When you think of addiction, likely what comes to mind is either alcohol or illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin. But, addiction to prescription drugs is becoming more and more common. Painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet, and benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium are the most commonly abused prescription medications. Unfortunately, when you become addicted to one prescription drug it can easily lead to addiction to others – especially if you are being treated for your original addiction with medication. That is why it is important to choose an addiction treatment center that offers medically supervised detox like Serenity at Summit.
Suboxone is one example of a prescription medication that sometimes feeds off other addictions. It’s used to treat people who are addicted to opioids like heroin and prescriptions painkillers. It’s known as a replacement drug because it is given to substance drug abusers to help them break their addictions to opioids. Unfortunately though, you can become addicted to Suboxone as well. If you are addicted to Suboxone, it’s important that you be treated for it, along with your original addiction.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is the brand name for the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. The combination works together in that buprenorphine is an opioid drug, and naloxone is designed to block its narcotic effects. That means that when you take Suboxone, you receive the same physical benefits of using an opioid – pain relief, anxiety, insomnia, etc. – but without getting the high that opioids alone provide.
Theory dictates that this should prevent opioid abuse because the user doesn’t get the euphoric high any longer. However, Suboxone is often overused for other reasons. Perhaps you might want a better night’s sleep or your pain level is extreme.
Suboxone is prescribed in tablet form or in a sublingual strip (film that dissolves under the tongue). Patients are not to crush or inject Suboxone, and they have to be tested periodically to make sure there are no negative effects on liver function. They are also supposed to wear medical alert jewelry in case of an accidental overdose or other emergency.
Suboxone Complications and Side Effects
Suboxone shouldn’t be combined with other drugs or alcohol, as there can be dangerous interactions. If you take Suboxone, you should do so only as prescribed, and to prevent dependency, you should always dispose of any leftover pills or strips. If you miss a dose, you should alert your doctor. It’s not always a problem, but it can be.
Suboxone, and a variant, Subutex, should be administered by medical professionals whenever possible as they are potentially dangerous medications. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved their use for the treatment of opioid addiction, but as is true for all drug treatment medications having personnel with proper medical credentials is essential in minimizing the inherent risks associated with most types of prescription medications used to treat drug abuse disorders.
The list of side effects for Suboxone is a long one. Some are common and are found with many prescription medications. However, others can be potentially dangerous. One such side effect is drowsiness. When you take Suboxone you can become extremely drowsy, your breathing rate can become dangerously slow, which can lead to respiratory distress and other life-threatening conditions – especially if you are taking other medications that slow your breathing. Having someone with the proper medical knowledge who can assess all of the medications that can cause these adverse side effects is important before being admitted to the detox facility and this should be done at the initial assessment interview.
Stomach issues like nausea and vomiting are also common side effects of Suboxone. These symptoms can be similar to withdrawal symptoms, even if you are taking Suboxone regularly. Additionally, many people experience constipation, diarrhea, and strangely colored stools, along with other gastrointestinal ailments. The stomach issues can quickly lead to malnutrition and weakness.
Other side effects of Suboxone are also similar to withdrawal symptoms, including shaking, sweating, body aches, and cramps. If sublingual strips are being used, there may be swelling and pain of the tongue, along with redness in the mouth. Sometimes swelling of the extremities also occurs.
How Do You Know If You’re Addicted to Suboxone?
Because of the many side effects of Suboxone, identifying addiction isn’t always easy. Unfortunately, many people don’t seek help for addiction to Suboxone until they have overdosed on the drug.
Suboxone overdose symptoms include:
Cold, clammy skin
Flaccidity of muscles
Lowered heart rate
Lowered blood pressure
Respiratory issues or slow, shallow breathing
It’s important to seek medical help immediately if you suspect that you are overdosing on Suboxone.
Detox and Recovery from Suboxone Addiction
Detoxing from Suboxone may seem harder because it was a drug that was supposed to be helping you end another addiction. During detox, you will likely experience the same types of withdrawal symptoms as before – anxiety, panic, insomnia, and depression. That’s why it’s important to go to a drug detox facility for this part of your recovery.
Withdrawal from Suboxone (and Subutex) may look a little bit different from other withdrawals. Many patients think that the initial drop in endorphins – what causes the anxiety, panic, and depression – is the beginning of withdrawal symptoms. However, true withdrawal doesn’t set in until about 2-3 days and it can last for a few weeks.
You will experience the worst of the Suboxone withdrawals in the first 72 hours after initial withdrawal. Those symptoms include:
Fever and chills
Nausea and vomiting
Agitation and irritability
The physical symptoms will decrease during the first week, but the psychological aspects of withdrawal, like mood swings and anxiety, are likely to hang on for a few weeks. You may experience cravings throughout the process.
After Suboxone Detox
After you have detoxed from Suboxone, you should transition into an additional treatment, either a residential or a partial hospitalization program (PHP). Inpatient drug rehab is your best bet for achieving long-lasting recovery. Simply ridding your body of Suboxone isn’t usually enough to keep a person clean and sober, and the likelihood of returning to an original addiction is high. In residential rehab you will receive education, therapy, relapse prevention, and many other tools that you need to make your recovery a success. If it’s not possible to do this because of work or other issues then an alternative is to enter into intensive outpatient program like PHP. Reach out to find out more about what Serenity at Summit has to offer with their medically supervised drug detox program.
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