What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a brand name prescription drug used to treat opioid and alcohol addiction. It was approved by the FDA in 2001 as a safer way to ease off opioids and avoid triggering severe withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone consists of two active ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone and is also available in a generic version. Available in two forms, Suboxone can be taken as an oral film or an oral tablet.

How Can I Get Suboxone?

Being a controlled substance, Suboxone is only available by doctors who have received special training and certification and are registered with the DEA. Suboxone doctors can only take on a limited number of patients at a time, Which means that simply finding a Suboxone doctor or clinic is not enough and that patients must specifically find a Suboxone provider accepting new patients.

When Can I Get Suboxone?

Suboxone is typically given when patients are in the “mild withdrawal” stage (based on the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale). Taking any buprenorphine-based medication earlier than this can cause precipitated withdrawal, a rapid onset of severe withdrawal symptoms. Because addiction is so personal and the effects can be vastly different from person to person, there is no set time between your last use and when you can get Suboxone. 

There are three important factors that will determine how soon your medical provider can issue Suboxone after using an opioid:

  • How long-acting the opioid is
  • How long the opioid takes to get out of your system
  • The size of the dose
  • Your tolerance level   

I Want to Understand How Suboxone Works

Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid and the primary ingredient responsible for managing opioid cravings. It activates mu receptors as any other opioid would, but does so only a fraction of a typical opioid’s potency. The low strength opioid is still more than enough to satisfy any physical cravings without overstimulating the receptors and further disrupting neurochemical balances. Buprenorphine also has a longer half-life than other opioids, effectively occupying the receptors for longer stretches of time and weaning opioid addicts off from frequent use.

Naloxone

Naloxone is perhaps best known for its use of reversing the toxic effects of an overdose. In Suboxone, it functions as an opioid antagonist that physically prevents opioids from producing pleasurable feelings. Because the relationship between a drug and the reward center of the brain plays a crucial role in addiction, being able to sever that connection makes it possible for dopamine activity to get back to normal which in turn will reduce cravings. 

Naloxone also acts as a form of negative reinforcement to discourage inappropriate opioid use. If Suboxone is injected instead of being taken orally as it meant to be, the naloxone portion of the compound will initiate uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Is Suboxone Safe to Use?

While all prescription opioids carry the risk of being addiction-causing, the likelihood of a Suboxone addiction is low. This medication is classified as a Schedule III substance which considered low risk of being abused or resulting in dependency. Other drugs that fall in this category are Tylenol (with codeine), testosterone, and ketamine. In the unlikely instance that a Suboxone addiction does occur, it is not nearly as dangerous as other types of substances because there is little risk of overdosing on Suboxone.