Many patients recovering from heroin addiction choose to include medications in their treatment program to help deal with the agonizing pain of heroin withdrawal symptoms. For a long time, Methadone used to be the standard type of withdrawal medication for a heroin addiction. However, Methadone can only be distributed in approved settings, requiring the patient to make daily trips to the clinic to receive the medication. Nowadays, Suboxone is available, making medically treated heroin addiction programs easier to manage. Suboxone, while still a controlled substance, is available in a prescription form, allowing the patient to medically treat their addiction from the privacy of their home.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a prescription narcotic used to treat an opiate addiction. Suboxone combines buprenorphine, an opioid medication, and naloxone, a drug used to treat opiate overdose. By combining these two medications, Suboxone not only relieves opiate cravings and withdrawal symptoms, but also deters the patient from abusing the drug. Suboxone comes in tablet or film form, and is dissolved under the tongue.
The main ingredient in Suboxone, buprenorphine, attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, while producing a more limited “high” than a full opioid. Buprenorphine remains in the opioid receptors for up to 24 hours, essentially blocking them from any other opiate the patient may take.
The secondary ingredient, naloxone, is added to prevent the abuse that can occur with buprenorphine alone. Naloxone, by itself, is used to treat opiate overdose. It works by removing all opiates from the opioid receptors in the brain. If the Suboxone pill were to be crushed and injected, as is common in buprenorphine abuse, the full amount of naloxone enters the bloodstream, sending the abuser into full opiate withdrawal, and making them quite ill. This provides a very real deterent for Suboxone abuse.
What is the process for Suboxone treatment?
Before starting Suboxone, patients must undergo a detox period to rid the body of any opiates that might currently be in the body. Once the patient is in a state of mild withdrawal, the patient can then start the induction process. Induction is the process of starting the medication, under close doctor supervision, to stabilize the patient and discover proper dosage amount. Once the induction process is complete, generally lasting two to three days, the patient can self-medicate with Suboxone at home.
How long does Suboxone treatment take?
Once the induction process is complete, relief from Suboxone treatment is immediate. The length of Suboxone treatment is dependent upon many individual factors. Some patients are able to start the weaning process after only a few months, while others may continue Suboxone treatment for years.