When used as part of a complete medically supervised treatment plan that also includes counseling and behavioral therapy, Suboxone has proven to be effective in helping individuals overcome opioid dependence in the long term.
With that being said, it is crucial to take Suboxone exactly as your medical supervisor prescribes it in order to avoid misuse and enhance the medication’s effectiveness!
How Addictive Is Suboxone?
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) suggests that substance use disorder is a condition in which people continue to use one or more substances even after experiencing negative effects and consequences.
Suboxone is generally thought of as a non-habit-forming drug. However, it can be abused.
Suboxone is considered a Schedule III controlled substance. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), schedule III drugs carry a low to moderate risk for physical or psychological dependence.
In other words, it’s not likely that you will become ‘addicted’ to Suboxone.
You may experience withdrawals if you abruptly stop taking Suboxone. Taking the medication under close supervision from a doctor or qualified supervisor can lessen the intensity of these withdrawals.
Addiction vs. Compulsion
It’s important to note that whilst the terms addiction and compulsion are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing.
The term addiction refers to the process in which one becomes dependent on a substance (e.g. alcohol, opioids, nicotine).
Individuals can be predisposed to addiction genetically. When an individual stops consuming the substance they are addicted to, they often experience intense and even debilitating withdrawals as they have become physically and psychologically dependent on that substance.
On the other hand, compulsions are repetitive behaviors driven by strong emotional urges that may not be driven by a physical addiction.
Compulsive behaviors are often driven by fear or other strong emotions and are recognized as mental health disorders.
Compulsion commonly plays a role in addiction, and it can be hard to distinguish this from dependence – particularly when the compulsive behavior is related to the use of a substance. However, they are separate issues.
Those with addiction or dependence continue to use a substance because their body has become dependent on it, whereas those with compulsive disorders act on impulse or strong emotional urges that are not related to physical addiction.
How Suboxone Works
Suboxone contains two important ingredients, buprenorphine and naloxone. These work together to ease painful withdrawals during opioid detoxification and reduce urges and cravings.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. This means that it targets the opioid receptors in your brain in a controlled way, significantly reducing intense withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids that are experienced during detox.
On the other hand, Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, so it prevents the pleasurable effects of opioids from occurring.
Therefore, even though the opioid receptors in the brain are being targeted by buprenorphine, you can not feel ‘high’ when using Suboxone.
When used alone, Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of opioids or reduces opioid overdose symptoms.
The addition of Naloxone is critical, as it means that Suboxone is very hard to misuse. This is because an individual will not experience the pleasurable effects of opioids from consuming this medication. Therefore, it is unlikely you will become addicted to it.
When Buprenorphine and Naloxone are used together, withdrawal symptoms and cravings experienced during treatment become more manageable. At the same time, the user will not feel high, so the risk of dependency, misuse, or overdose is low.
The Potential for Suboxone Addiction
There are many reasons why the potential for Suboxone addiction is low:
- The effects of buprenorphine, the main active ingredient in Suboxone, are mild. In comparison with other opioids (such as heroin or morphine), the effects are less intense and immediate, making it less addictive
- Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning it targets the brain’s opioid receptors in a targeted way. Because of this, it has a lower addiction potential than full opioid agonists
- Suboxone contains Naloxone, which prevents the pleasurable effects of opioid use from occurring
- Naloxone also discourages abuse or overdose by causing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if misused
- Suboxone is typically used as part of a complete medication-assisted treatment program, which also includes counseling and behavioral therapy tailored to opioid addiction.
Therefore, those using Suboxone typically receive psychological support and close supervision to lessen the risk of addiction.
While the potential for Suboxone addiction is low, it is still possible.
Misuse or improper use of the medication can lead to addiction, so it is extremely important that Suboxone is taken under the supervision of a treatment team, doctor, or qualified provider.
The Symptoms of Suboxone Addiction
Some of the common physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms of Suboxone addiction include:
- Slurred speech
- Brain fog, cognitive issues, and the inability to think clearly
- Lying to doctors or other supervisors to attain Suboxone
- Attempting to get extra Suboxone.
Furthermore, when Suboxone is abused and intake is subsequently reduced, withdrawal symptoms can emerge. These can include:
- Cravings for Suboxone or other opioids
- Diarrhea or digestive distress
- Flu-like symptoms
- Shaking and/or muscle pain.
How To Prevent Suboxone Addiction
Follow prescription guidelines
To reduce the risk of becoming addicted to Suboxone, follow instructions and administer each dose exactly as instructed by your doctor.
It’s crucial you take the correct amount of Suboxone with the right intervals or time between each dose in order to enhance its effectiveness and increase your safety.
Suboxone should always be taken exactly as prescribed, and you should report any side effects or cravings for opioids immediately.
When taking Suboxone under proper medical supervision, you will likely communicate with your doctor very frequently.
This is an important aspect of treatment, as your doctor can help to determine the correct dose for you! Be sure to remain open about what you are experiencing and feeling.
As you near the end of Suboxone treatment, you will begin to taper off of the medication gradually.
During this stage, it is crucial to follow guidelines from your doctor carefully in order to reduce withdrawal symptoms and keep opioid cravings at bay. If you ever feel you are at risk of relapse, reach out to your doctor or supervisor immediately.
The role of counseling and behavioral therapy alongside Suboxone treatment
Suboxone is best used as part of a complete treatment program that also includes regular counseling and behavioral therapy.
These aspects of treatment are extremely important for preventing addiction, as they allow you to communicate openly about your feelings which can reduce the likelihood of acting on compulsions.
Further, psychological support can motivate you to continue using the medication correctly and make a full recovery.
Potential side effects and how they deter misuse
Misuse of Suboxone does not cause one to feel the euphoric ‘high’ that is experienced with other opioids (due to the addition of Naloxone).
Instead, taking too much Suboxone causes unpleasant symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, sweating, constipation, muscle pain, nausea, and more. These side effects usually discourage users from misusing Suboxone.
In conclusion, Suboxone has proven to be an effective medication for treating opioid dependence and is best used as part of a complete treatment program.
Buprenorphine and Naloxone work together to ease withdrawals, reduce cravings, and prevent misuse or overdose, so it is unlikely that you will become addicted to Suboxone.
It is highly important to use Suboxone under proper medical supervision.
Not only will this reduce the likelihood of misuse or addiction, but it can enhance the medication’s effectiveness and increase your chances of achieving a full recovery from opioid dependence.