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What is Suboxone and How Does It Work?

What is Suboxone and How Does It Work?

Learn about Suboxone, a medication that can be used to treat opioid addiction and chronic pain.

Suboxone is a medication that helps treat opioid addiction and minimize cravings. The drug works by partially binding to the opioid receptor sites in the brain. 

Suboxone contains two drugs, buprenorphine which is a partial opioid agonist, and naloxone which is an opioid antagonist. Buprenorphine stimulates some opioid effects, and in doing so helps reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Naloxone, on the other hand, works to prevent misuse of the drug. 

Suboxone comes as an oral film that is sublingual or placed under the tongue, or a buccal film that is placed in between your cheek and gums. The film dissolves in your mouth and should not be chewed or swallowed. 

How does Suboxone treatment work?

Suboxone is a drug that can be used to help people with addiction get through withdrawal symptoms. It combines two different medications- buprenorphine and naloxone. 

Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine, the active drug in Suboxone, is a partial opioid agonist. It can help treat opioid dependence by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid dependence. It does this by occupying the mu-opioid receptors. Buprenorphine has a ceiling effect, which means once the dose is increased beyond a certain point, there is no change in effect. Because of this ceiling effect, buprenorphine will not result in a “high” for those that have been in active addiction.

Naloxone

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist. The naloxone in Suboxone is used to discourage the inappropriate use of the medication. If Suboxone is used in a fashion other than as intended, the naloxone will cause immediate withdrawal. 

Treatment Phase

Treatment of opioid dependence occurs in two phases. The first phase is called induction, and it lasts for about one week. Doctors stabilize patients on the appropriate dose of suboxone, and may use other medications to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. 

The second phase is called maintenance treatment, and it's designed to get patients through an extended period without relapse into drug use. This stage requires daily doses of medication taken by mouth to avoid interruptions in treatment while continuing addiction recovery efforts at home with counseling, support groups, educational programs, etc.

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Side Effects of Suboxone

While it is effective in treating opioid use disorder, like many prescription drugs, Suboxone comes with its fair share of side effects. Listed below are the side effects you may experience when taking Suboxone.

Common Side Effects of Suboxone

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Numbness, redness, or pain in the mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Drowsiness
  • Stomachache
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Back pain
  • Chills 
  • Sweating
  • Depression
  • Increase in heart rate

These are the common side effects of Suboxone, and they are usually mild and manageable. These should go away in a few days up to a couple of weeks. 

Serious Side Effects of Suboxone

  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion/agitation
  • Irregular dizziness
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Abuse 
  • Liver damage
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Difficulty waking up

While uncommon, these Suboxone side effects require urgent medical attention should they manifest. 

Long Term Side-Effects of Suboxone 

Suboxone is commonly prescribed for maintenance to prevent opioid dependence, and is, therefore, often subject to long-term use. And with long-term use comes long-term side effects. Some of these are:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of libido
  • Restlessness

Can a regular doctor prescribe Suboxone?

Before the Trump administration finished its term, the federal government changed the rules of who can prescribe Suboxone, also known as Buprenorphine. Before, clinicians needed to have a special waiver and complete an eight-hour or longer training to be eligible to prescribe Suboxone. Under the new rule, nearly all doctors can now prescribe Suboxone without undergoing the previously required training. However, nurse practitioners and physician assistants still have to apply for approval before they are allowed to prescribe the opioid treatment.

The federal government made the rule change in response to the rise of opioid overdose deaths. It is believed that the change will make opioid treatment more accessible and lessen the stigma attached to it.

Is it hard to get prescribed Suboxone?

Yes, it is difficult for people who are not in treatment centers or doctor’s offices to get Suboxone. One reason for this is Suboxone is classified as a schedule III controlled substance, meaning it has an accepted medical use but can also cause physical or psychological dependence. 

Another reason why it is hard to get Suboxone is doctors are required to follow strict regulations on how many patients they can prescribe the medication for. Doctors who do not comply with these regulations face fines or sanctions from their medical board. 

What to say to get Suboxone prescribed to me?

If you already have a primary doctor, ask if they can prescribe Suboxone. If not, they may be able to refer you to a provider who does. Many medical centers have a special department where you can schedule an appointment with a doctor who can prescribe Suboxone.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about Suboxone if you are struggling with opioid addiction. You deserve to live without pain or discomfort, so don't wait any longer. Suboxone has helped many people get their lives back from drug addiction. With the proper medication and support, you can fight this addiction and build a better life for yourself. 

If you are looking for a Suboxone treatment center, you can turn into our Confidant Health App. Our app provides a direct, confidential line of communication between you and your prescriber, and gives you access to the resources you need to get help.

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How to find the best Suboxone treatment center near you

Assess your personal needs. 

Patients struggling with addiction to substances, such as opioids or alcohol, often have difficulty finding the right treatment program to help them get sober. While it may seem like there are many treatment providers out there, it can be challenging for someone to find one that fits their needs. Finding the right fit is crucial for getting sober because if you don't feel comfortable or safe, it makes it more difficult to quit your addiction. That is why you need to assess your personal needs first before going to a Suboxone treatment center near you. 

Seek advice from professional healthcare providers.

Seeking treatment for drug addiction can be a scary and overwhelming process, but it is essential to remember that you are not alone in your journey. Many people out there have been through the same thing as you, and they have successfully overcome their addiction using Suboxone treatments.

If you or someone you love needs help finding the best Suboxone treatment center for your specific situation, it is best to seek advice from professional healthcare providers. They can put you in touch with a treatment program specializing in helping people with substance use disorder, or addiction.

Research the best Suboxone treatment center for you.

If you are looking for the best Suboxone treatment provider, it is essential to apply your research skills. Many factors go into finding the right clinic and medication for addiction recovery. Your first step should be to find a reputable facility with an experienced staff of doctors and nurses who follow strict regulations set by the government. Next, make sure they offer what you need which may include medical detox services or counseling.

Suboxone Treatment Centers Near You

Confidant Health

Confidant Health is an app-based hub of resources and clinical providers that help people overcome their addiction. We specialize in providing virtual care for individuals and families that are impacted by drug use and addiction. Our team of professionals understands the impact addiction can have on your life, so we strive to provide you with the support you need during this time. We offer services nationwide through our Confidant Health App. Confidant offers Suboxone treatment in select states.

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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