Does Suboxone Work in Reducing Opiate Cravings?
When Suboxone is used as prescribed, under medical supervision, in combination with therapy, it reduces cravings.
This country is currently experiencing an opioid crisis. People of all ages, socioeconomic statuses, races, and genders are being affected, and the number of overdose deaths is steadily increasing yearly. Something more has to be done. Thankfully there is the option of MAT or medication-assisted therapy.
According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health:
Studies show that people with opioid use disorder who follow detoxification with complete abstinence are very likely to relapse or return to using the drug. While relapse is a normal step on the path to recovery, it can also be life-threatening, raising the risk for a fatal overdose. Thus, an important way to support recovery from a heroin or prescription opioid use disorder is to maintain abstinence from those drugs. Someone in recovery can also use medications that reduce the negative effects of withdrawal and cravings without producing the euphoria that the original drug of abuse caused. (NIH)
With opioid addiction and opioid use disorder, it is extremely difficult for a lot of people to remain abstinent after detox, especially if they have been taking opiates for a long period. Some people will say that using medication-assisted therapy is just replacing one drug for another and that you aren’t sober, but everyone is different as far as their treatment needs to go. For some, medication-assisted therapy will save their lives!
What is Suboxone? How Does Suboxone Work?
One of the medications that are currently used for MAT is Suboxone. Suboxone is a partial opiate agonist used to treat opioid use disorder and opioid withdrawal. Suboxone comprises an opiate (Buprenorphine) and an opiate blocker (Naloxone). The opiate is the active ingredient and helps to prevent withdrawal and reduce opiate cravings, while the opiate blocker, the inactive ingredient, helps to cut down on potential abuse. The National Institutes of Health have this to say about Suboxone and its active ingredient, buprenorphine:
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning that it binds to those same opioid receptors but activates them less strongly than full agonists do. Like methadone, it can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms in a person with an opioid use disorder without producing euphoria, and patients tend to tolerate it well. Research has found buprenorphine to be similarly effective as methadone for treating opioid use disorders, as long as it is given at a sufficient dose and for sufficient duration. (NIH)
Suboxone and Methadone are used and approved for opioid use disorder and opiate addiction. However, there is a difference. With Methadone, you can continue to have your dose increased. If you take more than you need to reduce opiate cravings and withdrawal effectively, you could experience euphoria like with any other opioid. With Suboxone, there is a ceiling effect, meaning that increasing the dose will not do the person any good after a certain dose is given.
How is Suboxone Taken?
To get the most benefit from Suboxone and prevent precipitated withdrawal, an individual must be in active opiate withdrawal before the medication is given. However, suppose a person is not in active opiate withdrawal and they take Suboxone on top of other opiates. In that case, the inactive ingredient or Naloxone kicks in, and the person will go into opiate withdrawal.
Suboxone is dissolved under the tongue. It comes in both a sublingual pill and a sublingual film. The dose for each individual will vary, but it is normally given one pill or film at a time until the person’s withdrawal symptoms have subsided and they are no longer experiencing any opiate cravings. As stated above, Suboxone has a max dosage or ceiling effect, meaning that after about 3 pills or films are given, any more medication taken after that is ineffective.
Is Suboxone Treatment Effective in Reducing Cravings?
When Suboxone is used as prescribed, under medical supervision, and in combination with therapy, it has proven very effective. Suboxone reduces withdrawal symptoms and opiate cravings and therefore reduces overdose deaths from illicit opioid use and helps people remain active and engaged in the recovery process. So, yes, Suboxone is very effective at reducing opiate cravings.
Suboxone is only one part of the treatment for opioid use disorders and substance abuse disorders. Suboxone takes care of the physical aspects of addiction, but the psychological components still have to be addressed. Often people will also need treatment for mental health disorders. Group and individual therapy is also important in treatment while on Suboxone.
Treatment for Opioid Dependence
If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction, our addiction specialists are available around the clock to assist you. Absolute Awakenings is committed to providing long-term recovery for those struggling with addiction. We believe recovery is not a one size fits all approach, so our treatment is individualized. So what are you waiting for? Let us help you on the road to recovery from opioid dependence.
- Lyden J, Binswanger IA. The United States opioid epidemic. Semin Perinatol. 2019;43(3):123-131. doi:10.1053/j.semperi.2019.01.001
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. How do medications to treat opioid use disorder work? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published December 2021. Accessed January 17, 2023. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction/how-do-medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction-work
- Entringer S. Suboxone Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Warnings. Drugs.com. Published August 1, 2022. Accessed January 17, 2023. https://www.drugs.com/suboxone.html