Overview of Suboxone Treatment for Opiate Addiction

Using drugs to treat substance abuse problems can seem like a contradiction in logic, but these treatments have been proven to be very effective – when they are properly managed. One such medication used in these treatments is that of SUBOXONE. This drug is designed to reduce illicit opioid use and to help patients to stay in treatment.

Opioid Dependence

In today’s research and drug treatment fields, opioid dependence is being accepted and treated like a chronic disease. Approaches are similar to those with high blood pressure or diabetes. The difference however, is that opioid dependence carries a much more powerful stigma.

Many people believe that a dependence on an opioid – or any other substance for that matter – is the result of a moral failure. Only in the recent decades of medical research has opioid dependence been recognized as a medical condition caused by changes in the brain.

Opioid dependence in the United States has been growing at unprecedented rates and often the fear of the stigma keeps people from getting the help they need. If the dependence can be removed, the individual has a much greater chance of improving his or her outlook and removing the stigma altogether.

The Science of SUBOXONE

Used to treat opioid dependence in an office-based setting, SUBOXONE is the first opioid medication to be approved under the Drug Abuse Treatment Act (DATA) 2000 for this type of treatment. The drug can also be prescribed for take-home use. The drug’s effectiveness is the result of its ability to suppress symptoms of opioid withdrawal and the decrease cravings for opioids.

Buprenorphine is the primary ingredient in SUBOXONE, a partial opioid agonist, which is a drug or medication that is designed to stimulate activity of opioid receptors without producing the same maximal effects as a full opioid agonist. This activity takes place at receptors that are normally stimulated by opioids that occur naturally. Because of this characteristic of buprenorphine, its opioid effects are limited when compared to oxycodone or heroin, which are full opioid agonists.

SUBOXONE has contains naloxone, which is meant to discourage people from dissolving the tablet and injecting it into their system. When SUBOXONE is taken as directed – by placing it under the tongue and letting it dissolve – very little naloxone actually reaches the bloodstream. If the person injects the SUBOXONE, the naloxone can cause a person dependent on a full opioid to quickly go into withdrawal.

To be effective for the person addicted to opioids, SUBOXONE has to counter the effects of the drug. Opioids attack to the mu receptors, causing dopamine to be released. This creates pleasurable feelings within the user. When this feeling diminishes as a result of the opioids leaving the receptors, withdrawal symptoms and perhaps even cravings can begin.

Without revisiting the opioid for another “hit”, the opioids will continue to leave the mu receptors until the person has entered a mild-to-moderate state of withdrawal. It is at this point that the SUBOXONE therapy can begin to allow the buprenorphine to attach to empty opioid receptors to suppress withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. SUBOXONE also produces a limited euphoria in the patient.

The buprenorphine is attaching firmly to the receptors during adequate maintenance doses. In the process, it fills most receptors and blocks other opioids from attaching to receptors. And, because buprenorphine has a long duration of action, its effects do not wear off quickly.

The use of SUBOXONE to treat opioid dependent patients is still a controversial issue as some in the field believe that a drug addict should not be treated with another drug. While this debate goes on, SUBOXONE has been proven effective for a number of individuals struggling with an opioid addiction.