Suboxone - What Is It and How Are People Abusing It? 

Suboxone is the marketed name of a drug containing Buprenorphine and Naloxone, which is used to treat opioid addictions. Although proven successful as an opioid replacement therapy to treat addiction, in fact, Suboxone is now proving to be as equally addicting and problematic as any other opioid drug.

Suboxone Tablet Pill

Suboxone Tablet

Suboxone Sublingual Strip

Suboxone Sublingual Dissolving Strip

In this article, I will lay out the current controversy regarding the use of Suboxone as a medical treatment for addiction recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with Suboxone use or seeking opioid addiction treatment, this article will help you make a more informed decision about Suboxone therapy and help guide you to a successful recovery.

Below, you will find a complete guide to the use and abuse of Suboxone. You will also learn how to receive help if you or a loved one is struggling with Suboxone use or seeking opioid addiction treatment. The following outline includes all the topics discussed in this article:

What you will learn:

We aim to cover the following topics in this article:

1.) The Current State of Opioid Addiction in the United State.

2.) Suboxone, The 'Safe' Take Home Treatment for Opioid Addiction.

3.) The History and Development of Suboxone.

4.) Is the Current Suboxone Therapy Successful?

5.) How Are People Abusing Suboxone?

6.) What Can Be Done for Suboxone Addiction?

7.) Understanding the Detox Process.

8.) Tips for Successful Recovery After Detoxing From Suboxone.

9.) Is There a Safer Future for Suboxone?

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-Marco Sterling

Opioid Addition in The United States

Recent estimates place sufferers of opioid addiction in the US at 2.5 million people, with 80 percent of this population addicted to prescription opioid painkillers. Opioid overdose-related deaths in the US claimed nearly 24,500 lives in 2013.

Representing the loss of one life every 21 minutes, many of these deaths involved street heroin, but more deaths occurred from prescription opioids, including hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), morphine, codeine, fentanyl (Duragesic, Fentora), hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo), oxymorphone (Opana ER), methadone, and buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone).

United States Prescription Drug Overdoses 2001 - 2014

National Overdose Deaths from Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers from 2001 to 2014.

Suboxone - The 'Safe' Take Home Treatment For Opioid Addiction.

As addiction troubles surfaced with Methadone as an opioid replacement therapy, a new alternative appeared in the form of Suboxone. 

Because of the unique combination of Suboxone's drugs, it was recognized that the Buprenorphine component would "trick" the patient's brain into believing it received an opioid while the Naloxone component would negate any "high" associated with the Buprenorphine.

Suboxone treatment was reported to effectively reduce withdrawal symptoms in the opioid addict, allowing the patient to safely detox over a short period of use. Viewed as a safe treatment, patients were allowed to take Suboxone at home, returning to the doctor's office only for prescription refills.

However, in people who are not yet addicted to opioids, the Naloxone component of Suboxone has no effect whatsoever. Therefore, the Buprenorphine component produces a "high" - substantially "high" enough to produce immediate cravings for more and leading quickly to full-blown Suboxone addiction. 

The ease with which Suboxone prescriptions can be initially obtained and repeatedly refilled has led to many interested abusers faking an opioid addiction just to obtain this dangerous drug.

Tragically producing yet another segment of opioid users, now the new population of Suboxone addicts needing medical treatment for recovery has exploded.

The History and Development of Suboxone.

In 1969, seeking to manufacture an opioid similar to morphine but without the addiction component, researchers at Reckitt & Colman, today known as Reckitt Benckiser, succeeded in producing Buprenorphine and began human trials in 1971. 

Reckitt Benckiser - Suboxone Manufacturer

Initially launched in the UK in 1978, it was not until 2002 that Buprenorphine (Subutex) and Buprenorphine with Naloxone (Suboxone) were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Prior to Suboxone's FDA approval, Reckitt Benckiser actively lobbied the US Congress in the drafting of the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000). This act single-handedly impacted the prescribing and administration laws regarding narcotic drugs for detox and addiction treatments.

While prior laws required drug addiction treatment in inpatient settings only, DATA 2000 conveniently paved the way for looser outpatient dispensing regulations for opioid drugs like Reckitt Benckiser's Suboxone.

Suboxone outpatient treatment has grown into a lucrative patient-maker for physicians who complete an eight-hour training session. Once qualified by the completion of this training, a physician can maintain 100 patients on Suboxone for an unlimited length of time and an unlimited number of prescription refills. 

The patient must simply pay for a doctor visit for each refill, and continue shelling out the price of the pills at the pharmacy.

However, patients report that common costs for an initial screening appointment without health insurance can cost $750.00. Monthly refill appointments cost around $180.00 and the generic prescription of Suboxone, at a minimum of one pill a day for one month, can cost $150.00. 

As of 2014, US sales of Buprenorphine drug products, including Suboxone, reached approximately $1.75 billion annually.

Is the Current Suboxone Therapy Successful?

To understand the need for better management of opioid replacement therapy, it must first be understood that Suboxone is not the problem. Ease of abuse is the problem. 

In their search for addiction recovery treatment, many patients initially come into contact with Suboxone as a legitimate therapy for opioid addiction. Under careful medical supervision, with a properly tailored dosage that is tapered off slowly over an appropriate length of time, most opioid addicts can be safely and relatively painlessly detoxed using Suboxone.

However, coming clean from an opioid addiction is extremely difficult because the addiction is very often originally acquired through treatment for pain. 

Even if the addiction is acquired through recreational use only, the opioid user enjoys the pain-free, peaceful, and euphoric feelings associated with the drug's "high." Soon, with a diminished ability to handle normal amounts of discomfort, the user slips into the grip of addiction. This is true of all opioid drugs, including Suboxone.

Because "coming down" is accompanied by physical pain and emotional distress, the addict must get "high" again, to relieve the onset of withdrawal symptoms. In this weakened condition, quitting "cold turkey" is physically and emotionally impossible for most addicts.

Opioid withdrawal by the "cold turkey" method typically includes the following symptoms:

Opioid withdrawal by the "cold turkey" method typically includes the following symptoms:

  • Physical weakness and/or body aches.
  • Increased heart rate and/or blood pressure.
  • Sweating and/or fever.
  • Chills, shivering, and/or trembeling.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Abdominal cramps and/or diarrhea.
  • Runny nose and/or sneezing.
  • Nervousness and/or restlessness.
  • Irritability and/or anger.

Quitting "cold turkey" isn't the only solution for you or your loved one, thankfully. All of these symptoms can be carefully and comfortably managed by a compassionate medical team during drug detox at a good rehab clinic.

How Are People Abusing Suboxone Today?

Trouble occurs when an opioid addict is not really ready to quit using opioids. Without a sincere desire to clean the addiction out of his or her life, relapses after detoxing often send a drug user spiraling back down into addiction. Seeking to get back onto the Suboxone, the patient returns to the doctor's office for more.

Likewise, addicts of less powerful opioid prescription painkillers often seek out Suboxone treatment to cure their addiction. Recreational users may simply wish to obtain a "legal" opioid prescription, and they only have to satisfactorily fake an addiction to get it.

In any case, relying on the doctor as the legal authority and finding such easy access to Suboxone quickly makes it the patient's new, convenient drug of choice. 

The troubles shortly multiply, though, as the Naloxone component in Suboxone soon negates more and more of the opioid "high" from the Buprenorphine component, leaving the patient unsatisfied with the "high."

Using higher and higher doses of Suboxone to achieve the "high" they are seeking but can't quite reach, these addicts now find themselves in a very desperate position -- The very substance they are addicted to will no longer be successful for treating their addiction. 

Without a merciful method of detox available to the Suboxone addict, detox often means a far more uncomfortable process.

What Can Be Done For Suboxone Addiction?

Because Naloxone is less effective for them, Suboxone addicts are presented with more of a challenge than ordinarily accompanies other opioid addictions. An extended period of detox may be required to carefully taper off Suboxone. 

Nevertheless, successful strategies for all types of addictions, no matter how complicated, are available and are well understood by professional and caring staff at a reputable drug rehab and recovery clinic.

Addiction Problems Quote_Robert H Schuller

As with all addictions, detoxing is the first step to recovery. Understanding what happens during detox can be very helpful for anyone interested in kicking their addiction. If you or your loved one is interested in taking this admirable step, the process will be less scary when you know what to expect.

The goal of detoxification is to medically treat the immediate physical effects of completely stopping drug/alcohol use. It is also designed to remove toxins left behind in the body from the chemicals found in whatever you or your loved one was addicted to.

Understanding the Detox Process.

Because months or years of addiction may have resulted in serious medical stress on the patient's body, a medical team usually conducts a full medical evaluation. Drug testing and a mental health evaluation may also be included. Based on this personal examination, a nurse or physician will talk with you or your loved one to help explain what to expect from treatment.

If a medically supervised detox is advised, appropriate medications may be used to assist in the process of carefully tapering off a dangerous drug from the patient's body. This process is typically three to ten days, but may be longer if deemed medically necessary. 

The medical staff may also recommend fluids for treating dehydration, pain relievers, and nutritional supplements. During this period, contact with family and friends are usually restricted, allowing you or your loved one to focus solely on recovery.

Although the medications provided during detox can significantly reduce withdrawal symptoms, a certain degree of discomfort can be expected. Detox is not an easy process, but the medical staff will be doing everything possible to ease the situation. 

Participating in every activity offered will provide welcome opportunities to take you or your loved one's attention away from the discomfort. When a patient gets actively involved with his or her own treatment, recovery becomes a personal goal and a strong encouragement for success.

Suboxone Addiction Quote - Dali Lama - Flikr

Dali Lama Pictoquote by BK, Flickr)

Tips for a Successful Recovery After Detoxing From Suboxone.

Following detox, you or your loved one will find many more opportunities to get involved with others on this same path to recovery. It's very important to take full advantage of this new period of restored health by actively participating in counseling, 12-step meetings, training programs, etc. 

Drug rehab offers new hope for anyone who is seriously interested in a fresh, new life beyond the grip of addiction.

Even if you have no money and/or no insurance, learn more about how to obtain free or low-cost drug rehab, and take the first step towards ripping the weed of addiction out of your life - from its root. Recognizing the dangerous effect of drugs on your life, and the life of those who love you, is the first key to understanding your need for help. 

Rehab can help you in many ways, not only in restoring your body for a healthy, drug-free life, but also in restoring your life for healthy, drug-free relationships.

Is There A Safe Future for Suboxone?

Although the current policy for Suboxone prescriptions seems to be tragically creating new addicts every day, new products offer hope for the future of opioid replacement therapy. 

A search has been ongoing for a medication strategy to ensure the success of opioid detox without the rampant misuse and abuse seen in current Suboxone and similar outpatient drug therapies.

One encouraging new strategy from Titan and Braeburn Pharmaceutical Companies has just received an advisory committee recommendation for FDA approval.

Probuphine, the marketing name of this new medication, is the first under-the-skin buprenorphine implant for treating opioid addiction. Probuphine lasts for six months in a patient's body, without any further prescriptions, pills, or doctor's office visits required.

This innovative therapy increases patient compliance, offers stable help from drug cravings, and greatly deters the risk of pill abuse.

Former US Representative for Rhode Island and well-known mental health and addiction activist Patrick J. Kennedy offered a statement of endorsement during the recent FDA committee meeting for approving Probuphine. 

"Adding Probuphine to the short list of approved products to treat addiction," stated Kennedy, "is a first step in meeting the goals of government officials, while offering patients a long-term option for treatment." He added, "The active agent, buprenorphine, is already the go-to choice for providers and patients alike. The ability to now deliver the medication in a safer way for individuals, their families and society is truly a breakthrough."

Addiction has many faces. It is one of the most serious problems plaguing the 21st century, primarily because it is so thoroughly misunderstood. By taking charge of their own health and seeking the help they need, addicts can help themselves to turn the mistakes of the past into distant memories.

Getting help is difficult and at times even scary. However, being drug-free and in control is worth more than any high. Regaining the trust and respect of not only loved ones but the wider world is worth the pain and hard work that goes into getting clean.

All the best,

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Marco Sterling

I am a former mid-level advertising executive who had the unfortunate experience with drug and alcohol abuse. My experience nearly ruined my life, but in going through that I realized how precious life really is. My aim is to help many people that are going through what I went through and I hope you find the value in the resources provided through this site.