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What is it Like to be on Suboxone?

Suboxone is the most commonly used form of buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine has been in use for about 15 years now and is one of the most effective ways of preventing opioid relapse.

Buprenorphine use, and medication assisted treatment–or MAT–more generally, is sometimes criticized as replacing one addiction with another. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which means it binds to opioid receptors in the brain the same as opioids, but it doesn’t cause euphoria. As a result, someone on buprenorphine has little or no craving as if she were still taking the opioid, but she can function normally, as if she were clean.

The downside is buprenorphine creates a strong physical dependence and quitting can be difficult; some people experience more severe withdrawal from buprenorphine than from opioids. People using MAT often take medication indefinitely, or taper down after years of treatment. Many consider this trade more than fair. The real dangers of addiction lie not in the drugs themselves, but in the destructive effects of addictive behavior–prioritizing the drug over family, friends, and work; neglecting responsibilities; lying to loved ones; stealing; driving while impaired, etc. If you can end these destructive behaviors, being on medication isn’t such a big deal.

You typically develop a tolerance for buprenorphine in a week or two. If you are on a relatively low dose of opioids, less than about 30 mg of oxycodone per day, you might feel a stronger effect from buprenorphine until you build a tolerance. On the other hand, if you are used to a high dose of opioids, switching immediately to buprenorphine can cause bad withdrawal symptoms because it displaces the opioid, abruptly dropping your dosage. It’s better to wait for the opioid to wear off a bit before starting buprenorphine. This means you will have to experience some withdrawal before starting medication.

Once you get on a stable dose for a week or two, buprenorphine does not make you high and you you feel like you are not taking an opioid. Neither is there any withdrawal between doses. The FDA has recently approved a monthly injectable version of buprenorphine called Sublocade. With this, the possibility of withdrawal is even more remote. You should be able to return to work after the first day of treatment.

Although MAT can be effective on its own, a strong recovery requires treatment on several fronts, including therapy, meetings, family support, and healthy lifestyle changes. You can’t expect MAT to keep you sober if you have too many factors–depression, anxiety, friends in active addiction, unsupportive family–pushing you to relapse.

If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com to learn more.