Suboxone Treatment—Use Cases, Side Effects, and Alternatives

Suboxone treatment is one method of treating opioid use disorder (OUD). Additionally, this type of treatment can reduce an individual’s risk of a nonfatal overdose, as those can be very dangerous and traumatic.

As the numbers of opioid-related deaths continue to rise, the U.S. Government decided to implement certain steps to slow the spread of this epidemic. They started by making it easier for doctors and nurses to get the proper authorization to provide suboxone to their patients. According to addiction experts and advocates, as well as most physicians, this medication has the power to save lives.

suboxone treatment

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is an opioid medication that is prescribed to treat an individual with opioid dependence. As a partial opioid agonist, it’s used in combination with naloxone, an opioid antagonist, as the main ingredient in the suboxone treatment. Also, it’s not to be confused with Subutex—a similar medication that does not include naloxone. 

In the 1970s, buprenorphine (one of the active ingredients in suboxone) was developed in the search for a safer prescription pain medication. Shortly after, it became the primary treatment for opioid dependency because of its lower risk of misuse. Moreover, after some research, it was discovered that it could be even safer when combined with naloxone to block the potentially euphoric effects of buprenorphine.

The medication has two uses. It can be used to stabilize a person going through withdrawal while detoxing or be part of a maintenance treatment program to encourage recovery from OUD. It’s typically prescribed as part of a treatment program that also includes counseling and therapies, but it shouldn’t be prescribed to treat pain.

How Does Suboxone Work?

All opioids, including suboxone, work by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors. The difference is that when suboxone binds to these receptors, it does not result in any euphoric effects. After binding to the receptors, it blocks the intoxication that would typically result from using an opioid.

Suboxone treatment has also been known to help reduce cravings in those that struggle with opioid use disorder. It is often prescribed to help those same individuals transition from a life of addiction and instability to a new life of safety.

Because buprenorphine is an opioid medication, it also reduces the symptoms of withdrawal. And, since it doesn’t produce the same ‘high’ that other opioids do, it makes it less difficult for a person to ultimately stop using opioid drugs.

Suboxone Uses and Benefits

Typically, suboxone is only prescribed for treating dependence on short-acting opioids (like heroin and most prescription painkillers). It usually doesn’t form part of the treatment of dependence on long-acting opioids—buprenorphine by itself might be more appropriate in such situations.

One of the greatest benefits of a suboxone treatment plan is that when an individual takes the medication as directed, they should not have any cravings. In addition, they should not experience any withdrawal symptoms from the short-acting opioids they are trying to stop. It is important to keep in mind that suddenly stopping suboxone will cause withdrawal symptoms from suboxone itself. 

For example, one survey showed the craving score ranging between 62.4 and 64.6 before the person received the suboxone treatment. After a month of treatment, the scores decreased to 29.8. 

Safe Suboxone Treatment Use

Suboxone treatment is safe when used exactly as prescribed by a medical professional. When used as directed, this medication is known to have a very low overdose potential. This is due to its high ceiling for opioid effects.

Although this treatment helps to alleviate the severity of withdrawal symptoms, it still has the potential to be uncomfortable and dangerous. If a person starts taking suboxone too soon after taking their last dose of opioids, they may experience withdrawal symptoms like excessive sweating, abdominal discomfort, shaking, and mood changes/anxiety. 

Once a patient has conquered the withdrawal phase, the suboxone treatment clinic will transition them into the maintenance phase. Over time, the goal is for a physician to start reducing the dosage little by little until the medication is no longer necessary.

Suboxone is available in both sublingual films and tablets. It should always be used as directed, and you should always speak to a physician before changing the dosage. You can take a sip of water before placing the film or tablet in your mouth, as it will help the medication dissolve more easily.

Suboxone Treatment Risks and Side Effects

suboxone treatment

While suboxone can be extremely helpful in managing OUD, it can also lead to several side effects, drug interactions, or potentially life-threatening situations.

Side Effects

Those who are allergic to this medication may experience symptoms such as hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue, face, and lips.

Some more severe side effects that are less likely to occur include the following:

  • Problems with your teeth or gums
  • Shallow or weak breathing
  • Breathing that stops while sleeping
  • Lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Extreme weakness
  • Confusion 

If you or someone you love experiences any of these symptoms while taking suboxone, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Interaction With Other Drugs

Most opioid medications have potential interactions with many other drugs that can cause dangerous side effects or even death in serious situations. For this reason, you should make sure that your physician is aware of any other medication you are taking, especially any of the following:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungals
  • Heart medications
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Seizure medications
  • HIV or Hepatitis C treatments
  • Cold or allergy medicine
  • Diuretics
  • Cough medication
  • Medicines that treat motion sickness, overactive bladder, or irritable bowel syndrome. 

Besides this, it’s also crucial to make your physician aware of any other opioid medications you are taking.

When Not to Use Suboxone

You shouldn’t take suboxone while consuming alcohol, as doing so could be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. The side effects like dizziness and drowsiness could easily cause falls, accidents, or severe injuries. Also, you should avoid operating heavy equipment or driving until you are sure that you aren’t experiencing any of these adverse side effects. 

Developing a dependence on this medication is one of the most severe risks of taking it, especially if you misuse it.

Discontinuing the treatment immediately can lead to uncomfortable and potentially painful symptoms of withdrawal. Always speak with your physician before deciding to stop taking suboxone to avoid experiencing any uncomfortable and potentially painful withdrawal symptoms. 

Suboxone Addiction and Misuse

When used for long periods of time, suboxone can lead to physical dependence because of the inclusion of buprenorphine, the opioid medication. However, it is important to note that physical dependence is not necessarily the same thing as addiction.

Yet, if you do become physically dependent, you might experience withdrawal symptoms once you stop using the medication. For this reason, you shouldn’t do so unless instructed to do so by a medical professional, and your treatment and use of the medication should be closely monitored.

The inclusion of naloxone in this medication formulation limits the potential for misuse, as this ingredient blocks any feelings of a euphoric high. The suboxone treatment is meant to help people keep their compulsive and harmful opioid use under control. This allows them to get back to a healthier way of life.

Suboxone Alternatives for Treating Opioid Addiction

While Suboxone can be an effective treatment for opioid use disorder, it might not be the right treatment option for everyone. Due to this, there are several other options for individuals struggling with opioid use disorder and looking to detox.

suboxone treatment


Methadone is a synthetic opioid that assists opioid users by reducing their cravings and eliminating withdrawal symptoms. Methadone and suboxone are both typically prescribed for the same purpose, but they’re not the same medication.

Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist that blocks the effects of opioids. It’s available in several forms, including tablets, solution, and concentrated solution. You can also get it in the form of a dispersible tablet that can dissolve in a liquid.

Rapid Detox

Rapid detox is typically achieved through medication-assisted therapy. This type of detoxification refers to the process of quickly removing opioids from your system. It’s typically performed in an inpatient setting, such as a clinic or a hospital.

The process usually lasts a couple of days. Over these few days, the patient is put under anesthesia, and their system is completely flushed of any remaining opioids with the help of naloxone, the opioid antagonist.

Although this type of treatment can successfully clear a person’s body of opioids, it can’t cure their addiction. 

ANR Treatment

ANR Clinic treats the root of opioid dependence in individuals from all over the world. Their treatment helps patients conquer their addiction while also avoiding any cravings or withdrawal symptoms.

Dr. Waismann has identified the biological cause of opioid dependency and developed a treatment that addresses this. The primary goal of his team at ANR Clinic is to help their patients reap the benefits of modern medicine and spread the knowledge of the ANR treatment approach to patients and doctors all over the world.

Undergoing Accelerated Neuro-Regulation typically requires a 36-hour hospital stay. During this stay, the patient will be put under sedation for about 4–6 hours and monitored by a physician and anesthesiologist.

While the patient is under sedation, the physician will be modulating and regulating the opioid receptors in the brain, returning them to their pre-addiction state. This will help patients transition back to a life of normalcy without experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Suboxone Treatment FAQ

#1. Is Suboxone safe to use?

Suboxone can be safe when used as instructed by a medical professional. The dosage prescribed to you will be tailored specifically to your individual needs. If you feel that you need a change in dosage, you should always speak to your doctor first.

#2. Is Suboxone addictive?

Suboxone can lead to physical dependence, but this dependence is not the same as addiction. Although different, addiction and physical dependence can both lead to withdrawal symptoms when a patient abruptly stops using the drug. Hence, you should not stop taking this medication unless instructed to do so by your doctor.

#3. Will Suboxone show up on a drug test?

The typical urine drug screening done at a suboxone treatment center does not test for buprenorphine, which is one of the main ingredients in this medication. Suboxone will only show up positive on a drug test that actually screens for this substance. 

#4. How long does it take for Suboxone to kick in?

Suboxone may begin to kick in about 20–45 minutes after consuming the medication. It reaches its maximum effect approximately 100 minutes after taking the medication, and it’s expected to remain effective for several hours.

#5. How long does Suboxone stay in your system?

The effects of suboxone typically last at least 24 hours, which is why the medication should usually be taken once a day. Once you take suboxone for the first time, it will remain in your system for about 5–8 days. If you have a severe liver disease, it will remain in your body for 7–14 days.

#6. Does Suboxone make you depressed?

No, it doesn’t. In fact, research has shown that suboxone can help patients who might be struggling with depression and/or anxiety. However, note that a person’s depression levels can increase significantly if suboxone use is stopped quickly.

Key Takeaways

Research has proven Suboxone treatment to be an effective drug for overcoming opioid use disorder. If you have found buprenorphine or naloxone to be ineffective for you when taken independently, this treatment option may be another option for you to try. 

Here are some of the key facts we covered in this guide:

  • Suboxone is an opioid medication that is prescribed to treat opioid dependence either while detoxing or during a maintenance program.
  • Suboxone works by reducing cravings and assisting people with their transition to a normal life free of addiction.
  • ANR Clinic treats the biological root of opioid dependence, helping patients return to a life of normalcy without suffering through cravings.

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