Suboxone as One of Few Outpatient Medications Prescribed for Painkiller Addiction

Addiction to opiate painkillers affects millions of people annually, running the gamut from patients in their teens to the elderly, and from celebrities to typical American families who suffer the consequences of a loved one’s addiction. Typically, recovery requires medical supervision and a combination of medications and counseling.

One outpatient medical treatment for opiate addiction is Suboxone, known generically as buprenorphine and naloxone. The drug has been used for opiate-based painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet. The drug has also been used to treat patients who become addicted to methadone, another medically-prescribed medication for curbing cravings and helping patients overcome prescription painkiller addictions.

Suboxone may help patients work through opiate addiction because it lessens their withdrawal symptoms as they begin their recovery. Symptoms of opiate withdrawal can be severe and painful, requiring hospitalization. In the beginning stages, the patient can become aggressive, overly anxious, unable to sleep and perspire excessively. As withdrawal progresses, many patients suffer from severe abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, bouts of nausea and vomiting.

Like methadone, Suboxone is believed to be linked to dependence or addiction, if used over time. The medication is only available with a doctor’s prescription and supervision, and can be taken in pill form or a film placed on the tongue that dissolves rapidly. These forms of Suboxone can be used interchangeably under a doctor’s supervision.

If a patient stops using Suboxone too rapidly, withdrawal symptoms can occur, and doctors are asked to slowly taper off a patient’s usage as they begin to stop using the drug. Like many medications for opiate addiction, patients are advised to complete a hospital or center-based medical detoxification to allow the severe opiate withdrawal symptoms to subside before using Suboxone, which is best suited for moderate withdrawal symptoms.

While Suboxone and similar drugs can be helpful in curbing recovering addicts’ cravings and urges for prescription painkillers on a physical level, the drug isn’t considered a stand-alone solution. Counseling, group therapy and psychological treatments are needed for most patients, often times in combination with their families. A willingness to share their recovery successes and challenges with others can also be very powerful.

For people who also use alcohol, Suboxone can cause significant dizziness and drowsiness. It can also cause a dangerous interaction with other medications for insomnia, depression, or for treating pain, so physicians should carefully review a patient’s list of medications before prescribing Suboxone.

It is believed that more than nine million people in the U.S. have abused, or are abusing, prescription pain medications. Medical treatments like Suboxone can be part of the recovery process, but a team-based and multi-level approach to ending prescription drug addiction is believed to be the most successful.