Welcome to the beginning of your journey to recovery from suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid addiction. Suboxone is actually a combination of two medicines: buprenorphine, which is a mild opioid used to combat opioid addiction, and naloxone, better known as Narcan, which is used to block the effects of opioid drugs. This unique combination makes suboxone the number one medicine of choice to treat opioid addiction. The buprenorphine decreases the recovering addict’s cravings, while the naloxone prevents the recovering addict from feeling strong high-like effects from the buprenorphine itself… brilliant, right?
There is a slight problem. The two ingredients don’t necessarily cancel each other out perfectly. Suboxone is abused recreationally much more often than you may think. Ever since the drug was marketed in the early 2000s, people have been abusing suboxone.
Former heroin addict Jim Stack spoke with Muckgers online magazine about his use of suboxone to recover, but also about its potential for abuse. His words could not be formed more perfectly, as this is from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Stack said:
“If used properly, suboxone can work wonders in helping addicts get off of opiates. I am a perfect example of that. But there are many bad aspects as well. Many teenagers and young adults use suboxone as a recreational drug to get high, and they don’t realize how strong it is and can overdose. Suboxone is an addicting, habit forming drug. If it is not taken in the proper way under the care of a doctor it can be very dangerous.”
This is a comprehensive article that takes you through the signs and risks of suboxone abuse, and will show you how to recognize those signs and risks in order to help someone in need. We’ll also cover what suboxone withdrawal can be like, (similar to most opioid withdrawals but not as severe), and finally what The Haven Detox has to offer in the way of detoxification, the extremely important first step toward recovery.
If you wish only to read about our detoxification process itself, please scroll down and begin reading at the section titled About Our Suboxone Addiction Detox. Otherwise, please continue to read on. We wish you the absolute best of luck, but with help from us here at The Haven, luck is something you may not need! Our ample staff and top-notch doctors are ready, willing and able to help you today.
Signs of Suboxone Abuse
If a recovering opiate addict is taking suboxone as part of a treatment program at a detoxification or rehabilitation center, he or she is not abusing suboxone, yet may still exhibit some symptoms of abuse. This is due to the strength of the drug. Suboxone therapy is meant to alleviate the horrifying withdrawal from even stronger opiates, particularly heroin.
There are signs of suboxone abuse that are parallel with signs of abuse of all opiates, and then there are abuse signs particular to suboxone. Some of the signs of suboxone abuse that are opiate-common are drowsiness, confusion, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, and/or respiratory depression. (All opiates depress the respiratory system, making breathing more difficult and less deep.)
Let it also be known that someone with a legal prescription to suboxone can abuse too. Taking more than prescribed, taking it when not prescribed at the time, and taking it in a way different from how the prescribing doctor said to are all examples of suboxone abuse – even if the abuser is in suboxone therapy. Also, if searching for signs of suboxone abuse in someone prescribed it, be wary of him or her skipping doses in order to create a larger dose later. Lastly, something called doctor shopping, where a patient sees multiple physicians in order to receive more than one prescription, is a surefire sign of abuse.
Suboxone is a tricky medicine. It’s fighting fire with fire. When controlled and done by the book, it works wonders. When abused, suboxone creates its own world of harm.
Some signs of suboxone abuse include:
- Dilated pupils
- Watery eyes
- Memory problems
- Unusual apathy
- Excessive sweating
- Loss of interest in sex
- Unusual responses to stress
- Possible hair loss
Risks of Suboxone Abuse
Suboxone, due to its chemical makeup, has effects that last much longer than most other opiates. Effects can be felt for up to 72 hours after a dose. This is a major risk, especially for suboxone abusers unaware of this fact. Overdose becomes all too easy when someone stacks dose upon dose, and the body gives in. Another major risk of suboxone comes when an abuser takes it with traces of other opiates in his or her body. This is because suboxone can precipitate the withdrawal symptoms of opiates.
Some of the other risks associated with the abuse of suboxone include:
- Difficulty sleeping and/or insomnia
- Decreased capacity for attention
- Blurry vision
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- Respiratory depression
Signs of a suboxone overdose are extremely serious, and if someone is exhibiting these signs, please seek help immediately:
- Extreme tiredness / inability to keep eyes open
- Recurrent loss of consciousness
- Very slurry speech
- Difficulty breathing
- Profound lack of coordination
In Kentucky, the opioid crisis is considered a public health catastrophe, similarly to in lots of US states nowadays. According to the Courier Journal, rogue doctors are over-prescribing suboxone in Kentucky, adding to the mayhem. From the article:
“A Courier-Journal investigation found rogue Suboxone doctors across Kentucky have allowed the opioid drug to seep onto streets already saturated with illicit prescription drugs and heroin. In the hands of these doctors, the much-touted medicine designed to curb opioid cravings and ease withdrawal is instead fueling the scourge of addiction in one of the nation’s hardest-hit states.”
The investigation also revealed some startling facts about doctors that prescribe suboxone. For example, they are three times more likely to have a disciplinary order against them than doctors who do not prescribe suboxone. Also, clinics offering suboxone can be outrageously overpriced. One former doctor, (now revoked of his license), was making $130 per patient. Lastly, very little training must be completed in order for a doctor to be able to prescribe suboxone – as little as an eight-hour course. Many would argue this is simply not enough training when it comes to something as profoundly serious as medication assisted treatment for opiate abuse.
Recognizing Suboxone Abuse & Stepping In
If you or someone you know is abusing suboxone, now is the time to step in. You can intervene, and begin the process of helping. Of course, you can step in and help yourself too, if you’re the one with the problem. As with all opiate substances, abuse soon leads to addiction. One pill of suboxone could react negatively and kill you. What high could possibly be worth that?
Stepping in and intervening to help someone we know has a problem is always easier said than done. We love these people, and we do not want to hurt them, but we love them enough to know they are hurting themselves, and perhaps at a deadly rate. In such extreme cases, professional intervention is recommended, especially in a sophisticated case where one opiate was replaced with another, i.e. switching from heroin to suboxone. When it comes to trying to help someone you love, keep these tips in mind:
- Do not call the person an addict or even accuse them of being an abuser.
- Do not demand the person seeks help. Simply state your concerns.
- Encourage the possibility of help, but do not be forceful.
- Maintain the rapport you already have with the person. Acting differently will likely arouse suspicion.
Withdrawal from Suboxone
Because suboxone remains in the system quite a while, the period of withdrawal can last over a month. However, the first three days are considered the worst. This is why it is absolutely CRUCIAL to detox from suboxone under a professional setting, precisely like the one offered by us at The Haven… those first three days have an extreme potential for relapse.
As with all opiate withdrawals, severity depends on how long suboxone has been abused, and the strength of the dosage itself. Prolonged, stronger use brings on a prolonged, stronger withdrawal.
Suboxone withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Body aches
- Fevers and/or chills
- Headache and/or migraines
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Irritability and/or mood swings
- Extreme cravings for opiates
- Feelings of lost identity
Withdrawal symptoms are much more likely to occur, and much more likely to be worse, if an addict stops using without help. Suboxone presents some seriously dangerous withdrawal circumstances, and The Haven can provide all of the help necessary for an opiate addict to begin the path to recovery. The first step, as mentioned, is detoxification, commonly called detox, which safely and effectively removes all traces of opiates from the body.
About Our Suboxone Addiction Detox
Suboxone is a drug with opiate-like qualities that is often used to relieve the withdrawal symptoms of people coming off of heroin or Methadone addictions. Unfortunately, suboxone is also highly addictive; many patients are unable to stop using suboxone after they have begun taking it. Many patients stay on suboxone for a long time as a maintenance drug and then are unable to relinquish the drug, even if they try to wean off of it slowly. We are now seeing many patients come to The Haven Detox to free themselves from their suboxone addictions even if they have successfully detoxed from heroin or Methadone.
Suboxone Addiction Detoxification
It is true that a few patients can detox off of suboxone cold-turkey at home, but it can be very difficult for most patients. Even if patients are able to wean off of suboxone over an extended period of time, they usually still have considerable withdrawal symptoms after the suboxone is gone. We sometimes refer to this as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) and for suboxone it can sometimes last for up to six months, although usually symptoms tend to subside after 30 days max.
The Haven Detox can detoxify patients off even large doses of suboxone over a five to eight day period.
Suboxone Detox & Chronic Pain
At The Haven Detox, we have significant experience working with people who have pain but want to come off opiates. Research shows that long-term opiate use may in fact increase pain. Many clients find their pain actually goes down after detox. We understand that some people have severe pain issues and we do not minimize that reality. Instead, we focus on developing a plan that may include non-addictive medications proven to be very effective in the management of pain.
If still, even for a moment, a small part of you believes suboxone to be a safe alternative to stronger opiates, think again. Emergency room visits related to suboxone abuse literally quintupled between 2006 and 2011. The next year, approximately 3 million prescriptions for suboxone were written.
This writer is not suggesting that 3 million people did not legitimately need suboxone… but this writer is saying that having millions and millions of suboxone pills floating around the country is a recipe for disaster. Plus, a recent scientific discovery might eliminate the need for suboxone altogether. It was discovered just this month than a combination of Motrin and Tylenol may indeed work as well as prescription narcotics, many of which include opiates.
Suboxone can be a miracle, when prescribed correctly and taken per doctor’s orders. In the wrong hands, it becomes a sort of time-release heroin pill, able to sweep a user into addiction quicker than many other illicit substances. If you or someone you know is abusing suboxone, contact The Haven Detox today, and start making a difference