Can’t I Just Quit Using Suboxone on My Own?

Suboxone is a drug offered by physicians as a substitute to more powerful opiates like heroin and morphine.  For addicts attempting the long road back to recovery, it can be a God-send.  The drug is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone.  These chemicals work in concert to help relieve symptoms of opiate withdrawal.  Quitting without medical supervision, however, is ill-advised.

Opiate Addiction

The American Society of Addiction Medicine reports 21.5 million Americans suffered with opiate addiction in 2014.  Of those, 586,000 were addicted to heroin.  Doctors struggle with how best to solve this growing epidemic.

The Suboxone Solution

Heroin triggers mµ and kappa opioid receptors in the brain.  These receptors block pain responses and create a euphoric effect for the user.  Suboxone works in the same way as heroin; however, the level of high and propensity for overdose is significantly decreased.  The drug is generally administered sublingually, or under the tongue, ultimately decreasing cravings and increasing an addict’s ability to better maintain abstinence from other opiates.

Opiate Cessation with Suboxone

Quit Using Suboxone

Feeling isolated makes it difficult to avoid relapse.

Many physicians are prescribing Suboxone in an attempt to help addicts find freedom from opiate addiction.  Suboxone should be viewed as a step along the path to lasting recovery.  Thus, this medication should be used with medical supervision and as one component of a multilayered treatment program.

Misuse of Suboxone

One of the benefits of Suboxone is it is difficult to misuse.  The brain of an addict is programmed to “drug-liking”.  Seeking a high, some patients have reported attempting to administer the drug intravenously with little effect.  Thus, the drug is less likely to be abused or cause overdose.

Suboxone Withdrawal

Like any opioid agonist, stopping Suboxone abruptly will result in withdrawal symptoms.  Because the buprenorphine/naloxone combination acts in the same manner as common opiates, the withdrawal symptoms are similar.  Stopping without graduated reduction can cause:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Safely stopping

Many types of drugs create dependence in the mind and body.  Suboxone is no different in this respect.  While attempting to quit heroin or another dangerous opiate, using Suboxone can be of great benefit.  Medical monitoring of organ systems and tapering use of the substance is necessary to avoid nasty withdrawal side effects.

Tapering

Depending upon the level of addiction in each individual patient, doctors will prescribe a taper schedule usually lasting between three weeks and three months.  During this time, patients are monitored closely for blood pressure, blood sugar and respiratory changes. Suboxone is prescribed and dosages are decreased in small increments.  Upon completion of the taper schedule, patients are able to stop using entirely.

Stopping “On My Own”

Most addiction experts agree, recovery is a group effort.  For addicts, it is natural to seek release from boredom, pain and worry through the use of chemicals.  This leads to isolation and despair.  Seeking assistance in quitting and establishing healthy relationships is key for lasting recovery and relapse prevention.

How Drug Rehabs Help Patients Cope with Suboxone Withdrawal

Resources

American Society of Addiction Medication (2016). Opioid addiction 2016 facts and figures. ASAM. Retrieved from: http://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/opioid-addiction-disease-facts-figures.pdf

Heller, J. (2016). Opiate and opioid withdrawal. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedLine Plus. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm

Johnson, R., Jaffe, J. & Fudala, P. (1992). A controlled trial of buprenorphine treatment for opioid dependence. JAMA. 267(20). 2750-2755. Retrieved from:  http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=397410

Jones, H. (2004). Practical considerations for the clinical use of buprenorphine. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice. 2(2). 4-20. Retrieved from:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851017/

Ling, W., Hillhouse, M., Domier, C., Doraimani, G., et al. (2009). Buprenorphine tapering schedule and illicit opioid use. Addiction. 104(2). 256-265. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150159/

SAMHSA (2016). Buprenorphine. Retrieved from:  http://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/buprenorphine

Whelan, P. & Remski, K. (2012). Buprenorphine versus methadone treatment: A review of evidence in both developed and developing worlds. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practices. 3(1). 45-50. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3271614/