Suboxone is a sublingual medication frequently administered in the medication assisted treatment (MAT) of opioid use disorder (OUD). The drug is used to aid opioid addiction, reduce cravings and offer relief from opioid withdrawal.
MAT can consist of medication, therapy, and community support services. The presence and application of all three of these elements improve the success of the treatment but are not required. This combination addresses both the psychological and social aspects of addiction in addition to the physical aspects.
Suboxone sublingual film is often prescribed in MAT. The medication is formed from a 4:1 proportioning of buprenorphine (4), a partial opioid agonist, and naloxone (1), an opioid antagonist. Buprenorphine is classified as a schedule III drug. Consequently, Suboxone sublingual strips are a controlled schedule III substance. Drug classification is based on the rate at which a person can become physically and psychologically reliant on the drug, along with the misuse rate of the drug. Schedule III drugs are defined as generators of moderate to low dependency. Some examples of schedule III drugs include ketamine, codeine, and buprenorphine.
Buprenorphine, a partial opioid activator, is the active ingredient in Suboxone. While Suboxone can produce typical opioid effects such as feeling high, it is not the same as full opioids. If a full opioid agonist is already attached to the receptor, precipitated withdrawal can ensue.
Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, increased heart rate, sweating, diarrhea, chills, and more. Precipitated withdrawal is more severe than regular withdrawal; the symptoms experienced are much more intense and it can be very dangerous. For this reason, Suboxone induction should be done at the instruction of your provider.
Pros and Cons of Using Suboxone Film
There are pros and cons to using Suboxone film. Let’s start with the cons. Cons include unpleasant taste, affordability in some cases, accessibility issues, physical dependence, side effects such as constipation, decreased sex drive, and reduced emotional reactivity. It can be difficult to find a Suboxone doctor or provider, particularly if you live in a rural area. Suboxone doctors are hard to access as there are restrictions on the number of patients a Suboxone doctor can treat, along with specific training requirements that need to be met.
See What are Suboxone Doctors? to learn more about these limitations and understand what qualifies a health care practitioner as a Suboxone doctor.
While there are certainly cons for consideration, there are a number of pros to be considered also. There is a growing community of individuals being treated with Suboxone who reach their goals. It is easy to transition onto the medication and can be done in the comfort of your home. While the patient should be in a moderate amount of withdrawal before commencing Suboxone treatment, there is minimal detox involved, the patient does not have to be an in-patient to benefit from and access the drug. This alleviates the need to check in to an inpatient facility for an extended period of time, secure childcare, request time off work, and other barriers.