Suboxone is used to treat opiate addiction because it helps with withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings. Physical withdrawal symptoms can last from 7-10 days, depending on how someone was weaned off of it. It’s recommended that doses of suboxone are reduced over a period of 2-3 weeks in order to lessen the withdrawal symptoms.
Suboxone is made up of two drugs, buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which means it blocks the brain receptors from getting the full effect of opiates. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which blocks the effects completely. It can be used in cases of overdose to reverse the drug’s effects. It’s used in suboxone in order to discourage drug use because a person can’t get high while it’s in their system.
Addiction can be seen as a biological and behavioral brain disease because it affects a person physically, emotionally and cognitively. Whenever drugs are introduced to the brain, it can throw off the balance of chemicals. Taking something for a long period of time can lead to a physical dependence, where the brain thinks it needs it in order to function properly. A person also becomes psychologically dependent because the drugs make him or her feel good so they associate the drug with pleasant emotions and thoughts.
The use of suboxone in opiate addiction helps a user deal with the physical withdrawal symptoms in addition to the physical cravings. The addition of naloxone, which blocks any effects of opiates, can be a psychological deterrent because the addict knows that taking drugs won’t give them the high they crave.
Because suboxone is a drug itself, when it’s time to stop taking it, it will produce withdrawal symptoms over the course of a few weeks. While it’s not life threatening, it can feel like it will go on forever. It’s important that someone doesn’t quit “cold turkey” and is under the care of a medical professional when tapering off suboxone use.
Within 24-72 hours of the drug leaving the system, the symptoms peak in severity and include nausea, sweating, diarrhea and restlessness. After one week, someone coming off the drug will still feel tired, achy and may have stomach cramps. Mood swings and difficulty sleeping are also common. In week two, the initial discomfort will subside, but aches and pains may still be present. Some people feel depressed and experience a loss of motivation. After three to four weeks, the physical symptoms will be gone, but the cravings may still be present. Signs of depression may still be strong.
The severity and length of withdrawal depends on the dosage and how long the person took suboxone. The longer and heavier the use, the worse the withdrawal will be. It’s important that someone coming off of suboxone is under medical care so that he or she can deal with both the physical and the psychological effects. They can last for up to several months, during which relapse can occur without the right support and treatment.
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