The Suboxone Controversy
What is Suboxone?
It is buprenorphine with naloxone but you may know it better by its brand name of Suboxone. Suboxone is a medication used for opiate dependence. The purpose of buprenorphine is to assist individuals addicted to opiates (heroin, morphine, OxyContin, roxicodone etc.) who want to stop abusing these substances.
Individuals who are struggling with opiate addiction have to go through extreme withdrawal symptoms to finally become abstinent. These withdrawal symptoms include pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and cravings to use the drug again. Buprenorphine is sometimes used to “detox” or get people off of their pain pills or heroin while minimizing the symptoms of withdrawal. Once the withdrawal period is over, there is more than likely a period of time when the opiate addict experiences extreme cravings. These cravings can last months and put the addict at a really high risk of relapse.
Suboxone works as a combination stimulator (buprenorphine) and blocker of opiate receptors in the brain. These opiate receptors in the brain are where opiates create their euphoric effects. The buprenorphine molecule sits on the opiate receptor, weakly stimulating it and blocking it at the same time. Because it stimulates it, it decrease cravings and withdrawal symptoms and because it sits on the receptors it blocks other opiates from getting onto them.
So what is the Suboxone controversy?
Suboxone is usually prescribed through a suboxone clinic, though some doctors in private practice also prescribe Suboxone. In order to write a prescription for Suboxone, which is a Schedule III narcotic, doctors have to receive a waiver, which involves completing at least eight hours of training.
Suboxone clinics are very similar to methadone clinics in nature. An addict can go to a Suboxone clinic to get their buprenorphine and maintain on that without need to use heroin or any other opiate to get high. Unlike methadone clinics, however, Suboxone clinics can give patients a 30 day supply; eliminating the need for daily visits. In most states, methadone maintenance patients are allowed a month’s worth only after showing two years of compliance with the medication.
The Suboxone controversy is that at these Suboxone clinics the actual medication is “diverted”. This means that Suboxone is prescribed to someone at a clinic but that person gives it or sells it to someone else. Suboxone or buprenorphine does have value on the street and is sometimes used illicitly when someone cannot get opiates and does not want to experience withdrawal or as a substitute to experience some euphoria or high. This has caused some people to view this little orange buprenorphine pill as just another drug that can be abused; meaning it has little to no therapeutic value.
The buprenorphine part of Suboxone also still has certain properties of an opiate and there has been controversy as to whether or not a person going to a Suboxone clinic can consider themselves abstinent from drugs. Twelve step recovery programs sometimes will consider someone going to a Suboxone clinic as unable to have any clean time until they are off the buprenorphine.
Suboxone maintenance at a Suboxone clinic is only meant to be temporary. This is because Suboxone does have buprenorphine and individuals do become addicted to it and then will have to go through a buprenorphine withdrawal and detox.
The safest bet when it comes to the use of buprenorphine or a Suboxone clinic is to use the advantages of the drug to quickly and safely detox off of other opiates and probably not use it for a long period of time.
If you or someone you love is in need of drug addiction treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.