Common Myths About Suboxone to Treat Opiate Addiction

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Myths about Suboxone for Opioid Addiction

It is crucial to educate yourself about addiction and the various treatments and medications available to assist with recovery from drug addiction.  Unfortunately, there are many common myths about Suboxone to treat opiate addiction.  Simply stated, Suboxone saves lives and is effective in treating opiate addiction.

What is Suboxone, and how does it work?

Before we get into the myths and facts about Suboxone, let’s first take a look at what’s inside this medication and how it works. Suboxone is a combination medication containing Buprenorphine and Naloxone.  Suboxone is one of the main medications used for medication-assisted therapy (MAT) for opiate addiction.

The use of MATs has been shown to lower the risk of fatal overdoses by approximately 50%. Suboxone works by tightly binding to the same receptors in the brain as other opiates, such as fentanyl, heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. Doing so blunts intoxication with these other drugs. It prevents cravings, and it allows many people to transition back from a life of addiction to a life of relative normalcy and safety.

The buprenorphine component is what’s known as a partial opioid agonist. When you use opioids, what you’re doing is activating receptors in your brain that have become rewired throughout your use to receive more and more of the drug, producing uncontrollable cravings that demand to be satisfied. With an agonist, you can quiet these receptors by giving them a small amount of what they’re looking for.

The naloxone component is a pure opioid antagonist, which blocks agonists from reaching the demanding receptors. Naloxone can even go a step further by intercepting any signals that your receptors try to send to your brain. This means that even if you have opioids in your system, the antagonist essentially prevents you from feeling the effects of the drug or getting high.

Ultimately, what Suboxone tries to accomplish is to quiet your receptors to prevent withdrawal while also preventing you from using as you did before since you won’t feel the effects.

Common myths about using Suboxone to treat addiction

Unfortunately, within the addiction community, the twelve-step community, and among the public, certain myths about Suboxone to treat addiction persist. These myths add a further barrier to treatment for people suffering from opiate addiction.

Myth #1: You aren’t really in recovery if you’re on Suboxone.

Reality: While it depends on how you define “recovery,” the abstinence-based models that have dominated the past century of addiction care are generally giving way to a more modern conception of recovery that encompasses the use of medications such as Suboxone that regulate your brain chemistry.  As addiction is increasingly viewed as a medical condition, Suboxone is considered a medication for a chronic condition, such as a person with diabetes needing insulin. To say that you aren’t really in recovery if you are on Suboxone is stigmatizing to people who take Suboxone, and it’s not the medical reality of effective addiction treatment.

Myth #2: People frequently abuse Suboxone.

Reality:   Although Suboxone is technically an opioid, it has that critical second ingredient called an antagonist that dramatically reduces the euphoric effects of full agonists, such as fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone, and morphine.

Abuse or overuse can be possible for people who don’t abuse drugs, but this is not likely to happen to you because as an opioid addict, your body is craving much more potent drugs, and Suboxone decreases your desire for them.

Myth #3: It’s as easy to overdose on Suboxone as it is to overdose with other opiates.

Reality: It is extremely difficult to overdose on Suboxone alone. It is more difficult to overdose on Suboxone compared to other opiates because Suboxone is only a partial opiate receptor agonist, so there is a built-in “ceiling” effect.

This means there is a limit to how much the opioid receptors are able to be activated by Suboxone, so there isn’t as great a risk of slowed breathing compared with potent opiates such as heroin, oxycodone, or morphine. When people do overdose on Suboxone, it is almost always because they are mixing it with sedatives such as benzodiazepines, medicines that also slow breathing.

Myth #4: If I take Suboxone, no one will believe I’m in recovery

Reality:  One of the main obstacles to getting lifesaving treatment for addiction is the stigma people face. Fortunately, our society’s perception is slowly starting to transform away from an outdated view of addiction as a moral failing toward a more realistic, humane view of addiction as a complex disease that needs to be addressed with compassion, as well as modern medical care. Eliminating myths and misinformation about addiction, and supplanting them with up-to-date, evidence-based treatments, is a critical step in the evolution of addiction treatment.

Do your best to educate those in your circle of support and let the others figure it out. Once you’re well, your new clean life will speak for itself.

Myth #5: All I need is Suboxone and I’ll be cured

Reality:  Suboxone is a powerful addiction treatment, but it works even better when combined with other traditional treatment methods, such as group and individual talk therapy. The more support you have, the better.  However, only 10% of people with addiction are getting treatment

PUSH for Recovery can help you determine where and how to find resources to ease your re-entry into your life and community.  Our team is devoted to your health and full recovery, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.

Myth #6: Suboxone should only be taken for a short period of time.

Reality: Expert practitioners have different theories on how long Suboxone treatment should last, but there is no evidence to support the claim that Suboxone should be taken for a short period of time as opposed to being maintained on it for the long term, just as a person would manage their diabetes with insulin for the long term.

Myth #7: Suboxone Causes Precipitated Withdrawal

Reality: This is a common misconception among opiate users and is not true. Buprenorphine, the active medication in Suboxone, has been around for decades.  But, in the early 2000s Buprenorphine was approved for use in drug treatment. At the time, its brand name was Subutex, and it was purely made of Buprenorphine.

Unfortunately, heroin users realized that it could be abused and began to liquify it and inject it. In this manner, a user can, in fact, get high from Buprenorphine. But, its most important use to users was the drug’s ability to stave off withdrawal. If a fentanyl addict runs out of fentanyl, they will typically withdraw within 6-12 hours. With Buprenorphine (brand name Subutex), they won’t go into withdrawal for 2-3 days.

When Subutex began to flood the streets for this purpose, the manufacturer changed the formula to include Naloxone. Thus, the combination was named Suboxone.

As most people know, Naloxone is a medication that can stop an overdose. It works intravenously by immediately removing all the heroin left on the body’s receptors. However, Naloxone only works when injected. If Suboxone is administered orally, as intended, the small amount of Naloxone is inert and will not have this effect.

Now, if a fentanyl user tries to shoot up Suboxone, the Naloxone is fully effective. The user will go into immediate, precipitated withdrawal. This means that all the withdrawal symptoms a user would experience over 48 hours happen in the next two hours.

Suboxone and the Recovery Process

Simply put, Suboxone saves lives.  Suboxone treatment doesn’t guarantee sobriety, but it’s definitely an effective tool for a successful recovery.

Along with medication, the patient is recommended to receive additional services such as individual or group counseling, support group meetings, address any mental health issues, and learn about relapse prevention. They also need to improve life skills such as effective communication, healthy boundaries, goal setting, and conflict resolution.

The level of success in recovery is dependent on your investment in your treatment and the investment in yourself. You have probably never treated anyone as bad as you treated yourself. It is time to change that. You deserve better. You deserve to be sober.

If you are interested in getting Suboxone in Columbus, Ohio, contact us today.  We provide medically assisted treatment, with medications like Suboxone and Vivitrol, combined with evidenced-based rehab therapies in both group and individual counseling settings.  Don’t delay. Call us Recovery today.

Reference:
Grinspoon, M.D., Peter (2018):  Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.  https://blog.content.health.harvard.edu/blog/5-myths-about-suboxone-addiction/

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