How Long Does it Take for Suboxone to Work?Anna Ciulla
As America continuously seeks balance in the perilous waters of the opioid epidemic, healthcare professionals and national leaders are streamlining their efforts to try and right the problem. Time and time again it proves difficult to solve. One such area in which efforts are being expended is rehabilitation. In short: experts are trying to improve upon the recovery process in so that it yields a higher efficacy.
Medically-assisted inpatient drug rehab is now a common and effective method of treating opiate and opioid addiction. Essentially, a medical professional will ‘taper’ a patient off a substance to mitigate withdrawals and ease them along the path to sobriety. Some studies have concluded that medically assisted detox of this kind ups the success rate of rehab by 20%.
Yet, there is plenty of controversy when it comes to suboxone and similar medications. In this article we’re going to discuss how long it takes for suboxone to work, the efficacy of using it as a method of recovery treatment, and what the healthcare industry has to say about it.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone (generic name is Buprenorphine), is an FDA approved opioid medication used to treat opioid addiction. The thesis of its use is rather simple. Suboxone works by ‘replicating’ some of the effects onset by opioid use, without inducing the euphoria that addicts crave and with little risk to damaging opioid receptors. Its primary responsibility is to mitigate withdrawal symptoms, as the vicious nature of opioid withdrawal often sends a user reeling towards relapse.
In which case, it works to reduce cravings and stabilize the patient while they experience the turbulent maelstrom that is kicking their opioid addiction. This can allow the patient to better regulate their emotions and state of being, fostering a stronger mind as they begin their great journey through the recovery process.
A Partial Opioid Agonist
Suboxone falls under the category of a ‘partial opioid agonist’ which differs from a ‘full opioid,’ the latter being what umbrellas the painkillers that are causing our current crisis. The differentiation comes from the way in which the opioid medication binds to our opioid receptors.
In an oversimplification, when using Suboxone, the user will not experience the ‘high’ from their previous addiction. Instead, Suboxone will bind to the opioid receptors for a 24-hour period, tricking the brain into thinking it’s received its fix.
Furthermore, as a defensive measure, this means the opioid receptors in a user’s brain are at full capacity. After they’ve taken Suboxone, if they decide to relapse, the opioid they use will not affect them in the way they desire. This is because the pathways are blocked, stuffed with a partial opioid agonist.
Lastly, upping the dosage of suboxone won’t replicate the ‘high’ a user experienced from previous opioids. This is commonly known as the ceiling effect and it’s a preventative measure that dissuades patients from trying to indulge in their taper. Being that Suboxone temporarily blocks the system, a patient is left to reflect on their decision of relapse, being that the intended outcome no longer becomes possible.
Suboxone Over Methadone
Methadone is essentially the flagship medicine used by the healthcare industry to treat opiate and opioid addiction. While it was once heralded as a wonderful recovery aid that would change the efficacy of rehabilitation forever, today our understanding of the drug does not support such a sentiment. Methadone is, in fact, a full opioid. It carries with it risks of abuse, serious dependence, and potential overdose.
Many consider Methadone to be no different than a substitute for ‘harder’ opioids. The key word here is substitute, as many patients have become addicted to the very substance meant to help them recover. In fact, it is dangerous to the point that clinics need a specialized license to distribute it.
Suboxone is different. It can be prescribed by a physician outside of a clinic, meaning it doesn’t require a rehab program to obtain. This makes it more accessible and patients can maintain a degree of privacy if they so choose. The limitations of Suboxone’s molecular structure are drastically different than Methadone’s, rendering it a safer alternative.
How Long Does It Take For Suboxone to Work?
Suboxone begins to produce effects around 20 minutes after it dissolves on a patient’s tongue. The method and duration of use is to be stated by a licensed physician but typically the patient will take one pill a day during their inpatient drug rehab treatment until they are clear of withdrawal. If the Suboxone does not work in the time in which it’s supposed to, this can be a direct result of having taken the medication too early into the withdrawal stage.
In which case, it is often advised that the patient wait and begin using the medication later, as the opioid receptors will gain vacancy and allow for the Suboxone to do its job. However, asking how long it takes for the drug to work within the context of recovery is an entirely different question, and requires dissecting the treatment process in order to answer.
Suboxone Treatment Timeline
Providing an accurate Suboxone treatment timeline is not always possible and often advised against as every patient is different. With that being said, there are typically four different facets of a Suboxone treatment plan.
In this beginning stage, the client will be evaluated by an addiction specialist or a physician. They will then undergo a series of screenings and tests to ensure that they can take the medicine—as is with any type of drug that contains dangerous properties. If it’s decided that the patient is cleared to take Suboxone, they will be written a prescription.
This is when the timeline of Suboxone use begins, as a specialist will create a plan of induction. The aim of this stage is to transition the patient from their current opioid to Suboxone and to do so in a way that mitigates withdrawals, preserves stability, and allows them to maintain a clearer head and better sense of wellbeing as they begin their road towards recovery.
Once the patient has ‘passed the hump’ and beat withdrawals, now it’s time to cleanse their system of all forms of opioids. This, of course, means tapering them off Suboxone in a healthy, calculated, and stable manner. This often occurs by tapering the patient off with smaller daily dosages, all the way until Suboxone use is no longer needed and the patient can discontinue the treatment. If the treatment is executed correctly, this tapering period is painless, devoid of withdrawals, and easy to overcome.
The journey through Suboxone treatment does not stop with tapering, however, as aftercare must be instated. Aftercare is the process of building infrastructure that allows the patient to live a drug-free life. Aftercare services can be anything from support groups, therapy, to an in-patient program that provides the patient with the tools they need to abstain in life outside of treatment. The primary focus here is to avoid relapse and help the user identify why they began using in the first place.
Are There Risks?
To say that Suboxone comes without risks would be inaccurate. The reality is that—whether or not one believes in medically-assisted treatment—Suboxone can be considered the ‘lesser of two evils’ when paired with Methadone. Addicts have found ways to abuse Suboxone (dissolving the filmstrips and administering the liquid intravenously) in ways that have proved not only dangerous but fatal. As with any drug of its nature, if not taken as prescribed problems or addiction can ensue.
To this day, there have been hundreds of deaths as a direct result of Suboxone abuse. Being that it pays similarities to ‘full opioids,’ addicts mistakenly take the drug as an alternative (recreationally) and put themselves at risk.
Is Suboxone Addictive?
The unfortunate reality is that Suboxone contains buprenorphine, which does fall under the addictive category. In which case, it is not unfeasible for someone to develop a Suboxone addiction. Of course, the chances of this occurring are reduced when it comes to the treatment aspect of the drug, being that the patient is monitored by medical professionals.
In which case, it’s paramount that if you are considering Suboxone treatment, you do your proper research. While its benefits far outweigh the negative effects that can occur, it’s still a responsible measure to educate yourself on every facet of the medicine. Critics will be the first to rally against using medically-assisted treatment and—while a lot of it is simply noise—they do make some valid points.
Using Suboxone Responsibly
Studies have proven that medically-assisted treatment can work wonders for a patient. In many cases, patients that have tried to go through withdrawals, only to fail, claim they could’ve never found the mental strength to continue if not for their medication. Now, when it comes to Suboxone, there are quite a few rules to follow to ensure that it never escalates into a new drug addiction, nor does it become dangerous to a patient’s health.
- Always follow the expert or doctor’s orders: no matter how a patient feels during their withdrawals, nor how they think they will react to the effects of Suboxone, it is paramount that they always keep the course. These professionals know exactly what’s best for the patient—and being that Suboxone does have potentially dangerous properties—it’s completely necessary that these instructions are followed meticulously.
- Never take Suboxone from someone without a license: if someone in your peer group is prescribed Suboxone, it’s important to never self-medicate in hopes of curbing your addiction. This is not only dangerous but it could become problematic if a new addiction ensues. Lastly, remember that you must first undergo a screening to ensure that Suboxone is right for you.
What Are Reasons I Wouldn’t Be Able to Utilize Suboxone?
Generally, it’s all case-specific. With that being said, there are some obvious criteria that is ubiquitous across different patient types. For instance, a patient needs to be at least 16 years of age and has to meet the DSM-5 criteria for Opioid Use Disorder. Additionally, some of the exclusion criteria includes but is not limited to:
- Uncontrolled and serious psychiatric conditions: this can be anything from a history of suicide, schizophrenia, to active psychosis. If a patient deals with any of these conditions, they will not be able to use Suboxone.
- AUD: in patients that have severe alcohol use disorder, Suboxone will not be prescribed.
- Other Addictions: if a patient is currently addicted to multiple substances, like benzodiazepines or other narcotics, Suboxone won’t be prescribed.
- Allergic: if the patient has a known allergy to buprenorphine (rare, but it does occur) then Suboxone won’t be prescribed.
Is Medically-Assisted Treatment Right for Me?
Deciding whether or not medically-assisted treatment is right for you can be a difficult question to answer. Often, it’s the medical professionals—like us here at Beach House Recovery—that can provide valuable advice on choosing the appropriate strategy. Of course, there are also a host of other factors that can, objectively, help in answering this.
- For one, have you tried to beat your addiction without medicine, only to relapse?
- And two, do you have a keen grasp on the severity of your addiction?
The reason these two questions are addressed is because, if other types of treatment (this can also be self-administered ‘cold turkey’) haven’t panned out, then it could be time for a change. Furthermore, when someone is experiencing a severe opioid addiction, sometimes the only path to recovery is through medically-assisted treatment.
At the end of the day, while these types of medications do have their own dangers, they’re designed to mitigate withdrawal symptoms, provide a helping hand during the worst part of detox, and lead the patient towards a sober future. If you’re still unsure, don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to us.
If you need a Suboxone detox yourself, Beach House Recovery is ready to help you. Contact our Florida drug rehab center today for more information on our drug detox programs and our long term residential treatment options.