Opiate addiction affects the mind and body unlike any other form of addiction. Opiate drugs like heroin easily integrate within the brain chemical system so dependence can happen quickly. Suboxone, a drug that has a similar chemical makeup to opiates, offers a safer alternative to other medications used to treat opiate addiction, such as methadone. Like other forms of medication-assisted treatment, using Suboxone to deal with heroin withdrawal provides the chemical support the brain needs to ween off heroin.
Suboxone effects offer certain protections that help a person overcome heroin cravings as well as protections that work to address relapse episodes. Considering how heroin withdrawal takes many forms throughout the recovery process, ongoing treatment support is critical to continued sobriety. Suboxone is designed to address withdrawal effects at each stage of recovery. Keep reading to see how Suboxone works along with how this treatment drug supports ongoing abstinence throughout the recovery process.
How Does Suboxone Work?
Suboxone comes in pill or tablet form and contains two ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine acts as a partial opioid agonist, meaning it stimulates the same opioid receptors as heroin but only to a certain point. Buprenorphine has a ceiling effect. The ceiling effect allows the drug to level off in potency at high dosage levels. This mechanism acts as a safeguard by preventing a person from overdosing on the drug.
Naloxone, the second ingredient, works to reverse the effects of opioids in the event of a relapse episode. If a person should inject heroin or take prescription opiates, naloxone will cause the body to go into immediate withdrawal. This mechanism helps discourage heroin abuse during the treatment process.
Other known benefits of Suboxone treatment for heroin withdrawal include:
- Can be prescribed by a doctor
- Allows you to feel normal again
- Breaks the body’s physical dependence on heroin
The Suboxone Treatment Process
Heroin withdrawal varies in severity with the worst symptoms occurring when drug use stops. The discomfort brought on by withdrawal is a big reason why addicts can’t stop using. Withdrawal symptoms typically take the following forms:
- Muscle pain
- Profuse sweating
- Nausea, vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Severe anxiety
Suboxone is helpful in that it provides opioid brain receptors with a controlled dose of opiates. In effect, it tricks the brain by interacting with the same receptors that heroin works on. In this way, Suboxone eliminates the harsh withdrawal effects that occur at the start of detox.
Phase 1: Suboxone Induction Phase
Phase one of the Suboxone treatment process starts after your last heroin dose has left your body. While heroin typically leaves the body within a few hours, it’s best to wait at least twelve hours after your last dose before starting Suboxone treatment. The first dose is taken in your doctor’s office to ensure no adverse reactions to the drug occur. The induction phase typically lasts a weak during which time your dosage will be adjusted to ensure no heroin withdrawal symptoms or cravings are present.
Phase 2: Suboxone Stabilization Phase
As helpful as Suboxone is, relapses can happen, especially when dealing with heroin withdrawal. For this reason, the Suboxone stabilization phase begins once you’ve stopped abusing heroin and opiates altogether. This phase typically lasts anywhere from one to two months. Ultimately, your comfort level in terms of your ability to resist drug cravings determines how long you should remain on Suboxone.
Other factors that affect your progress during the stabilization phase include:
- The severity of your heroin addiction
- Whether or not you’re taking part in a treatment program while on Suboxone
- How determined you are to live drug-free
Phase 3: Suboxone Maintenance Phase
The maintenance phase begins once you’re on a steady dose of Suboxone and no longer experience drug cravings or withdrawal effects. There are no real time limits for this phase so you can remain on Suboxone for as long as needed. Once you’re ready to stop taking Suboxone, your doctor will put you on a tapering schedule. This entails slowly reducing the dosage amount until you’re no longer taking it.
The extreme discomfort experienced during heroin withdrawals makes it all but impossible to stop using the drug. For people struggling with heroin addiction, a medication-assisted treatment like Suboxone can mean the difference between a drug-free life and staying hooked on heroin. All things considered, Suboxone can be very helpful if heroin withdrawal is the only thing standing between you and sobriety. If you need more information about Suboxone or need help getting started, call us today at 833-610-1174 to speak with one of our addiction counselors.