Suboxone: 5 Common Myths Debunked

Box of Suboxone, which helps individuals suffering from opioid use disorder recover safely.

Right now there are millions of Americans suffering from opioid addiction, and the fact is that most people are unlikely to be able to overcome this addiction without professional treatment. Treatment for opioid addiction usually involves a combination of therapy and medication, such as Suboxone. But does Suboxone actually work?

Studies have shown that medications like Suboxone can help ease cravings and opioid withdrawal symptoms and even lower the risk of fatal opioid overdose by more than 50%. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions and stigmas surrounding the use of Suboxone in opioid addiction treatment.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a medication that is often prescribed in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction. It is a combination therapy containing both naloxone and buprenorphine. This combination works to effectively reduce cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms, while also lowering the risk of misuse or overdose.

How Does Suboxone Work?

Suboxone works by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain without activating them. This means that the patient will not experience a “high” from Suboxone, or from taking other drugs such as heroin or prescription medications.

Myth # 1: If You Are Taking Suboxone, You Aren’t in Recovery

At Caron, we recognize that addiction is a chronic brain disease, and like any other disease, treatment with medication is often necessary. Saying that Suboxone patients aren’t in recovery only stigmatizes the use of Suboxone and prevents patients from seeking the treatment they need.

Recovering from any substance use disorder involves multiple components. Suboxone and other forms of MAT are just one of those components. MAT is intended to block cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms so that someone with opioid use disorder has the capability to focus their attention on the other aspects of working their recovery.

Myth #2: Suboxone Should Not Be Taken Long-Term

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that there is no evidence that Suboxone should be taken only for a short period of time. Some patients use Suboxone to manage their addiction for the long term. At the prescribing physician’s discretion, typically the duration is determined by the patient’s medical history and preference in relation to their recovery goals.

Myth #3: Suboxone is Often Misused

Like most medications, it is possible to misuse Suboxone, but because it is a partial opioid agonist, people don’t experience the “high” that they get from other drugs like oxycodone, which is a full opioid. Usually, those who are “misusing” Suboxone are using it illegally to manage their addiction without a prescription. If we can work to remove the stigma surrounding the use of medications like Suboxone to treat opioid dependence, those suffering from addiction would be much less likely to take this route.

Myth #4: Suboxone Overdose is Common

Many patients entering treatment believe that it is easy to overdose on Suboxone, but the reality is that it is actually very difficult to overdose on Suboxone alone. This goes back to Suboxone being a partial opioid. Opioid receptors can only be activated so much by Suboxone, so there is a lower risk of slowed breathing than there is from full opiates such as methadone. Most Suboxone overdoses occur when a patient is also taking sedatives like benzodiazepines, which act to further slow breathing.

Myth #5: Caron Does Not Support Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

At Caron, we know that MAT, including Suboxone, saves lives and significantly reduces the risk of relapse. Our treatment plans for opioid use disorder utilize FDA-approved medications in combination with evidence-based therapies to address both the brain disease of addiction and any mental health issues that are present.

Frequently Asked Questions About Suboxone

How is Suboxone Administered?

Suboxone is administered daily as a sublingual film or tablet that is dissolved under the tongue.

How Long Does it Take Suboxone to Work?

Suboxone treatment is started when the patient is in the early stages of withdrawal, usually about 24 hours after their last time using opiates. Suboxone starts to work about 30-60 minutes after the first use, but at the start of treatment, it may take a few doses for symptoms of withdrawal to subside. Once the correct dose has been established, the effects can last from 24-36 hours.

Does Suboxone Improve Your Mood?

Some studies have shown that buprenorphine, one of the active ingredients in Suboxone, is an effective antidepressant. Talk to your healthcare provider about the possible effects of Suboxone on your mood.

What Are Common Side Effects of Suboxone?

Common side effects of Suboxone treatment include:

  • Headache
  • Stomach upset or pain
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Blurred vision
  • Mouth or tongue pain or numbness
  • Back pain

If you or a loved one are suffering from opioid addiction, Caron can help. Our experienced staff of physicians and therapists design individualized treatment programs that combine MAT and behavioral therapy to help you on the road to recovery. Contact Caron today to find out about our inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment options.

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