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MAT lowers the risk of fatal overdoses

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As one of the most commonly used medications in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction, Suboxone is a combination medication containing both buprenorphine and naloxone. While there are still stigmas surrounding MAT, it’s important to remember that MAT has lowered the risk of fatal overdoses by about 50%. 

Just like with other chronic medical illnesses, all treatment options should be provided for patients suffering from addiction. MAT is one of those options. There are three drugs the FDA has approved for treatment of opioid dependence:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone)
  • Naltrexone

According to the FDA, all three of these treatments have demonstrated to be safe and effective in combination with counseling and psychosocial support. Here are a few commonly asked questions about Suboxone.                            

What is Suboxone? Does Suboxone cause side effects?

Suboxone is the commercial name for buprenorphine combined with naloxone (an opioid antagonist). Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist, meaning that it produces effects such as euphoria or respiratory depression at low to moderate doses; however, unlike opioids, these effects are much weaker, and get rid of the effects of dependency like cravings and withdrawal. The naloxone blocks the effects of opioid medication.

There is also a much lower potential for misuse with Suboxone and increase safety in cases of overdose.

Unlike methadone treatment, Suboxone is the first medication to treat opioid dependency that is prescribed or dispensed in physician offices. This means people suffering from addiction can get the help they need with minimal interruption to their daily lives.

Like other medications, it may take your body some time to adjust to the medicine. Your provider can offer advice on reducing side effects and red flags for abnormal side effects. However, most common Suboxone side effects include constipation, diarrhea, headache, and nausea.

What is Suboxone used for?

Suboxone is an FDA-approved medication to treat opioid addiction. Every patient is different, but the goal is to stabilize someone suffering from an illicit or prescription addiction. Eventually, the person will slowly and under medical guidance start to taper off Suboxone.

How long does Suboxone stay in your system?

Suboxone is often given once a day, with effects lasting at least 24 hours. When trying to determine how long it lasts within your body, you’ll have to consider the amount of time the drug’s half-life takes to metabolize and be eliminated. The elimination half-life of buprenorphine is 24-42 hours, while the elimination half-life of naloxone is 2-12 hours. In general, it takes 4-5 half-lives for a drug to be eliminated from your body. For most healthy people, no trace of Suboxone will be found after 120-150 hours – which ends up being 5 to 8 days. However, if you have underlying health issues, such as liver impairment, this can impact how long Suboxone stays in your system.

How long does Suboxone last to manage withdrawal?

As soon as Suboxone is taken, it begins working and typically lasts for up to 3 days. However, many things factor into how soon someone will feel the first effects and how long these effects last, including metabolism, weight, history of drug abuse and more.

How long does it take for Suboxone to kick in?

As the first ingredient in Suboxone, buprenorphine usually takes 3-4 hours to reach maximum effect in the blood. However, as mentioned above, a person’s weight, metabolism and history of drug abuse can impact how long it takes Suboxone to kick in. It’ll take about 3-5 days of the last dose for buprenorphine levels drop low enough for the person to begin feeling withdrawal symptoms.

How long does Suboxone block opiates?

Suboxone’s effects at blocking opioid receptors generally last at least 24 hours. However, factors such as weight, metabolism and history of drug abuse play a role here, too. It varies person to person. However, for most people, if an opioid such as heroin or fentanyl is taken within 24 hours of a dose of Suboxone, these drugs won’t work.

Does Suboxone help with pain?

Studies and research on whether Suboxone helps with pain are mixed. It’s not clear how well or if at all Suboxone works to treat pain. Buprenorphine is sometimes used for pain, but again, studies on how effective it is for pain are mixed.

How long should you take Suboxone?

Again, every patient is different. Just like each patient will have their own dose, they will also have their own timeline in terms of staying on Suboxone. While some people may only need to be on Suboxone for a few months, it may take others a year or longer. That’s why it’s so important to work with a reputable facility – you want to ensure you’re getting proper dosage and have a plan going forward.

Is Suboxone the same as methadone?

No, Suboxone is not the same as Methadone. Methadone changes both the brain and the nervous system’s response to pain. It’s often used in detoxification because it can reduce or completely eliminate the unpleasant symptoms that come along with withdrawal. Methadone comes in many forms, including tablets or discs that can be dissolved in water, a ready-to-drink liquid, and an injection.

Suboxone (buprenorphine) is a synthetic opioid that produces weaker euphoric effects than one would get from heroin or even methadone. However, it does help with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and the risk of overdose is very low. Suboxone comes in tablet and dissolvable film form.

Can you overdose on Suboxone?

It is incredibly difficult to overdose on just Suboxone. Because Suboxone is only a partial opiate receptor agonist, there is a limit to how much the opioid receptors can be affected by Suboxone. Therefore, there is a much lower rate of slowed breathing compared to other potent opioid like heroin, oxycodone, or morphine. If someone does overdose on Suboxone, it is almost certainly because they mixed in a sedative, like a benzo, that slows breathing down.



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