If you think of Suboxone as a detox aid, aimed at reducing the discomforts related with withdrawal from heroin and other opioids of abuse, don’t be ashamed. This is a common misunderstanding—one that many people share. Although Suboxone can specifically be used for detox, that’s not actually it’s most efficient purpose. In fact, Suboxone is best used as a long-term treatment for opioid addiction treatment.
How Opioids Shift the Brain
Opioids create a physical dependency alongside a psychological addiction, making them difficult to stop using. Drugs like heroin and prescription pain pills like oxycodone fasten onto our natural opioid receptors, which are central to many bodily functions such as our pain and pleasure responses, sleep regulation—even breathing. Typically, our brain creates natural opioids, but when we become addicted to external opioids, our bodies stop producing them at the normal rate, leading to a host of issues that manifest as severe withdrawal. Substitute therapies correct some of those changes, helping the brain re-calibrate after addiction.
Methadone might have been the standard opioid replacement therapy for decades, but Suboxone has gained popularity in today's medication-assisted world. Because it is a partial-opioid agonist, rather than a full agonist like methadone, it is less likely to cause fatigue and will be easier to reduce dosage over time. Some rehab facilities taper patients from heroin or other short-acting opiates using decreasing doses of Suboxone. Thus, why Suboxone is known as a detox drug.
Patient Outcomes for Long-Term Suboxone Use
Patients who use Suboxone for six months or more tend to have better outcomes than patients who use it only as a detox aid. While recovery after detoxification is thought to have a relapse rate that can broach 90%, up to 70% of patients undergoing Suboxone maintenance for a year or longer will remain in treatment and, stay clean.
Many of the studies evaluating the effectiveness of Suboxone for long term use mention a need for additional behavioral therapy. Addiction is believed to be a persistent, relapsing disease. Most research believe addiction has a genetic element, and it triggers changes in the brain. However, environmental considerations also play their part. We also know that trauma and mental illness affect addiction significantly.
Suboxone Abused (imagine that)
If Suboxone is abused, it can provide a mild high. Not the equivalent of heroin, fentanyl, or other opioids, but most addicts figure “something is better than nothing.” Therefore, medical supervision and behavioral therapy are paramount for long term recovery. That said, people who are committed to their addiction recovery will use their Suboxone correctly. Relapse may still happen, but because therapeutic doses of Suboxone block the effects of other opioids, relapse becomes a lot less attractive when Suboxone is being utilized.
At the end of the day, more people are dying from overdose death than ever before. Each year overdose deaths continue to rise (except for 2018) which has resulted in lower life expectancy for Americans. The American Medical Association (AMA) advises the long-term use of Suboxone, in conjunction with behavioral addiction therapy. We also know the longer people stay in clinical addiction settings, the better their opportunity is for a positive outcome.
Simple Path Recovery is a beach side, boutique addiction treatment center located in Pompano Beach, FL. Recognized as an intimate Florida Drug & Alcohol Rehab, Simple Path is committed to individualized care, 12-step integration, and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). Their addiction helpline is available 24/7 at 855-467-3625.
About the Author
Matthew Koenig is the principal of Last Call Marketing, which devotes their efforts to Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, Website Design and SEO, primarily in healthcare and tourism concerns. Mr. Koenig is based out of South Florida. His sober date is June 10, 2013.