Subutex for Opioid (Narcotic) Dependence Treatment: An In-Depth Review

Subutex for Opioid (Narcotic) Dependence Treatment: An In-Depth Review

Subutex, much like Suboxone, can be a helpful aid in easing opiate withdrawal symptoms. One of the biggest challenges in fighting addiction, after all, is making it through the detox period without a relapse.

The drug is particularly useful for opioid addicts. Heroin and similar drugs are known to produce extremely painful withdrawal symptoms. Because of these symptoms, it has been shown that those who attempt to quit “cold turkey” are far more likely to relapse before the detox period is over. Subutex offers an alternative to those who seek an easier transition into a new, drug-free life.

While such drugs can be useful to those recovering from opioid addiction, Subutex can have some negative side effects and should be only be used within a structured treatment program. Those who undergo Opioid Replacement Treatment (ORT) should also seek professional help from addiction specialists and might want to consider an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program.

If you or someone you love struggles with opioid addiction and are considering the use of Subutex in recovery, here is some information that might be useful to you.

Subutex: The Facts

Subutex is a buprenorphine-based drug product. It received approval from the Federal Drug Administration during the first few years of the new millennium. At the time, methadone was the most common drug used to treat opiate addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

Whereas methadone is classified as a Schedule II substance, drugs such as Subutex and Suboxone fall into the Schedule III category. In turn, these substances pose a smaller risk of addiction and are therefore considered by most to be a better alternative in the drug recovery process. These days, nearly 10 million people are prescribed these drugs each year.

It is possible for Subutex to be abused and for recovering addicts to fall back into addiction by misusing the drug. Therefore, it is recommended that only those who are entirely committed to recovery take the drug as part of their treatment process.

What is Buprenorphine?

In the past, buprenorphine has been used to treat a variety of pain systems. It works by linking to the part of the brain that receives opioid chemicals. This process can ease pain symptoms and provide the user with an overall sense of relief.

Although buprenorphine is not exactly an opioid, the brain understands it to be one, generating similar feelings in the body that opioids would. This effect enables the user to satisfy their body’s cravings for heroin or other pain-relief substances as they attempt to work through the detox period. By substituting buprenorphine for opioids, addicts can make the withdrawal process a bit less painful and work toward a slightly easier recovery.

The Benefits of Buprenorphine-based Drugs

Buprenorphine-based substances are often used throughout ORT programs. Such programs attempt to ease the addict’s pain in order to help them adjust to their new, clean life. Because recovery is a multi-tiered process that requires therapy, counseling and commitment from the addict, drugs like Subutex can make it easier for the user to give their full attention to getting clean.

Oftentimes, addicts in recovery find themselves overwhelmed by their desire for their chosen substance. This can make it difficult to give their attention to the necessary treatment steps. They might experience severe pain during therapy meetings or be distracted by cravings during group support sessions. Subutex helps the user to focus on each aspect of the recovery and work toward a stronger and longer-lasting recovery. Because the drug doesn’t cause the same delirium that heroin does, users will be able to function normally in their day-to-day life.

Subutex vs Suboxone

Suboxone and Subutex are both buprenorphine-based substances. They both appeared on the market around the time and were both found to be helpful in the opioid withdrawal process.

At the same time, both drugs were found to be addictive. While Suboxone and Subutex are intended to be taken orally, many addicts seek to use other methods for taking these drugs. By injecting buprenorphine into their veins, as they would with heroin, users sometimes attempt to get a high similar to that which they’d get from opioids.

One of the main differences in the two drugs comes from the fact that Suboxone does not get the user high in the same way that opioids would. This is due to the fact that Suboxone contains a chemical called naloxone. Naloxone disrupts the opioid receptors in the user’s brain, making them unreachable by any drug. Suboxone can still be used for pain relief, but will not have the effect of a high.

Which is a Better Tool for Detox?

The best buprenorphine drug will depend on the severity of the user’s addiction the nature of their treatment process. Some doctors may choose to prescribe Suboxone over other options, due to the fact that it can potentially decrease the risk of an added addiction. However, Subutex is often used to help addicts detox from opioids and has been shown to be quite useful.

It is important to note that, while Suboxone does not generate a high in the user, it can be addictive. Users can easily become dependent on either of these drugs if not carefully supervised by a medical professional.

Any strong narcotic addiction treatment program will require the addict to undergo comprehensive counseling in addition to ORT. There are more aspects to addiction than just the physical ones, after all, and a replacement drug can’t work by itself.

Is Subutex Prescribed for Pain?

Subutex is often prescribed to people who suffer from different forms of chronic pain. Whatever the cause of their pain, this drug can ease their symptoms, making it slightly less difficult to live their lives. While opioids are often prescribed in this case, buprenorphine provides an alternative that decreased the likelihood of addiction over time.

People with chronic pain who have experienced narcotics addiction in the past will usually opt to take Subutex over opioids to treat their condition, as the drug is less likely to instigate a relapse. Those who find themselves in this situation should be careful about the amount they use in order to limit the chances of triggering their addictive tendencies.

Similar to drug addiction rehabilitation, the treatment of chronic pain usually requires therapy and counseling to address the long-term psychological aspects of the condition. For this reason, a pain treatment program should not rely solely on Subutex or other medications but should physical therapy as well as counseling and professional support.

Prescribed Dosages

The amount of Subutex prescribed will vary for each person. Someone with a severe dependence on heroin or prescription narcotics will generally need a higher dose than someone who is prescribed the medication for chronic pain. Ideally, a doctor will prescribe lower and lower doses as the user works through recovery.

For most recovering heroin addicts, the prescribed dosage consists of 8 mg per day. This amount may be higher during the earliest days of withdrawal. In some cases, doctors will administer an 8 mg during the first twenty-four hours of withdrawal and increase the dosage to 16 mg for one or more days afterward.

After the first week of withdrawal, doctors will attempt to minimize the amount of buprenorphine that their patients are prescribed. Again, the ideal amount will depend on the user. While the prescription may be adjusted in 2-4 mg increments according to the severity of the addict’s cravings, the goal is to reduce usage over time.

No one should take more than 24 mg on a given day and Subutex should only be used as part of a fully-developed treatment regimen.

How Long Do Its Effects Last?

The half-life of buprenorphine ranges between 28 and 70 hours. The amount of time that the effects of the drug last and the drug stays present in the system depends on the amount ingested by the user. Those who take a minimal dose will find that the effects last around one day before starting to wear off. It is for this reason that those prescribed to Subutex are recommended to take a daily dose during their ORT period.

As the user tapers of the drug, they will flush it out through their digestive system. This process can take several days. By the end of the first week after usage stops, former users should find no traces of the drug in their urine or blood.

Avoiding Precipitated Withdrawal

It is not recommended to take Subutex, Suboxone or buprenorphine drugs in any form while there are still narcotics present in the system. Addicts occasionally attempt to do so, hoping that the mixture will cause them to get high.

In reality, however, this produces no high but increases withdrawal systems at a quick rate instead. A user who takes both drugs at the same time can potentially experience shock and the effects of their withdrawal will be felt much more intensely. This process is called “precipitated withdrawal”.

In order to avoid precipitated withdrawal, it is important for addicts to notify their doctor of the last time they’ve taken opioids before they attempt to use Subutex. The doctor will be able to determine whether or not there are still narcotics present in the user’s system and can make decisions about the safest way to prescribe alternative drugs accordingly.

Side Effects of Subutex

Like most opioids, even replacement drugs, users can encounter unwanted side effects during use. Common effects include:

Head pain: Subutex can cause headaches due to the fact that the drug dehydrates the body and leaves the brain needing water. While users can experience head pain for several days after they begin, or return to treatment, this side effect can be treated by drinking plenty of water. Medications, in general, tend to cause dehydration. It is important for the user to account for this by drinking more water f they take an additional dose of buprenorphine or any other pain-relief medicine in an effort to ease their headache.

Nausea: Subutex, Suboxone, and other opioid replacement drugs can cause the user to feel nauseous. This is most likely due to the fact that our bodies recognize these drugs (and narcotics, as well) as toxic chemicals. Humans haven’t yet evolved to handle the effects that many drugs have, so our bodies usually try to reject them, particularly during the early stages of use. If you experience vomiting or get stomach aches while using buprenorphine, you may want to consult a doctor to make sure that your prescribed dosage isn’t too high.

Fatigue: The fatigue caused by Subutex can happen for a number of reasons. It is usually a symptom of opioid withdrawal. Although buprenorphine tricks the user’s brain into thinking that there are opioids in the body, the system isn’t actually getting the drugs which its accustomed to.This can cause extreme internal stress that eventually turns into exhaustion. In both men and women, this tiredness can also be attributed to a decrease in testosterone and other hormones. Not everyone who goes through ORT will feel tired when they use replacement drugs, but many users do find themselves depleted of energy.

Constipation: The buprenorphine drug can also cause its user to become constipated. As the body focuses its attention toward replenishing the opioid receptors, it pays less attention to the digestive system. As a result, the user may have difficulty with bowel movements. When used over a long period of time, Subutex can cause serious and long-lasting constipation. This condition should be treated by adding fiber and water to the user’s diet on a regular basis.

Some other normal (but less common) side effects include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Chills
  • Spine pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Flu-like symptoms

If you are experiencing any overwhelming symptoms, talk to your doctor or addiction treatment specialist. It’s important to make sure that you have no abnormal side effects. This will increase the likelihood of a successful withdrawal process and a healthier life after recovery.

The Risks of Subutex Abuse

Subutex is intended to help people detox from opioids and move forward into a clean life. Like any drug, however, it can be abused. Those who are prescribed the drug should use it only as it is advised by their doctor.

Because Subutex can produce the same euphoric feelings that heroin does, some users abuse the drug. As it does not contain the same naloxone chemical as Suboxone, the buprenorphine contained within it will hit the opioid receptors in the brain. This means that those who crush up, snort or inject their prescribed dose will have the experience of getting high.

Snorting Subutex or using other ORT medications in this way vastly increases the likelihood of an opioid relapse in the future. In addition, such abuse can have severely negative effects on the liver, which works at a decreasingly rapid rate to flush the drug out of the body. The effects of the drug on the liver can lead to a number of diseases in various organs and muscle tissues.

While buprenorphine is only prescribed by doctors in manageable doses, those who obtain the drug illegally and consume too much at once put themselves at risk of a deadly overdose.

Subutex Withdrawal

The process of tapering off of Subutex will not produce any physical withdrawal if the user takes the drug responsibly. While there may be lingering psychological effects carried over from an opioid addiction (occasional cravings, thoughts about relapse, etc), ORT replacements are intended to help addicts transition slowly into an addiction-free life.

When abused through snorting or injection, however, the process of detoxing from Subutex can be a difficult one. Detoxing from a habit of misusing buprenorphine-based drugs can cause the addict to experience severe nausea, insomnia, muscle pain, and anxiety.

While the effects of Subutex withdrawal are not quite as extreme as those encountered during narcotics withdrawal, they can be nearly as traumatic for the user. Those who are committed to a clean recovery should avoid misusing or abusing buprenorphine at all costs.

Moving Past Opioid Addiction

Subutex can be a great tool to use in the recovery process. It can ease the discomfort of withdrawal and help addicts move toward a drug-free life. If you or someone you know are thinking about using the drug as an aid while going through detox, it is important to remember that ORT should be a holistic program. Buprenorphine can only work in conjunction with therapy, counseling and a focus on the recovery process. The drug will help you to function normally as you strive to bet your addiction.

It is vital to recovery that the drug is not abused or misused. By working with a doctor and meeting with addiction specialists, you’ll be able to detox from opioids and find new happiness as a narcotic-free person.

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