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suboxone abuse facts

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Suboxone is a medication containing buprenorphine and naloxone. It is commonly used to treat opioid dependence and addiction. Buprenorphine is an opioid agonist, meaning it has opiate qualities. As such, people who take Suboxone for a long time or those who abuse this medication may become physically dependent on it. 

Suboxone withdrawal occurs when someone who is dependent on the medication stops taking it abruptly. While it is highly effective at treating opioid withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings, Suboxone itself can also be addictive. When people are ready to quit taking this medication, they should work with their doctor to develop a tapering schedule or enroll in a Suboxone detox program.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a combination medication that comes in the form of a sublingual film. Containing buprenorphine and naloxone, it works to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and help alleviate drug cravings. It was originally approved by the FDA in 2002 for the treatment of opioid abuse and is now one of the most popular treatment medications today.

Suboxone is not meant to be the sole treatment for someone’s opioid addiction. The medication works best when combined with a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program that utilizes behavioral therapy and peer support groups.[1]

Even though Suboxone is used to treat addiction, the drug itself can cause physical dependency. As a result, people who have been on Suboxone for extended periods of time may need to attend a detox program when they stop taking the medication. Fortunately, Suboxone withdrawal isn’t nearly as painful or difficult as opioid withdrawal.

symptoms of suboxone withdrawal

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Since buprenorphine is an opioid, Suboxone will produce withdrawal symptoms similar to other opioids. The symptoms may also vary in duration and severity depending on how long the person has been taking the medication and what dose their body is used to taking.

Common Suboxone withdrawal symptoms include:[2]

  • Yawning
  • Watery eyes
  • Body and muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness or insomnia
  • Stomach cramps or pains
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Drug cravings
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cold sweats
  • Headache
  • Digestive issues
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal thoughts

The presence of a co-occurring physical or mental health condition can contribute to more severe symptoms. While detoxing from Suboxone is typically not life-threatening, it can be painful to deal with – both physically and psychologically. Rather than attempting it alone, anyone who is addicted to Suboxone should detox at a medical detox facility.

suboxone withdrawal timeline

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How long Suboxone withdrawal lasts varies greatly from one person to the next. Overall, symptoms will peak within the first 72 hours and subside after one month.

Compared to other opioids, buprenorphine is long-acting. With such a long half-life, withdrawal symptoms can last longer than they would with other opioids. At the same time, it takes longer for initial symptoms to occur. Because Suboxone produces such a long, drawn-out withdrawal process, it’s essential to have proper support available during this time to avoid relapse.

Here is a general withdrawal timeline of what people can expect during Suboxone detox.

  • Hours 6-12: Between 6 and 12 hours after taking the last dose, initial symptoms of muscle pain, nausea, and diarrhea may set in.
  • Days 1-3: The initial symptoms begin to become more pronounced and other flu-like symptoms will set in
  • Days 4-7: Symptoms will have already peaked by day 4. People will experience insomnia, body aches, restlessness, and psychological symptoms.
  • Weeks 1-4: After the first week, many physical withdrawal symptoms begin to subside. However, after the second week, psychological symptoms may be at their worst. Individuals may experience extreme cravings and severe depression.
  • After 1 month: Nearly all physical withdrawal symptoms should be over, but some cravings and depression may persist. Ongoing care and relapse prevention is necessary during this time.

symptoms of suboxone detox

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal symptoms  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Back to top

Since there are no medical treatments for Suboxone detox, experts usually recommend lifestyle changes and coping strategies to help people deal with the stress of withdrawal. Rather than using drugs or alcohol, these activities can be helpful at managing Suboxone or buprenorphine withdrawal.

  • Practicing mindful meditation
  • Socializing with sober support
  • Going to a 12-Step meeting
  • Eat a healthy diet and stay hydrated
  • Get some exercise

If a person’s withdrawal symptoms become too severe or they have a history of relapse, their best bet will be to attend a professional medical detox center.

What to Expect from Suboxone Detox

Drug and alcohol detox centers can provide support and monitoring while people detox from Suboxone. Detox centers have medical and clinical staff on-site to provide around-the-clock medical and psychological care. 

Detox may consist of counseling, peer support groups, and over-the-counter medications. Some medications that may be helpful at alleviating symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal include:[3]

  • Over-the-counter painkillers for aches, pains, and cramps
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Antacids
  • Anti-diarrheals
  • Vitamins
  • Remedies for stomach aches

The best way to stop taking Suboxone is to work with a doctor to develop a tapering schedule. Tapering is the act of slowly reducing one’s dose until they are no longer physically dependent on the medication. This is considered the safest way to stop taking buprenorphine as it helps avoid withdrawal symptoms. 

If a person is still taking Suboxone when they arrive at detox, their physician will likely begin reducing their dose each day until they are ready to stop taking the medication completely.

Find a Suboxone Detox Near You Today

There are many benefits of a medically supervised Suboxone detox. In addition to having access to precise tapering and medical care, detox centers can offer peer support, physical comfort, and a safe environment where people can rest assured they are in good hands.

If you or a loved one are addicted to Suboxone or are anticipating withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the medication, contact one of our dedicated treatment providers today to find a detox center near you.