by Justin Mckibben | Jul 19, 2018 | Addiction Medicine, Drug Abuse, Maintenance Drugs, Medication-Assisted Treatment, Methadone, Naloxone, Prescription Drugs, Suboxone
The battle against opioid addiction in America is being fought every day, and many are fighting hard to create more opportunities for treatment and recovery. With more awareness being raised across the country, many are turning to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) methods as a way to address illicit opioid abuse and overdose. One of the most commonly known medications used in MAT is Suboxone.
MAT programs can be very helpful as a harm reduction strategy that gives people struggling with addiction a chance to avoid harmful withdrawals. However, addiction specialists also recognize that MAT alone is not an adequate substitute for comprehensive addiction treatment.
Furthermore, medications like Suboxone can be useful, but only to an extent. This drug may help to curb withdrawal symptoms from opioids like heroin or prescription painkillers, but it is also a powerful narcotic that can cause its own symptoms of dependence and withdrawal. Some people have tried to utilize Suboxone to get off of other drugs, only to find themselves dependent on this medication. So how do you stop using Suboxone?
More About Suboxone
Suboxone is a medication primarily for helping people stop using other opioids. The medication is a combination of two drugs:
Most people do not realize that Buprenorphine is itself an opioid. This semi-synthetic opioid medication is different from other opioids because it is a partial opioid agonist. What this means is that its maximal effects are less than full agonists such as heroin or methadone.
However, it still creates feelings of euphoria and respiratory depression. With chronic use, this opioid can still cause physical dependence.
This medication is used to block the effects of opioids, especially when it comes to opioid overdose. It is added to the Buprenorphine to attempt to decrease the risk of misuse. Due to the nature of this medication, if someone takes Naloxone while still experiencing the effects of an opioid it can cause them to go into sudden withdrawal.
The makers of Suboxone do warn that it can be abused in a manner similar to other opioids, both legal and illicit. They issue a number of other warnings for those considering using the medication, including:
- Injecting Suboxone may cause serious withdrawal symptoms.
- Suboxone film can cause serious, life-threatening breathing problems, overdose and death, particularly when taken intravenously in combination with benzodiazepines or other medications that act on the central nervous system.
- One should not drink alcohol while taking this medication, as it can lead to unconsciousness or even death.
Some of the adverse effects of Suboxone use include:
- Numb mouth
- Painful tongue
- Redness of mouth
- Disturbance in attention
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sleep problems
- Blurred vision
- Back pain
These are only a few examples. Some circumstances may lead to further complications, including someone being pregnant or living with severe hepatic impairment. You should discuss any decision you make to start or stop using Suboxone with a healthcare professional.
5 Steps to Stop Using Suboxone
Speak with a medical professional
If you have a Suboxone prescription, do not stop taking it without speaking to a healthcare professional first. Abruptly discontinuing a MAT program can not only cause you a great deal of discomfort, but it can be very dangerous. Trying to quit without medical assistance also creates the risk of relapse and overdose.
This is why safe medical Suboxone detox is such an important element of any addiction treatment program.
Before you decide to stop using Suboxone, speak with your personal physician or a medical addiction specialist in order to decide what is the safest and most effective way to move forward.
Taper vs Cold Turkey
When someone goes ‘cold turkey’ to stop using Suboxone, they essentially discontinue without any kind of medical support. Again, we remind you that this can be extremely dangerous and is always counterproductive. A better choice is to develop a plan with a medical professional that utilizes a gradual taper or even medications to assist with withdrawals.
Health experts recommend gradually reducing doses of buprenorphine. Typically, you can lower your dosage over a period of three weeks or more, reducing the doses by 10%-20% each week. The best way to decide how to do this is by working with a medical professional.
Get comprehensive addiction therapy
Another crucial aspect of addiction treatment is the opportunity for comprehensive addiction therapy. Individuals have a much better chance to stop using Suboxone for the long-term when they address the underlying issues that lead them to use opioids in the first place. Sometimes, drug use stems from emotional issues, trauma, or behaviors that are self-destructive. When people avoid addressing these issues, they become vulnerable to relapsing as a means to cope with them later.
Therapy not only helps people uncover the root cause of their pain, but it also teaches people new, healthy ways to cope with these issues.
Build a support group in recovery
Once someone has started the recovery process, a huge part of staying on the right path is to build a support group. It is very difficult to try and stop using Suboxone or any other drug all on your own. Having friends, family or mentors provides people with the resources to reach out to when they are struggling.
When trying to overcome addiction, it can be difficult for some to relate to people who do not understand addiction. Thankfully, there are support groups all over the country that offer assistance to each other while dealing with a specific issue. Most people know of 12-Step programs and other support groups for alcohol or drug addiction.
Participate in aftercare programs
Another useful element of treatment is aftercare. While support groups are extremely helpful, another way to stay involved in the ongoing process of addiction recovery is to get involved in aftercare programs. Many treatment providers will have programs in place to support those who have completed the inpatient levels of care, such as residential treatment, and are ready to transition back into everyday life.
When you stop using Suboxone, it is a good idea to stay connected with those who can offer support and guidance.
When a lot of people hear about medication-assisted treatment, they think it is an easy way out of addiction. Some people automatically assume that you can trade an addiction to heroin or Oxycodone for a dependence on Suboxone or another drug and everything will be fine. However, with MAT programs the goal should never be to rely on a medication for the long-term.
Medication-assisted treatment does make a difference. For some people, the fear of withdrawal symptoms keeps them using far more potent and dangerous drugs. Because they do not want to experience the pain, they keep using. Sometimes, this leads to death. So giving someone the chance to reduce the risk by using a prescription medication might keep them alive long enough to get treatment. But that is the important thing- to get the treatment.
Medications like Methadone and Suboxone are only supposed to be one piece of a more comprehensive treatment plan. They are intended to act as a short-term tool to help people ease their discomfort and avoid suffering while they try to give up drugs. MAT programs are only really effective when they are accompanied by therapy and other means of treatment. So if you want to stop using Suboxone and start recovering, seek out a rehab program that wants to help you heal.
Holistic addiction treatment is specifically designed to treat the entire person, not just the addiction. This kind of approach offers a variety of opportunities to develop new coping skills, learn more about addiction and the impact of drugs on the body, and experience innovative treatment modalities to heal the mind, body and spirit. For over 20 years, Palm Healthcare Company has been a leader in providing holistic addiction treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
by staff | Nov 24, 2017 | Addiction Medicine, Addiction Treatment, Maintenance Drugs, Medication-Assisted Treatment, Methadone, Prescription Drugs, Recovery, Suboxone, Vivitrol
Support for Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) has continued to grow in recent years as the opioid epidemic in America has put a mounting strain on the country. While the numbers of overdoses and opioid-related deaths have steadily climbed to devastating heights there has been more effort to explore treatment options. A better understanding of the medical and mental health aspects of addiction has become a priority. Stigma has slowly begun to carry less weight while advocates push for more effective and supportive routes to care for recovering addicts. One thing people have turned to heavily is medications like Suboxone of Methadone in attempts to steer away from more illicit and dangerous substances like heroin or fentanyl.
The application of medication in treatment can be very useful. It is a strategy that can help with the preservation of life by helping people stay off more unpredictable and life-threatening substances. However, some would say that if used for long-term this form of treatment is still relying on the idea of substitution. Often times these drugs have their own very harsh withdrawal symptoms, especially with extended use.
Taking a look at the more popular drugs used for medication-assisted treatment, one may ask- can you quit medication-assisted treatment with no withdrawals?
Understanding Medication-Assisted Treatment
Medication Assisted Treatment is the use of anti-craving medications to try and help address issues related to drug dependence, withdrawal, and relapse. The more common medications used in MAT include:
But MAT is also utilized alongside comprehensive therapy and other forms of support. Experts and advocates for addiction recovery, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), insist that maintenance medications alone are not sufficient enough treatment.
Advocates for medication-assisted treatment will compare MAT to someone taking medication for diabetes or asthma, with the belief that maintenance drugs are an essential part of staying healthy. However, others in the world of addiction recovery still believe it is possible to be healthy in recovery without the prolonged use of powerful medications.
The truth is the answer may not be the same for everybody. Different treatments may be more useful for different people. No one should be ashamed of the method they use to get help. But we also want to look at how some drugs used in medication-assisted treatment might make things more complicated for certain people.
Looking at the most popular maintenance drugs for opioid addiction, of course, we find Suboxone. To better understand Suboxone withdrawals, we first have to know what it is. This popular brand name is used to identify a prescription medication that contains active ingredients:
- Buprenorphine- a narcotic opioid medication
- Naloxone– an opioid blocker that impedes the effect of opioid medications
This medication functions as a partial opioid agonist and diminishes cravings as well as prevents other opioids from reacting to the brain’s opioid receptors. Taken in low doses for short periods of time, the drug can be helpful in curbing opioid withdrawal symptoms while tapering off without too many residual effects.
The tricky part comes when someone uses Suboxone for an extended amount of time as a replacement for heroin or other opioids.
Sometimes this can lead to its own form of recreational use and physical dependence. Even the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that Suboxone is commonly susceptible to abuse. It is still a powerful drug.
Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms
While Suboxone and other maintenance drugs may be a preferred tactic for going ‘cold turkey’ off of heroin or other opioids, the drug itself still has the power to cause its own set of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include:
- Irritability or agitation
- Difficulty sleeping
- Profuse sweating
- Runny nose
- Frequent yawning
- Stomach pain or cramping
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in mood
Not to mention precipitated withdrawal, when the ingredients in this medication can actually induce the onset of unpleasant symptoms rapidly, if not immediately, for someone actively engaged in opioid use.
Methadone is a long-acting opioid medication utilized since the 1970s to try and help people get off of heroin. It is typically used today under strict medical supervision because the drug is very potent and has a high risk of addiction. In fact, a 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that approximately 2.46 million people reported to using methadone for a non-prescribed purpose at least once.
According to another study, in 2009 methadone was responsible for 1 out of every 3 opioid overdose deaths.
Because of the risks, a gradual taper should be utilized to wean someone off of methadone. Often times doctors will prescribe another detox medication to help with this process, with the tapering to be done under medical supervision.
But as with trying to quit heroin or other powerful opioids ‘cold turkey’, trying to abruptly discontinue methadone can bring on intense withdrawal. This includes physical and psychological symptoms such as:
- Runny nose
- Tearing or watery eyes
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Abdominal cramps
Many of these symptoms are similar to the symptoms of withdrawing from heroin or other opioids. So in a sense, this drug can create similar withdrawal symptoms as the drugs it is supposed to be used to treat.
Quitting Medication Assisted Treatment
Is it possible to quit medication-assisted treatment- yes, there are always other options for getting comprehensive care and lasting recovery without the prolonged use of these medications. Even relapse prevention is possible without relying on medications to fight cravings.
Can you quit medication-assisted treatment with no withdrawals? Well, that may be a process. It depends on a number of factors, such as the specific maintenance medication and the length of time using it. For example, someone who has been using methadone for years could probably have a much harder time getting off methadone than someone who used another medication for a month or so to help get off opioids.
Safety is crucial when deciding to quit MAT. Quitting medication-assisted treatment without a taper or other forms of medication can cause intense withdrawals. It is not suggested that someone try to quit MAT ‘cold turkey’ or without consulting a doctor for help with changing the dosage and slowly tapering off the drugs.
Again, just because it isn’t heroin or fentanyl doesn’t make it harmless.
MAT or Detox?
Medication-assisted treatment holds a lot of value, but the question becomes whether or not it is the kind of sustainable solution you want. Recovery isn’t one-size-fits-all. Medication-assisted treatment can be helpful in saving someone’s life who cannot stop using drugs. But is it something that will completely eliminate cravings and withdrawals, or will it just postpone these symptoms?
Remember, these are still powerful narcotic drugs that have a high risk for abuse. Some people end up using medication maintenance for life. Others will use it for a short period of time, with a detox period afterward. Either way, it is your choice; how long do you want to rely on substances, and to what extent?
Other models believe in providing holistic treatment and personalized therapy after a detox period, helping to reduce and remove chemical dependence and build a foundation for personal recovery.
Using medication to help with the painful and often overwhelming symptoms of withdrawal from opioids and other drugs can be essential to a smooth and healthy transition. In fact, with a safe medical detox, each individual is given an initial assessment to see what medications will be helpful in making this phase of treatment comfortable and safe. This can include medications for anxiety, mood disorders, physical pains and various other side-effects of substance abuse.
And when it comes to some of these medications, it can sometimes be necessary to continue using them.
The biggest difference is whether narcotic maintenance medications like Suboxone or methadone become a long-term prerequisite to recovery, or if they are used to help someone who is sick get better so that the real healing can happen.
Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing a safe medical detox to allow for a comfortable and healthy transition from active drug or alcohol use. Our facilities utilize an experienced and professional medical staff who help to monitor each individual’s progress and provide effective medical support for lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398