How Does Suboxone Work?

Girl taking Suboxone

Is Suboxone a helpful product to get off drugs like Heroin, or is it just another party favor? The truth is, it can be both.

What Is Suboxone And How Does It Work?

Suboxone actually can be two products. It is a detox medication used to treat opiate addiction and dependence. It is a combination product that has Buprenorphine and Naloxone (Narcan). Buprenorphine is an opioid that reportedly doesn’t provide the intense euphoria addicts love and want. Naloxone is also known as Narcan which is used to rapidly reverse an adverse drug reaction; it is used to instantly reverse a potential overdose. Narcan is used in the ER, but is now available to first responders, some police departments, and people who feel they might need it to save their loved ones from an overdose of drugs.

The benefit of Suboxone for recovery is that the components of Buprenorphine and Naloxone allow addicts to avoid the withdrawal pains but not experience the high of the opiate. It is taken as a slip of medication (think of those breath slips of Listerine) that you dissolve on the tongue. The Buprenorphine gets into the blood system immediately via the vascularity in the oral area while the Naloxone hangs around and dissolves in portions (and thus prevents the “high”). Suboxone is an effective maintenance for getting off heroin if the person is legitimate about getting off Heroin, and in this manner it works like Methadone does. Suboxone isn’t addictive (due to the Narcan component) and is difficult to abuse (also due to the Narcan component). But, of course, any drug can be abused and there are ways to abuse Suboxone.

The signs and symptoms of Heroin withdrawal are seen when it’s time for another dose of Suboxone and include:

  • Cold sweats
  • Body aches
  • Bone and muscle aches (flu-like symptoms)
  • Yawning
  • Sneezing
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea and vomiting and diarrhea
  • Anxiety and intense scratching.

However, the signs and symptoms associated with Suboxone include headaches, insomnia, abdominal pain, nausea and constipation, and some sweating.

So people who are misusing or addicted like to use Suboxone to get them through until they can get what they want. While Heroin has more withdrawal symptoms it supposedly is a “better” high and so worth it to the addict who wants the drug high.

Even more preferred is Subutex. This is a formulation of pure Buprenorphine, is more pure and doesn’t have the Narcan mixed in it, so they will get the high they want.

Methadone vs. Suboxone:

  1. You have to go regularly to a Methadone Clinic with all that entails: inconvenience, cost, associated clientele, and potential not to get your drug if your drug screen is positive for drugs you shouldn’t be taking.
  2. Any physician can work in and/or run a Methadone Clinic.
  3. Methadone is a full agonist which means that its effects for that “buzz” and overdose potential are strong.
  4. Methadone began in Belgium and the Netherlands.
  5. You go to a physician who is able to prescribe Suboxone and get a prescription for the medication. But the Suboxone Clinics charge a fee (not cheap) for the first visit and each successive visit. There are drug screens and many physicians require the patient to also go through regular counseling and attend NA.
  6. A physician who wants to prescribe Suboxone must go through an approved training process that used to involve several days of classroom time but now can be done online. Each prescribing physician can only treat 100 patients, so once they reach 100 they can’t take another patient until one drops off the panel.
  7. Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist.
  8. Buprenorphine began in Belgium in 1983 as a treatment for opioid addiction then moved to France and finally the USA in 2003.
  9. While most people who want Suboxone genuinely want to get “sober” it can be expensive to go the legal route and many buy it on the street so they can afford it as the neighborhood drug dealer won’t charge for the office visits or require counseling or an NA membership.
  10. Neither Methadone nor Suboxone is supposed to be a long term usage medication but both have ended up being just that.

So Where Does That Leave Us?

Those who want to do drugs will always find a way to get their drug of choice but sometimes they have to settle for plan B, and Suboxone has been that for many people addicted to whatever they can get. We all know that. Suboxone is no different and is bought, bartered, sold illegally and obtained legally from doctors who are able to prescribe it.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way is the moral of the story here. And while these products are used for “bridging” (getting the addict off their drug of choice slowly) it’s still a crutch. While you are learning to walk again and crutch or cane or walker can come in handy and may be helpful. However, at some point you have to take the training wheels off and ride off into the sunset on your own power. That said, there are some who take Suboxone for a long time and seem to do well on it. Everybody’s different.