Suboxone is a tool used as part of Medication-Assisted Treatment in people with Opioid Use Disorder. In this guide, we will cover what you can expect from Suboxone withdrawal, and how exactly to manage these symptoms.
Read on to find out about:
- What Suboxone withdrawal is
- What symptoms you may experience during withdrawal
- The timeline for withdrawal, and when symptoms peak
- The best way to get through withdrawal, with practical advice.
Let’s get into it.
Understanding Suboxone Withdrawal
Suboxone contains two active ingredients: a partial opioid agonist called buprenorphine and an opioid antagonist called naloxone which prevents people from abusing the medication.
Buprenorphine mimics the effects of prescription opioids (along with illegal substances such as heroin, fentanyl, and other drugs of abuse) on a much smaller scale. This helps alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms, along with drug cravings. However, some people can build a physical dependence on the medication.
People who have grown accustomed to the medication and are now hoping to detox from it will likely experience symptoms similar to those caused by opioid withdrawal.
Common Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms
Suboxone withdrawal symptoms mimic typical opioid withdrawal symptoms. However, you can expect them to be milder. Either way, Suboxone symptom severity and duration will vary from person to person.
While some people will only experience mild withdrawal symptoms, others may experience severe adverse effects. Symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches and pains
- Sweating and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Teary eyes.
Timeline for Suboxone Withdrawal
The timeline for Suboxone withdrawal looks different for everyone, with some similar patterns seen amongst most people.
First 24 hours
Once the medication has left someone’s system, they are likely to feel a few initial withdrawal symptoms. These may include mild anxiety, restlessness, and cravings.
Day 2 to 3
Unfortunately, the first few days of withdrawal are often the worst. You can experience an increase in anxiety, strong drug cravings, and insomnia.
Meanwhile, the physical withdrawal symptoms include flu-like symptoms with muscle aches and diarrhea being common as well.
Days 4 to 7
The good news is that once you have made it through the first 3 days of withdrawal, you will likely see an improvement in symptoms by day 4. You are however likely to still experience some anxiety, restlessness, and digestive issues.
By the 6 to 7-day mark, many of these physical withdrawal symptoms begin to subside. Drug cravings may still be present, but they tend to start slowly decreasing.
By the second week, most of the intense physical withdrawal symptoms would have subsided. While some symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia may linger, they are usually manageable. Some people may also find it difficult to sleep.
Week 3 Onwards
While many people may find this frustrating, some psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, mood swings, and cravings will likely persist. By week 4, most people will find that their withdrawal symptoms have significantly diminished.
How To Get Through Suboxone Withdrawal
The Suboxone withdrawal process is challenging for most people. Willpower itself is often not enough. If you are thinking of undergoing Suboxone detox, it is important to establish a detox plan with a healthcare professional and ensure you have plenty of support around you.
1. Seek medical supervision
If you are thinking of coming off Suboxone, it is important to do so under the guidance of a medical professional. They can help you manage common symptoms of withdrawal and help minimize side effects.
2. Taper off gradually
As part of a detox plan, your doctor will prescribe you gradually decreasing doses of Suboxone. This will help reduce the risk of severe side effects, such as intense cravings and relapse.
3. Short vs. long-term Suboxone taper
Suboxone tapering can be done over the course of weeks or months. Generally, long-term tapering will reduce the side effects more than short-term withdrawal will.
4. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water and eating properly will help any stomach unrest that you may experience. It can also decrease headaches and help with overall well-being.
5. Rest and sleep as needed
A common side effect of Suboxone withdrawal is insomnia, which can negatively impact your energy levels, and quality of life. Allowing yourself time to rest and sleeping when your body tells you to is often helpful.
6. Use over-the-counter pain relievers
Many people who suffer from Opioid Use Disorders develop addiction due to prolonged use of prescription opioids which were originally prescribed for pain. This pain may still be present and should be treated to avoid relapse.
It is important to avoid morphine, methadone, fentanyl, or other pain relievers that contain opioids. Instead, try paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin.
7. Engage in light exercise
Engaging in light exercise can have many benefits for people receiving treatment for substance use disorders.
Exercise releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins that can not only help reduce the anxiety felt during withdrawal but also help with physical symptoms such as insomnia.
Walking, swimming, or cycling are great options- but anything that’s active helps!
8. Consider support groups
Support groups offer a great way for people who have struggled with opioid addiction to share their experiences and help one another. They offer a way to connect with people who have had similar experiences to yourself and can give you advice.
There are many support groups available in the US. Some support groups include:
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
- Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA)
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS).
You may have many reasons for deciding to stop taking Suboxone. It is important to talk to a healthcare professional in order to help make a plan to minimize suboxone withdrawal symptoms.
There are many ways to make withdrawal more manageable with the right support systems in place.