Visiting a Suboxone clinic or doctor’s office for Suboxone treatment can feel overwhelming if you aren’t sure what the treatment involves or how to prepare. Learning what to expect during the treatment process may help if you are considering Suboxone treatment for opioid use disorder.
Find out what Suboxone is, how it works, and whether Suboxone treatment is right for you.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is an FDA-approved sublingual tablet or film used to treat opioid use disorder. Suboxone combines buprenorphine and naloxone to create a well-rounded approach to reducing opioid withdrawal symptoms while minimizing the risk of buprenorphine misuse.
On its own, buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist. This means that it engages your opioid receptors to create a euphoric feeling, similar to full opioid agonists. Buprenorphine’s effects are much milder and are useful in helping people with opioid use disorder because they provide some relief from withdrawal symptoms.
Naloxone, the second ingredient in Suboxone, is an opioid antagonist. Naloxone’s properties counteract those of buprenorphine, allowing you to experience partial relief from nausea, pain, vomiting, and other opioid withdrawal symptoms without overusing.
How Does Suboxone Treatment Work?
Suboxone is used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder. MAT is an evidence-based approach that treats opioid use with a combination of FDA-approved medications, behavioral therapy, and support groups to help those struggling with opioid use disorder obtain sobriety.
As part of MAT, Suboxone is often used to manage withdrawal symptoms and help you stay opioid-free so you can focus on other areas of an addiction recovery program. Suboxone treatment works by placing a tablet or film under your tongue or against your cheek.
As the Suboxone dissolves into your sublingual or buccal tissues, it releases the buprenorphine and naloxone into your bloodstream. This starts the chemical reaction with your opioid receptors, which allows you to experience relief from withdrawal symptoms so that you can engage with other forms of treatment like behavioral therapy and support groups.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Suboxone is an effective treatment for opioid use disorder when administered by an approved Suboxone clinic or doctor’s office.
What to Expect During Suboxone Treatment
When starting Suboxone treatment, there are several things you can expect to occur.
Before your first visit, you should reach out to a treatment center that uses Suboxone in a MAT approach like the Right Path Addiction Treatment Center in Richmond, Virginia.
Schedule an appointment to come in and talk to the staff, who can discuss Suboxone treatment with you. They can also assess your needs to ensure that Suboxone treatment is right for you.
If Suboxone is a good option, you can start your treatment early on in your withdrawal. At Right Path, our Suboxone doctors can start you on the appropriate dose, which helps you begin recovery with the best chance of success. For many people, the starting dose of Suboxone is around 16 mg per day.
As part of your Suboxone treatment, you participate in a counseling program at the treatment center. You may see a counselor one-on-one and engage in therapy in a group setting. You can also partake in support group meetings as part of your MAT.
Your doctor will slowly lower your Suboxone dosage as you continue your recovery program. This helps you wean off gradually, increasing your chances of long-term sobriety. Although the goal is to eventually stop using Suboxone, many people engage in Suboxone treatment for years as a way to maintain an opioid-free life.
Do You Have to be Sober to Take Suboxone?
It is essential to understand what happens if you undergo Suboxone treatment while high on opioids. This can happen if you come in for your first treatment after taking opioids or if you relapse during your recovery treatment.
You must be in a semi-withdrawn state to avoid an adverse reaction between the opioids in your system and the Suboxone. You must inform your Suboxone doctor if you have used opioids recently so they can determine the best course of action.
If you take Suboxone when opioids are still active in your system, you will experience precipitated withdrawal. Naloxone immediately blocks opioids from reaching your opioid receptors, causing you to suffer cramping, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, and other aches and pains.
Although withdrawal from opioids is not typically life-threatening, it can be uncomfortable and cause you to seek relief by using again.
Benefits of MAT with Suboxone
Using Suboxone as part of your MAT treatment is beneficial in many ways. Suboxone treatment carries a lower risk of dependency than other medications like methadone. Suboxone’s tablet and film forms make it convenient and easy to use.
As part of a well-rounded MAT approach, Suboxone can help you treat addiction to opioids like codeine, morphine, opium, heroin, oxycodone/oxycontin, and hydrocodone/Vicodin. It can also:
- Improve your chances of survival
- Increase your chances of sticking with a treatment program
- Decrease your involvement with illegal opioids
- Increase your ability to gain and maintain a job
- Help you retain sobriety long-term
- Give you the freedom to engage with treatment without dealing with horrendous withdrawal symptoms
Is Suboxone Treatment Right for You?
The best way to figure out if Suboxone treatment is right for you is to speak with a Suboxone doctor near you. Talking with a MAT treatment center can help you obtain more information about the medication and therapeutic approaches. This can help you decide whether Suboxone or some other type of medication is appropriate for helping you overcome your use disorder.
Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.