Suboxone: Detox Helper or Maintenance Drug?


Suboxone Overview

If you’ve heard of Suboxone, it was likely in a conversation about opiate addiction, getting clean or detoxing. If you’re part of the recovery community or have a loved one currently addicted to opiates (heroin or pain pills), you are probably aware that Suboxone comes with a full range of arguments regarding it’s use.
Some say that Suboxone should be used indefinitely as a maintenance drug (similar to methadone) while others believe it is to be used as a quick taper in medical detox situations, where it is used to help relieve opiate withdrawal symptoms.

Regardless of your convictions and how you believe it should be used, here are some facts about Suboxone: 

Suboxone is a combination drug, comprised of two substances.

  1. Buprenorphine—an opioid partial agonist. This means that, like heroin or other opiates / opioids, buprenorphine produces euphoria as well as respiratory depression. With buprenorphine, however, these effects are not as strong as they are with heroin or methadone.Buprenorphine’s opioid effects increase with each dose until they reach a “ceiling” and level off. This “ceiling effect” is thought to decrease the risk of dependency and misuse.
  2. Naloxone—an opiate antagonist used to reverse or eliminate the effects of opiates. Naloxone (same as Narcan) is added to the Suboxone formulation to limit the medication’s abuse potential.


Short-Term Effects of Suboxone

Suboxone acts as a depressant in the body. It has a pain relieving effect that is actually 20-30 times more powerful than morphine. That may sound alarming, but here is a better explanation:

Remember, it was mentioned above that the buprenorphine in Suboxone has a ceiling? So, even though the analgesic strength (or potency) is high, it levels off, which means a higher dose would not necessarily increase the way the drug makes a person feel, although that does not mean a person cannot overdose on Suboxone. Consuming too much can lead to sleepiness, confusion, respiratory depression and even death.

On the other hand, with morphine, a person could continue to stimulate their opiate receptors in direct proportion to the amount of the drug consumed. Morphine will also continue to depress respiration, putting the risk of overdoes at a much higher level.

Subutex and Suboxone

Buprenorphine has been available since the mid 80’s, but the trade formulas, Suboxone and Subutex, were approved and marketed for the treatment of opiate / opioid addiction in the United States back in 2002.
What’s the difference between the two?
Subutex contains buprenorphine (without naloxone) while Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone.

Suboxone typically comes as a sublingual strip. It can be placed under the tongue and dissolved.

Suboxone detox


Because Suboxone can be obtained as a prescription from an approved doctor, it was thought that Suboxone would come as a welcome relief to individuals who felt trapped by the “liquid handcuffs” known as methadone. No long lines to wait in every morning and freedom from the limits methadone places on a person’s ability to work, plan vacations and live a somewhat normal life.


For some of the advocates, it seems like a gateway to recovery. But what’s the other side?

The Dark Side of Suboxone: Withdrawal

While it can be an effective and useful tool, it can also be addicting if used over a long period of time. Because it is a partial opioid agonist, it features some of the same withdrawal side effects that an opioid drug would. If you or a loved one are considering stopping this drug, you may want to understand the withdrawal symptoms and timeline to expect first.

Withdrawal symptoms can start anywhere between two and 36 hours after your last dose. Similar to opioid withdrawal, symptoms experienced during the first 72 hours may include:

  • Lack of clarity
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Indigestion
  • Fever or chills alternating with sweating
  • Headache
  • Increased Cravings
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Body Aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Lack of Peace

The severity of these symptoms and the onset depends on how long you have been taking Suboxone and how much you have been taking.

Suboxone Withdrawal: Extended


After the first week of withdrawal, you are much less likely to experience physical symptoms like aches and pains or fever, however, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and increased stress can be present for the next several months.

If you or someone you love is currently taking Suboxone as a maintenance drug with no end in sight and you are feeling trapped, remember, it is an addictive drug in spite of its effectiveness at helping with opioid recovery. You don’t have to quit by yourself.
Gracious Care Recovery Solutions is here to help you every step of the way.

You CAN be free!

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