictive opiates.
Naloxone an antagonist opiate-type drug works as a preventative agent, blocking addictive opiates from accessing brain cell receptor sites. In effect, Suboxone supports damaged cell receptor sites and helps restore a normal chemical balance in the brain. In the process, addicts gain much needed relief from drug withdrawal and cravings effects.
Suboxone Maintenance Treatment Protocols
According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Suboxone maintenance treatment follows set guidelines for determining needed dosage levels while providing ongoing monitoring to gauge treatment effectiveness. In order to do this, physicians follow certain protocols throughout the course of Suboxone maintenance treatment. Treatment protocols employed include:
- An initial screening and assessment stage
- Determining whether a person will benefit from Suboxone maintenance treatment
- Treating any co-occurring medical or psychological disorders that compromise a person’s recovery efforts
- Assessing the need for specialty services, such as dual diagnosis treatment
Suboxone Maintenance Treatment Phases
Suboxone maintenance treatment involves a three-phase process –induction, stabilization and maintenance- with each phase marking different stages in the treatment process, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. More often than not, a person will undergo a series of dosage adjustments before the optimal dosage level is reached.
The induction phase of Suboxone maintenance treatment works to transition patients from addictive opiates to Suboxone. This phase typically last a week in duration.
It’s not uncommon for patients to be engaging in opiate abuse at the start of treatment. With the correct dosage amount, a person will gradually decrease or stop opiate abuse altogether. Determining the lowest dosage amount needed to ward off uncomfortable withdrawal and cravings effects becomes the overall goal of this phase of treatment.
While Suboxone works well at relieving withdrawal and cravings effects, a person may still experience periods of discomfort. Ideally, the optimal dosage level will alleviate all signs of distress without creating a “high” effect or causing sedation. Consequently, much of the stabilization phase of Suboxone maintenance treatment entails gauging the drug’s effects and making needed dosage adjustments. This phase can run anywhere from one to two months in duration.
By the time a person reaches the maintenance phase of treatment, the correct dosage level needed to ward off withdrawal and cravings effects is being administered. At this point, Suboxone maintenance treatment programs focus their efforts on engaging patients in behavioral treatment interventions in order to address the psychological effects of long-term opiate abuse. Behavioral treatment interventions used may include:
- Family therapy
- Vocational counseling
- Group therapy
- Support group work
This treatment phase continues on indefinitely until a person can maintain abstinence without the need for medication treatment, though he or she will likely continue receiving behavioral-based treatment in one form or another.