Suboxone is a commonly used opioid medication that can help control pain and also help people overcome opioid addiction and is often part of a complex and complete recovery plan to help people deal with opioid addiction.
That might seem a little odd at first glance. But, it’s an opioid used to treat opioid addiction.
But that’s important because it means that a lot of people who are in suboxone treatment are people who have already dealt with one addiction. So knowing that Suboxone can also be addictive and understanding the side effects, risks, and likely withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking Suboxone is important.
Not understanding this medication can leave you more vulnerable to an opioid addiction relapse, but when you have the information you need, Suboxone becomes an incredible tool.
So, what’s the information you need to use Suboxone safely?
We’re glad you asked.
Suboxone is a combination of Buprenorphine and Naloxone.
Buprenorphine is a partial agonist opioid, which is important because it doesn’t offer nearly as much euphoria and sensation as most opioid medications, which means it’s less likely to cause the same kinds of psychological addiction that other opioid medications can cause.
Naloxone, on the other hand, is a rescue medication designed to treat accidental opioid overdoses by blocking the function of the opioid and preventing the drug from causing any additional harm.
That’s important because Naloxone controls some of the opioid effects from the rest of the medication, makes it significantly harder to overdose on Suboxone, and works to decrease the satisfaction from taking the drug, which helps reduce the symptoms and causes of opioid addiction in the first place.
Suboxone is frequently used to help people who are struggling with opioid addiction, particularly people who have had several relapses or who suffer from extreme withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking their opioids, because it eases the effects of opioid withdrawal and can make it easier for other parts of treatment to continue without the medical side effects.
That said, there are still risks to using Suboxone, both while you’re actively using it and when you eventually stop taking Suboxone and have to deal with the withdrawal from the drug.
Let’s talk about those.
Understanding that Suboxone has its side effects and risks is important because it’s one of the key reasons that the goal of treatment is usually to stop taking Suboxone and learn how to experience and live life without any opioid medication.
That said, it’s also important to remember that suboxone use doesn’t guarantee these side effects, and the risks of taking Suboxone are a little different for everyone who takes the medication. Like all medications, side effects vary from person to person, and in some cases, the side effects of using Suboxone may outweigh the benefits.
Here are some of the common side effects of the medication:
As you might have noticed, several of these side effects can be serious, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use Suboxone without serious side effects.
Also, if the side effects of Suboxone are worse than its benefits, some alternatives may offer some of the same benefits without the drawbacks of Suboxone. So don’t give up hope if Suboxone turns out to be the wrong drug for you.
Assuming Suboxone is a good fit for you, it’s important to make sure you’re also prepared for going through withdrawal when you stop taking it.
Withdrawal from Suboxone is a good thing for most people taking it. It usually means that you’ve gotten to the point in treatment where you’re more stable and able to cope with withdrawal and cravings more effectively now than when you began treatment.
That doesn’t mean that Suboxone withdrawal will be easy or that you won’t need to prepare for withdrawal.
Here are some of the symptoms you should expect from suboxone withdrawal:
There may be other side effects from Suboxone use as well, and taking too much Suboxone or taking doses too close together or through unapproved methods of ingestion may all lead to sudden and more severe withdrawal symptoms.
You should talk to your provider if you have sudden withdrawal symptoms while using Suboxone as prescribed. They may recommend changing your dose, changing the kind of Suboxone you’re using, or even switching to a different medication that can help manage opioid addiction.
You should also be prepared for withdrawal from Suboxone to take about the same time as withdrawal from other opioids when you’re ready to stop taking the medication. At the same time, the Naloxone in the formula may mean that withdrawal symptoms start sooner but can also help make the symptoms milder at the same time.
If withdrawal from Suboxone gets too much, or the symptoms become more than you can handle, that may be a sign that you’re stopping Suboxone too soon or that you may benefit from a medically supervised withdrawal or additional medication support to help manage your symptoms.
Remember, you’re still in recovery if you’re taking Suboxone, and you’re still getting better even if you have to keep taking it a little longer than anticipated. It’s okay if the path through recovery isn’t straightforward or predictable. It rarely is.
Letting yourself get the help and support you need to recover from your addiction fully is much more important and effective than forcing yourself to recover in a specific or predictable time frame.
Taking Suboxone is one step in treatment, so you may already have sought help earlier in your treatment process. However, when it’s time to stop taking Suboxone, you might need more support again to help you get through that part of the process.
If you’ve already been through one opioid withdrawal, you should know how withdrawal can feel and may already have some coping mechanisms and support systems to help you.
However, it’s natural to feel anxious when you’re getting ready for another withdrawal. You may even be worried that you won’t be able to get through it, especially if your previous experiences were negative or more severe than you anticipated at the time.
Telling yourself that this round won’t be as difficult might not be helpful and may not even be realistic, depending on how long you’ve been taking Suboxone, why you’re detoxing, and what dose you’re coming off of.
If you’re worried, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your options, whether there’s a lower dose of Suboxone you can try for a while before detoxing or if there are other medications that may offer some support but not as much as Suboxone.
You might also want to consider going to a treatment center, at least for the acute portion of your withdrawal, so you’re withdrawing in a safe and medically supported setting.
One of the common reasons people take Suboxone as part of their addiction treatment is if their body needs time to recover and regain some strength while in recovery, but before it’s safe to go through withdrawal.
If that were the case for you, a treatment center might be a better option than trying to withdraw at home because the treatment center can help you manage any unexpected complications and keep you safe throughout the process.
They may also have access to additional interventions that make it easier for your body to cope with withdrawal and may make the long-term stress and fatigue of a typical opioid withdrawal less severe.
It’s possible to recover from Suboxone use and detox and go through withdrawal at home. But for many Suboxone users, that’s a higher-risk scenario that might not be ideal or a good part of recovery.
Like taking Suboxone in the first place, going to a treatment center for help with your withdrawal isn’t a sign of weakness.
Instead, going to a treatment center is a sign of commitment to overcoming your addiction and moving forward with the next treatment steps.
If you’re ready to detox from Suboxone but want help managing and getting through Suboxone withdrawal, Ascendant NY is here for you. We can help manage symptoms, continue your work on developing healthy coping mechanisms, as well as identify any areas that need more attention and work while you continue your recovery.
If you want to learn more about our programs, including intake, and what kind of support we offer people during and after detox, contact us. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and help you figure out if our programs are a good fit for your needs.
Last medically reviewed September 18, 2022