How to Get Off Suboxone
Suboxone is a medication that is prescribed to help patients recover from opioid addiction.
By mildly replicating the effects of opioid drugs such as heroin, codeine and oxycodone, Suboxone minimizes withdrawal symptoms from these drugs and allows you to recover at a gradual pace.
On the flipside, some individuals can actually become addicted to Suboxone, itself – even if it’s taken with a doctor’s prescription.
Whether you’re taking Suboxone as a prescription drug or you’re using the drug for non-medical purposes, it’s important to seek help from healthcare and addiction treatment professionals to ensure that you clear the drug from your system safely.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a mixed opioid agonist-antagonist used to treat opioid dependency. It is a pharmaceutical combination of two active ingredients:
- Buprenorphine, an opioid agonist prescription painkiller.
- Naloxone, an opioid antagonist.
The buprenorphine portion of Suboxone is an opioid agonist that mildly mimics the effects of opioid drugs such as heroin. Buprenorphine alone is often prescribed to either relieve pain or to help more gently wean individuals off of an opioid addiction.
The naloxone portion of Suboxone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioid drugs. Used alone, naloxone helps immediately stop the effects of opioids in cases of overdose.
When added to buprenorphine to form Suboxone, naloxone is intended to prevent accidental or intentional overdose of Suboxone, and to negate the opioid effects should the drug be misused.
In short, Suboxone is designed to:
- Gently wean an individual off of opioid dependency (buprenorphine).
- Minimize self-medication overdose (naloxone).
Only doctors who have acquired the necessary certification requirements can prescribe Suboxone.1 While naloxone was included in the formulation of Suboxone to prevent the life-threatening effects of possible overdose, some individuals seeking an opioid high may still manage to misuse the medication.
Tapering Off Suboxone
A treatment plan to help you taper off Suboxone safely can be developed and supported either by your own doctor or by a healthcare professional at a detox facility.
Dose Reduction Amount
Although treatment plans may slightly vary from one individual patient to another, the recommended daily dose reduction is often no more than 25%, with no more than a 4mg reduction per day.2
Length of Tapering Schedule
Tapering plans can also vary in length. So while one plan may reduce each Suboxone dose on a daily basis, another plan may reduce each Suboxone dose every 2 or 3 days.
These differing dose reduction schedules mean that the Suboxone tapering plan for one person might end up being 28 days or longer – while for another person, the tapering plan might be as short as 7 days.
Which Suboxone Tapering Plan Is Best?
Interestingly, one 2009 study published in the medical journal called Addiction set out to evaluate if the length of the Suboxone tapering plan made any difference in the plan’s effectiveness in keeping patients clean.2
It turns out that there appeared to be no significant difference in effectiveness between the 7-day and the 28-day tapering plans. What was found, however, was that there seemed to be greater patient satisfaction at the end of the 3-month followup for patients who underwent the longer tapering plan of 28 days.
Suboxone and Opioid Dependence
Suboxone is a medication that might seem to have some counterintuitive therapeutic indications for managing opioid dependence. While it was designed help people wean off of opioid drugs, these same people may attempt to misuse it – ultimately finding themselves developing a new type of opioid dependency.
Is Suboxone Addictive?
Since Suboxone contains buprenorphine – an opioid agonist that mimics some of the effects of opioid drugs – it is possible for someone to become physically dependent and addicted to this medication.
This potential development of physical dependency and addiction is what calls for the need to taper off of Suboxone slowly when you are ready to get off of the medication.
Physical Dependence vs. Addiction
Although drug dependence and drug addiction may coexist in the same individual simultaneously, these two conditions do have some slight differences. Physical dependence natural development – a predictable result of taking a painkiller that your body adapts to and, eventually, comes to rely on. Beyond the development of physiologic dependence however, addiction also involves a compulsion to continue obtaining and using the drug in question.3
Whether you’re dependent on the drug or actively addicted, stopping Suboxone suddenly may result in the onset of withdrawal symptoms and trigger cravings that may contribute to relapse or even a possible overdose.
Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms
If you have been regularly taking Suboxone and suddenly stop taking it without any period of tapering off the medication, you may experience some of the following typical opioid withdrawal symptoms4:
- Drug cravings.
- Moodiness: anxiety, fear of withdrawal, depression.
- Stomach cramps.
- Runny nose, watery eyes, sweating.
- Restlessness, insomnia, yawning.
- Fever, chills.
- Muscle spasms, joint pain, tremors.
- Nausea, vomiting.
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
While these withdrawal symptoms may be uncomfortable, they are rarely lethal. If you’d like a more comfortable experience as you withdraw from Suboxone, however, professional opioid detoxification programs can help you more gradually reduce the level of Suboxone in your system. These programs also provide helpful resources for preventing drug relapse.
I Can’t Stand the Side Effects of Suboxone. What Should I Do?
Perhaps you are not looking to get off of Suboxone because you’ve developed dependency or addiction to the medication – but rather because you can’t tolerate the side effects you may be experiencing from Suboxone.
Serious Side Effects
If you experience any of these alarming side effects, you should contact your doctor immediately5:
- Irregular or Difficult breathing.
- Pale lips, fingernails or skin.
- Lower side or back pain.
- Trouble or pain urinating.
- Lightheadedness or fainting.
- Fever, chills.
- Cough, hoarseness.
- Redness or warmth on the skin
Common Side Effects
Like any other prescription drug, Suboxone can produce side effects that aren’t necessarily dangerous – but side effects that are simply uncomfortable. The discomfort from these side effects may make you decide that you don’t want to continue taking the medication.
Here are some of the more common side effects from taking Suboxone you may experience:
- Stomach pain.
- Nausea, vomiting.
- Trouble with having bowel movements.
- Physical weakness.
- Difficulty sleeping.
If you can’t tolerate the side effects of Suboxone, contact your healthcare provider to discuss your treatment plan options and strategy for getting off of Suboxone. Quitting Suboxone without any medical supervision is not recommended, and you’re more likely to successfully recover from Suboxone dependency if you get help with the detox and rehabilitation process.
Support for Opioid Addiction
Getting off of Suboxone isn’t just a matter of physical detox. Whether you’ve become dependent on a street drug like heroin or a prescription medication like Suboxone, counseling and support will help you stay on track with your recovery goals.
Treatment Facilities for Suboxone Dependency
When you’re ready to start looking at your treatment options for Suboxone dependency, you’ll find there are a few different facility types available to you:
- Luxury treatment facilities provide residential addiction treatment alongside an array of high-end, resort-like amenities.
- Executive treatment facilities offer very similar services and features as luxury facilities – only with extra accommodations for business professionals who need to remain engaged in their workplace throughout treatment.
- Standard treatment facilities offer both residential (inpatient) and non-residential (outpatient) addiction treatment, depending on your particular needs and circumstances. These programs may not have the full range of plush amenities that luxury or executive programs have, but they do come at more affordable prices for those whose budgets are more limited.
Find Help for Your Suboxone Addiction
Whether you have a Suboxone addiction or dependence, or if you’re just ready to be completely drug free as part of your recovery journey, it’s important that you follow a safe and effective method of getting off Suboxone once you’re ready. Call us today at 1-888-744-0789 to learn more about Suboxone dependency and to find a safe, comprehensive treatment facility in your community.
- Certification of opioid treatment programs (OTPs). (2015). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Ling, W., Hillhouse, M., Domier, C., Doraimani, G., Hunter, J., Thomas, C. (2009). Buprenorphine tapering schedule and illicit opioid use. Addiction, 104(2), 256-65.
- Principles of drug addiction treatment: a research-based guide (third edition). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- Kosten, T. R., O’Connor P. G. (2003). Management of drug and alcohol withdrawal. New England Journal of Medicine, 348:1786.
- Buprenorphine/naloxone (oromucosal route, sublingual route). Mayo Clinic.