Author: Justin Mckibben
Suboxone is a medication meant to treat opiate and opioid withdrawal. It is one of two forms of the medication buprenorphine, which is an opiate agonist originally developed to treat pain problems. Suboxone works by binding to opiate receptors in the brain, which are the same receptors that morphine, heroin and other opiates bind to.
Is Suboxone Safe: How Suboxone Works
In order to better understand the risks of Suboxone use, it is important to understand how this medication works. Let us be clear, Suboxone is a narcotic. It is a semi-synthetic opioid made from a combination of two drugs:
This compound is intended for the treatment of pain, as well as for combating opioid addiction. However, what many people don’t realize it that buprenorphine is itself an opioid.
DEA reports show that the substance can be 20-30 times more potent than morphine as an analgesic; like morphine buprenorphine can create a dose-related euphoria. Like other opioids commonly abuse, buprenorphine is capable of producing a significant “high” and thus has been abused in various ways.
Now, all products containing buprenorphine are controlled substances. Given the nature of this powerful opioid, the other primary compound of Suboxone is added.
Naloxone is a pure opioid antagonist medication used to block the effects of opioids. It works by reversing the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. Narcan is a brand name for the medication that is commonly utilized as an overdose antidote.
But beyond being used to reverse overdoses, the addition of naloxone to products like Suboxone is with the intention of blocking the euphoric high resulting from the abuse of opioids by injection, like buprenorphine.
So when a drug like Suboxone is taken orally, just the opioid has affect. Naloxone blocks the impact of the opioid when it is injected. The primary purpose of naloxone in Suboxone is to deter intravenous abuse.
Is Suboxone Safe: How is it used?
Suboxone acts as a partial opioid agonist and diminishes cravings as well as prevents other opioids from reacting to the brain’s receptors. The drug has become a frequently utilized substance for trying to combat opioid addiction. Suboxone can come in tablet form, or in the form of a film taken sublingually, meaning dissolved under the tongue.
When taken orally or sublingually as directed, the naloxone is not absorbed and the buprenorphine acts uninhibited. However, the formulation still has potential for abuse. Published data has shown that the opioid receptor’s binding affinity to buprenorphine is higher, so the opioid typically overrides the antagonist, causing many reports to argue that naloxone is an insufficient deterrent for the injection of Suboxone for recreational abuse.
Serious dangers of Suboxone
While Suboxone may have become a mainstream tactic for combating opioid addiction, the question has become if it is as safe and effective as producers would have us believe. So when presented with the question of ‘is Suboxone safe?’ must look at a few factors.
Is Suboxone Safe: Adverse side-effects
The fact remains that Suboxone is an opioid narcotic. Therefore, the side-effects of Suboxone are essentially the same as other opioids.
Most common minor side-effects include:
- Mild dizziness
- Stomach pain
- Redness, pain or numbness in the mouth
- Trouble concentrating
Most common major side-effects include:
- Cough or hoarseness
- Feeling faint or lightheaded
- Feeling of warmth or heat
- Fever or chills
- Lower back or side pain
- Painful or difficult urination
Major side-effects suggest the individual should check with their doctor immediately.
Is Suboxone Safe: Withdrawal symptoms
The irony is that Suboxone is typically used because people are trying to stop abusing other illicit or prescription opioids but want to have something to curb the withdrawal symptoms. Yet, Suboxone is known to have its own withdrawals, and for some they are even worse.
Symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal can include:
- Body and muscle aches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Drug cravings
- Digestive distress
The physical withdrawals can peak in the first 72 hours after the last dose, and some of the more psychological symptoms can last much longer.
Is Suboxone Safe: Interactions with other drugs
Taking other drugs while on Suboxone, especially other opioids or sedatives, can actually be fatal. Combining Suboxone with other drugs can cause a very dangerous reactions that many also ignore. Drugs that are particularly dangerous with Suboxone are:
- Benzodiazepines (Benzos) such as Xanax
- Older Antihistamines
- Antipsychotics such as Zyprexa
Cocaine is also an extremely hazardous drug to combine with Suboxone because they are opposites on the spectrum of stimulant vs depressant. When you combine cocaine with Suboxone, it actually reduces the amount of buprenorphine that is in your bloodstream. With less buprenorphine in the body the effects of opioid withdrawal symptoms can be felt.
Combining cocaine with Suboxone also increases the risk of overdosing on cocaine.
If you would like more information on Suboxone, download our free E-book: 5 Things No One Tells You about Suboxone.
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Is Suboxone safe?
Suboxone may be a legal and popular alternative to some other opioids, but that doesn’t necessarily make it all that ‘safe’ to rely on. It is of course possible to overdose on Suboxone. As we said before, Suboxone combined with other drugs can also be incredibly dangerous. And at the end of the day, you can still become psychically and psychologically dependent on the drug.
In truth, Suboxone has been useful to some who have tried to get off of drugs like heroin and other dangerous opioids by providing a buffer and some method of harm reduction. But the often overlooked aspect is that Suboxone is only intended for short-term use and not long-term maintenance. When individuals use the substance for long periods of time, they become dependent on it just like any other potent narcotic. Experts insist that Suboxone and similar drugs are only effective in combination with comprehensive treatment or cognitive behavioral therapy.
For more information, read our
A safer and far more healthy and sustainable approach to recovery from opioid addiction is with holistic treatment that offers much more than an opioid substitute with its own adverse effects. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
Addiction is not an easy problem to address. It is a complex issue with many variables, so of course there is no simple answer to fix it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; no monopoly on the right kind of treatment. It is understandable that there is a degree of effectiveness with utilizing any medical means available to try and address addiction, but are maintenance drugs really the answer?
Surely medication assisted treatment is useful, and it helps a lot of people. Most inpatient treatment programs utilize some form of medication to ease withdrawal symptoms and other side-effects of long-term drug use. The detox period of treatment usually focuses on medically assisting someone struggling with drugs in this transition.
However, is getting people off of one drug by making them dependent on another really the best case scenario? It seems now insurance companies are putting more effort into using maintenance drugs to treat addiction. Is this really a better strategy?
Firstly, let us make a clear definition of what maintenance drugs are. Typically, the definition of maintenance drugs is along the lines of prescriptions commonly used to treat conditions that are considered chronic or long-term. These conditions usually require regular, daily use of medicines.
Examples of common maintenance drugs are medications such as:
- Fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair Diskus) which is used to treat asthma
- Insulin glargine (Lantus) used to treat diabetes
If you consider these examples the point is that people use these medications to “manage” their illness, not to overcome or remedy it. So looking at the issue of addiction, there are some well-known maintenance drugs, specifically concerning opioid addiction.
These medications can be effective, but they also present a level of danger themselves. Even though doctors prescribe them to combat withdrawals, they actually can create their own devastating withdrawals, especially with long term use.
Aetna Aims for Maintenance Drugs
Aetna is one of the nation’s largest insurance companies. In a recent Aetna report, the company is prepared to remove a major restriction for patients seeking maintenance drugs for opioid addiction. The change is set to begin this coming March. Aetna is the third major health insurer to announce such a shift in policy in recent months, now in league with Anthem and Cigna insurers.
To be more specific, this insurance company will stop requiring doctors to seek approval before they prescribe particular medications that are used to combat withdrawal symptoms. One of these medications is suboxone, a well-known medication that many people use to fight opiate addiction.
The common insurance practice is known as “prior authorization”. The reason they are seeking to eliminate this policy is because it sometimes results in delays of hours to days before a patient can get the medications.
This new approach to regulation of maintenance drugs impacts all its private insurance plans, an Aetna spokeswoman confirmed.
Advocates of Maintenance Drugs
Addiction treatment advocates to support having expanded access to maintenance drugs. Dr. Corey Waller, an emergency physician who chairs the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s legislative advocacy committee, states:
“It’s a first-line, Food and Drug Administration-approved therapy for a disease with a known mortality. [For] every other disease with a known mortality, the first-line drugs are available right away.”
Essentially, the idea that parity laws require insurers to cover addiction treatments at the same level as other kinds of healthcare means these kinds of medication should be available for immediate access. This should be the same for all forms of addiction treatment.
Opinion: Treatment over Maintenance
While many would argue that maintenance drugs are a form of treatment, it is still a relevant argument that maintenance drugs are also imperfect and could actually be harmful if they become the cookie-cutter answer implemented by most insurers.
While harm reduction is understandable, and maintenance drugs can help people struggling with heroin or other dangerous opioids avoid other serious risks, the fact is many maintenance drugs include their own side-effects. Some often become subject to abuse themselves.
For instance, suboxone can be useful as a harm reduction tactic, but it can also be abused. Many people who have used suboxone as a long-term solution have found themselves battling suboxone withdrawal symptoms. The dangers of suboxone are very relevant.
The same, if not worse, has often been said about methadone maintenance drugs. While they may keep someone alive to get treatment, there should still be a strong emphasis on treatment itself. Maintenance drugs are most effective when part of a program. They are not a substitute for a treatment program.
Treatment should focus on finding solutions, not prolonging the suffering. Drug and alcohol addiction treatment should come from a holistic approach that addresses more than just physical ailments. Holistic treatment focuses on providing extensive and personalized therapy, combined with physical and emotional heal. If insurance companies want to focus on combining rational medical resources with comprehensive treatment, then this could be a great thing. However, if the focus becomes a quick-fix drug option opposing a full recovery through treatment, it only adds to the danger.
Maintenance drugs have support from the recovery community, but typically they must be accompanied by therapy and other means of treatment. Maintenance drugs are just that- drugs. They are often powerful narcotics, and are true to their title- “maintenance,” not a permanent solution.
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Author: Shernide Delva
From the outside looking in, it can be hard to accept that many people who struggle with addiction resist getting treatment. The reason behind this is complex and varies from person to person. Addiction is everywhere. The prescription painkiller abuse and heroin epidemic have gotten to a point where everyone, from all walks of life, knows someone who is suffering from an addiction to drugs. Chances are, you know someone with a drug/alcohol problem that also has a mental health issue. With all that being said, surely everyone needing help would be seeking treatment, right?
Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. There are common reasons why drug addicts resist the treatment. Some reasons are considered more valid than others, however almost everyone can find options if they open their mind and look into the resources.
Here are 3 Common Reasons Addicts Resist Treatment
- Denial: I Can Beat This on My Own
It is hard enough in life to ask for help for everyday problems. Asking for help to overcome an addiction can be even harder. Addicts tend to believe that they have their disease under control. They feel like they can fight their addiction without the help of others. Sadly, after multiple failed attempts, most are unable to overcome their addiction. If you have tried multiple times and failed, what makes you think this time will be different?
If you are in this position, the time is now to embrace help. Talk to a counselor or a trusted friend about wanting to get treatment. Support is one of the best tools for overcoming addiction. Doing it on your own sets you up for failure. Many people who try to quit on their own simply lack the professional care and support they desperately need. Seek treatment and have a team of support by your side.
- Age: Feeling Too Young or Too Old
It never is too early or too late to start. Often, at a young age, addicts believe they are having fun, or it is “just a phase” so they resist treatment. On the other hand, those who are older may feel it is “too late” to change old habits. Either way, young or old, anyone struggling with addiction needs to get help.
You deserve to live a good and meaningful life. Excuses hinder you from enjoying a sober life in recovery. Saying you are too young for recovery hinders you from taking advantage of the years of life you have ahead of you. Saying you are too old hinders you from enjoying the years that you have to live in the present instead of the past.
If you are young: It is time. Addiction always has the same end result: heartache, rejection, pain, destruction and, death. Save yourself and your loved ones the trouble before it is too late.
If you are older: With age, life becomes more meaningful. You may have a career, children, even grandchildren. These are precious times that should be experienced in sobriety. Also, with age come more responsibilities, which mean it is more important than ever to be sober and alert. It is never too late to change. Stop letting age be a factor.
- Financial Reasons: Feeling Unable to Afford Treatment
Finally, the biggest concern many people have when it comes to going to rehab is cost. Affordability is a major factor in the decision to go to treatment. Fortunately, there are a plethora of options available to those in need.
Many health insurance companies will cover drug treatment at little or no out of pocket cost. Every insurance plan is different, but those that cover substance abuse treatment will usually have different allocations for different parts of drug rehabilitation. Even if insurance covers drug rehabilitation, there is likely a portion of treatment that they won’t pay for. Whether it is co-pays, deductibles, or simply additional costs while you are in treatment, there is usually a portion that you will have to pay yourself. Research your coverage before going to treatment and figure out what your cost will be. Many times, the facility will be able to work with you.
If you are unable to afford treatment through your health insurance, try looking into acquiring rehab scholarships. Many rehabs have a specific amount of money allotted for rehab scholarships per year. As long as that money is not used up, they may be able to help you. Start out calling rehabs that you want to attend and discuss your options.
Believe it or not, there are programs that are available for low/no cost to those who need it most. Programs like these target individuals are who unemployed and struggling with the physical, emotional, and financial cost of addiction. While they may not be able to provide the same resources, they still are a viable option for those who need treatment. There are two types of facilities that offer options like these: state-funded rehabs and faith-based rehabs.
State-funded rehabs work through verifying need. They look for information like:
- Official residence in the state
- Lack of income and insurance
- Legal residence in the US
- Addiction status and need for intervention
Faith-based programs provide drug and alcohol recovery programs based on specific religious traditions. Programs like the Salvation Army are faith-based. Not all faith-based programs are free of charge, but many of them are. Ask questions and confirm before getting involved.Ultimately, the first place to start is going through your insurance to see if you are covered.
The journey to recovery is necessary one. Let go of the excuses and take advantage of all the resources available to get you back to a meaningful life. Invest your time and energy in finding a treatment center that is run by professionals who want to support you. We can help you in the process. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Suboxone is a popularly approved medication to treat opiate withdrawal. It is one of two forms of the medication buprenorphine, which is an opiate agonist originally developed to treat pain problems. Suboxone works by binding to opiate receptors in the brain, which are the same receptors that morphine, heroin and other opiates bind to.
If you are not familiar with Suboxone, you might be more familiar with Methadone. Methadone was an earlier form of harm reduction treatments used to treat heroin addiction. Although Suboxone has treated thousands of patients struggling with opioid addiction, the drug is not without its risks. Critics continue to express concern over the lasting impact of Suboxone use when it comes to increasing dependency.
One huge concern of Suboxone use is the potential side effects of mixing other drugs with the substance. Suboxone can have dangerous interactions with other substances which pose an immediate risk to Suboxone users.
How Suboxone Works
In order to better understand the risk of combining drugs with Suboxone, it is important to understand how the drug works. Suboxone is a combination of the drugs buprenorphine and naloxone. It functions as a partial opioid agonist and diminishes cravings as well as prevents other opioids from reacting to the brain’s receptors. In other words, even if you try to get high off opioids, you won’t.
Taking other drugs while on Suboxone can be life threatening. If you are on Suboxone, pay very close attention to the following three substances. Combining these drugs with Suboxone can cause a very dangerous, even fatal interaction.
3 Drugs You Should Never Mix With Suboxone:
- Benzodiazepines (“Benzos”)
Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin) are drugs usually prescribed to alleviate anxiety and treat insomnia. They are depressant drugs, or “downers,” because they sedate the central nervous system, which slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and depresses breathing. Because Suboxone is also a depressant drug, the two together create a double-whammy effect. The combination can cause a severe lack of coordination, impaired judgment, unconsciousness, respiratory failure, and even death.
The effects of Suboxone and cocaine are extremely dangerous because both drugs are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Cocaine is a stimulant, or “upper,” while Suboxone is a depression, or “downer.” When you combine cocaine with Suboxone, it actually reduces the amount of buprenorphine that is in your bloodstream. When you have less buprenorphine in your body, you start to feel opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Combining cocaine with Suboxone increases the risk of a cocaine overdose. Since Suboxone is a depressant, it counteracts the effects of cocaine. This means users end up taking more and more cocaine because they do not feel the effects they normally would on their regular amount. Typically, users start to believe that can handle more cocaine, even when they cannot. The increase in cocaine used can result in an overdose.
Mixing alcohol with any medication is never a good idea, especially Suboxone. Just like benzos, alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol is even more of a problem than benzos because it is so readily available. An uninformed Suboxone user may not even consider the risks of drinking alcohol. However, combining alcohol and Suboxone can produce the same exacerbated effects such as unconsciousness and respiratory failure. These side effects can be dangerous and even fatal.It is so important to know all the risks you are taking with newly prescribed medication. According to statistics, there were 30,135 buprenorphine-related emergency room visits in 2010. It should come as no surprise that 59 percent of these visits involved additional drugs.
As Suboxone’s popularity increases, it is important to understand the dangers of mixing Suboxone with other substances. If you are taking Suboxone or similar drugs, it might be a good idea for you to consider seeking help on going off those drugs completely. Seeking professional treatment can help you not rely on any drugs in your recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
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By Cheryl Steinberg
Think about it: when someone ends up in the emergency room for medical problems such as uncontrolled blood pressure, a severe asthma attack, or complications related to diabetes, medical staff often start treatment right then and there.
But what happens when the patient is brought to the ER as a result of overdosing on opiates, such as heroin or narcotic painkillers? In cases of drug overdose, the medical team can take immediate action to save the patient. However, what about the underlying issue: addiction.
After all, just like asthma or diabetes, drug addiction is a chronic condition. What if we started treating addiction in the ER and get that person who struggles the help they need?
Doctors at Yale University think it’s possible. “You can normalize this chronic disease like any other chronic disease,” says Dr. Gail D’Onofrio, chief of emergency medicine at Yale’s med school.
It should be noted that the term “normalized” here refers to accepting – and treating – drug addiction as part of a real medical condition known as substance use disorder spectrum.
The Argument for Starting Addiction Treatment in the ER
D’Onofrio and her colleagues at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut decided to test whether a combination of interventions offered to addicts in the ER would make a difference in whether they get help or continue in their cycle of addiction.
This intervention approach is a three-pronged one; it involves the prescribing of medication, such as buprenorphine (Suboxone), to ease withdrawal symptoms, a brief counseling session, as well as a focused referral to get specialized help.
Would this approach improve the chances a person would seek and follow-through with addiction treatment?
According to results of a study published Tuesday in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), it worked pretty well.
Results of the Yale Interventional Approach Study
In fact, out of a group of patients studied, more than three-quarters of the 329 people who were screened for opioids were randomly divided among the three groups.
Those who received the Suboxone and counseling intervention, which lasted a mere 10 minutes, as well as a referral to treatment were in treatment 30 days later.
Compare that number to the 37% of people who were in treatment after 30 days and who only received the referral. Those who received the both the brief counseling and a referral were in between, with 45% in treatment at the 30-day mark.
The study’s findings are promising, as they suggest that giving patients Suboxone at the time of their ER visit and referring them to addiction treatment can make a difference. “I’m still talking to them about their motivation to start treatment, but I’m also giving them something to help them with their withdrawal,” D’Onofrio says.
Results such as these are encouraging. “I think what they did was great,” says Dr. Charmian Sittambalam, a geriatrics fellow at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, of the Yale study. “It’s not often that you see the [emergency department] taking such a vested interest in something that’s a chronic issue.”
If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction, painkiller addiction, or any other kind of substance use disorder, such as alcohol addiction, please call us toll-free today at 1-800-951-6135. Being trapped in the cycle of addiction is a lonely, depressing place that seems to have no way out. But there is a way out of the darkness. We’re here to take your call 24/7 and we can discuss what substance abuse, dependence, and addiction is and how you can put an end to it.