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How Suboxone Can Save An Addict’s Life

by Landmark Recovery

April 18, 2018

Many individuals ask, ‘what is Suboxone?’ Suboxone is a drug that is often used for the treatment of opioid addiction. This could be for drugs such as heroin or even over the counter medications such as morphine and oxycodone. Suboxone is combination of two different drugs: buprenorphine (an opioid activator) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist). This combination of opposing forces provides a way for addicts to gradually wean themselves off of their pre-existing addiction while minimizing the effects that full on withdrawal would otherwise trigger.


What is Suboxone?

SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reports that although buprenorphine in Suboxone produces similar effects to opioids such as euphoria, the effects are considered much weaker, and increased dosages DO NOT increase the effects, effectively limiting the potential for misuse or dependency.



Buprenorphine is used in medication assisted recovery and was approved for clinical use in October of 2002. Unlike methadone, buprenorphine is the first medication approved to treat opioid dependency for dispensary by physicians. As an opioid partial agonist, it produces effects similar to opioids such as euphoria and respiratory depression. However, they are much weaker than those found in heroin and methadone.



Naloxone is a medication purpose built to help treat opioid overdose. As an opioid antagonist, it binds to opioid receptors in order to block the effects of opioids. By combining it with Buprenorphine, Naloxone reduces the potential of Suboxone to be abused, because increasing dosages will not increase the high.


How Does Suboxone Treat Opioid Addiction

While more effective than other forms of opioid addiction treatment, many doctors struggle to prescribe their patients with Suboxone. Tight restrictions have reduced the number of licensed distributors, roughly about 5% of the nation’s doctors have waivers to prescribe this medication.

Knowing what is Suboxone and what it does can help individuals relieve symptoms of opioid withdrawal while minimizing potential for abuse if they decide to utilize it. Overall it has the following benefits over similar treatment options:

  • Only regulated and administered by medical professionals
  • Lower potential for abuse
  • High success rate in the treatment of opioid addiction


Suboxone is administered in three phases


1. Induction

The beginning of treatment, starting within 24 hours of the addicts last use of an opiate. During the early stages of withdrawal, the Suboxone is used to reduce the side effects.


2. Stabilization

This phase is considered to begin when the addict is either no longer using opiate drugs, or has reduced their consumption to a significantly lower amount. At this point, the doctor may adjust the dosage and administration of Suboxone to match the specific needs of the individual being treated.


3. Maintenance

The final phase involves gradually tapering off the dosage amount of Suboxone over a period of time, until it is no longer needed.


Medication Assisted Recovery

Utilizing Suboxone to treat opioid addiction works best when administered by professional staff and in tandem with a tested therapeutic and aftercare program. Known as Medication Assisted Recovery (MAR) this approach has an overall higher success rate for those suffering from addiction to opioids.


Is Suboxone Safe?

A clinical study was carried out by Rikers Island where Suboxone and Methadone were administered to inmates suffering from opioid withdrawal. Upon release, 48% of former inmates reported to post-release treatment after using Suboxone compared to 14% for those who used methadone. Additionally, 93% of Suboxone users stated an intention to continue treatment after release compared to 43% of Methadone recipients.

Compared with other opioid addiction treatment medication, Suboxone is generally considered a safe and effective option. However, because it contains buprenorphine (an opioid agonist) it can still cause dependency. The general length for Suboxone treatment is around 2 months, as anything longer could result in a stronger chemical dependency. The best way to discontinue Suboxone is under the guidance of clinical professional. This will be likely be a process of slowly reducing doses over the course of several weeks.

Withdrawal effects are similar to opioid addiction withdrawal effects, though they should be less intense in nature. They include: anxiety, cramps, cravings, sleeping problems, and other similar signs.


Taylor and Francis Group Study

A study published in 2004 by international academic publisher Taylor and Francis Group supports use of Suboxone. The results showed that it displayed minimal signs of danger for misuse when administered in an unsupervised setting. I.e., Suboxone could be safely prescribed a doctor and it effectively helped wean addicts off of opioid dependence without being abused.


BioMed Central

Another study on Suboxone treatment was carried out in Finland and focused on transferring patients from solely buprenorphine to Suboxone. Participants in the study reported that injecting Suboxone did not give them the same high as would an illicit opiate. By not producing a high, Suboxone treatment could be a safer option than methadone.


Journal of Addiction Medicine

In a study by the Journal of Addiction Medicine, researchers found that Suboxone patient compliance was excellent. The greater portion of patients in the study were successful in refraining from opiate abuse during the test. Zero patients experienced negative side effects or signs of abuse while taking Suboxone


Seeking Treatment Options?

At Landmark, we pride ourselves on offering a wide variety of treatment options for all of our patients. Now that you know what is Suboxone, you are able to determine if it is a suitable treatment for you. Suboxone is one of the leading opioid addiction treatment drugs currently available on the market and has been deemed a safer alternative than methadone. If you are ready to start living the life you have always dreamed, we are here for you.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.