How Long Should I Stay on Suboxone?

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December 7, 2023
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Millions of people across the US are overcoming addiction with Suboxone, and learning more about your recovery timeline is the key to a successful journey.  

If you struggle with opioid addiction, you are not alone. Currently, the country is seeing alarming opioid overdose statistics, most of which are linked to highly potent and addictive illicit fentanyl. With this powerful and deadly drug circulating across the entire nation, there has never been a more urgent time to seek addiction treatment.  

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is one of the safest and most effective ways to recover from opioid use disorder. At AppleGate Recovery, we use Suboxone as part of our Office-Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) programs. This medication can virtually eliminate withdrawal symptoms and cravings while helping to prevent relapse. 

What is a Suboxone Treatment Plan?  

If you’re considering MAT using Suboxone, it’s essential to understand what this treatment entails. One question that you might ask is, “How long should I stay on Suboxone?”. There is not one single answer to this question.  

The dosage and duration of a Suboxone treatment plan vary based on your individual needs and your provider’s recommendations since each person is unique. During the intake process, you and a physician will work out an effective Suboxone dosage that works best for your case and lifestyle.  

Read on to learn more about this treatment option, including the right timing for tapering off Suboxone.  

What is Suboxone? 

Suboxone is a therapeutic medication that comes in pill form or sublingual films used to help people recover from opioid addiction and lower the risk of overdose from relapse or misuse. Taking Suboxone can reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings and even make it harder to relapse.  

The active component of Suboxone is buprenorphine, which is a partial opioid agonist. Unlike opioid drugs like heroin or fentanyl, it partially covers opioid receptors in the brain. The medication works to alleviate withdrawal symptoms without creating the euphoria associated with other opioids.  

Buprenorphine has a “ceiling effect,” meaning that taking more medication does not increase its effects. Suboxone also contains a blocking agent called naloxone. This component prevents users from feeling high if they take another opioid drug along with their Suboxone dose or attempt to use it intravenously. 

Side Effects of Suboxone 

Suboxone is a highly effective medication that helps those who have opioid use disorder find relief and freedom. However, like any drug, there are potential side effects that users may find unpleasant, including: 

  • Dizziness. 
  • Headache. 
  • Sleep disturbances. 
  • Nausea. 
  • Stomach pain. 
  • Confusion. 

These side effects are often mild and tolerable. As your doctor works to perfect your medication dosage, keep track of the severity of these side effects so you can discuss them further in case adjustments are needed. 

Effective Suboxone Dosage 

An essential aspect of medication-assisted treatment using Suboxone is working with an experienced medical professional to determine the correct dose for you. A proper amount varies from person to person.  

The goal of Suboxone treatment is not to keep you at the lowest dose possible but at the correct dose. The ceiling effect of the medication allows your doctor to begin a relatively aggressive treatment approach so you can stabilize more quickly and stop cravings and withdrawal symptoms.  

The average dose of Suboxone is around 16 milligrams per day. However, some patients need as much as 24 milligrams daily. As you begin treatment, your clinician will work with you to determine the proper dosage and monitor your progress every step of the way. 

If you’re unsure about your dosage, a good indicator is whether you feel the same before and after taking your medication. Feeling a difference could mean that it’s not the proper dosage amount, and it should be adjusted. 

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” – John Quincy Adams 

Duration of Suboxone Treatment 

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Everyone’s addiction recovery journey is unique — the same goes for their Suboxone treatment. There is no set time for how long patients stay on treatment, as many different factors come into play. Some people only need the medication for a few months. For others, the treatment extends for a year or more. Never stop taking Suboxone without speaking to your medical provider.  

Long-Term Suboxone Use Benefits  

Most addiction treatment professionals view Suboxone as a maintenance medication appropriate for long-term use. It is best to follow a plan for six months to one year and even longer, if possible.  

  • Long-term use of Suboxone has been shown to increase a person’s chances of lasting recovery with reduced instances of relapse.  
  • Short-term use of less than one month frequently leads to relapse with potentially dangerous consequences such as overdose. 
  • Suboxone allows patients to work on other aspects of healing in recovery, like reversing damage to the brain and body. 
  • Convenient take-home medication leaves more time to work on rebuilding a productive lifestyle and reaching personal goals.  

With Suboxone as part of your treatment program, you can live a healthy, full life. You can work, pursue your dream career and develop and nourish healthy relationships. It’s safe to use this medication until both you and your doctor agree that you are ready to taper off. 

Tapering Off Suboxone 

To begin the process of ending Suboxone treatment, your doctor will gradually start lowering your dose to a level where you feel normal and balanced. How do you know if you’re ready to get off Suboxone? Here are a few indicators: 

  • You’re over 30 years of age. 
  • You’ve completed all relapse prevention work. 
  • You have consistent, stable employment. 
  • You feel confident in your recovery process. 
  • You have a robust support system of friends, family and recovery professionals. 
  • You’re in a stable romantic relationship, or you feel secure in being single. 
  • Your cravings are absent or nearly absent. 
  • You have no immediate source to secure opioids. 
  • You’ve ceased relationships with those who are using opioids or other drugs. 
  • You take Suboxone® once daily, not as needed. 
  • You have stayed comfortable on a lower daily dose of 8 milligrams for an extended period. 

How Do I Get Off Suboxone? 

If you decide that you want to taper off Suboxone, it’s essential to talk to your doctor first. This process must be taken slowly. You and a medical professional should work together to decide whether or not you’re ready. 

As you begin to reduce your dose, your doctor will monitor your progress. Whether it takes six weeks or six months, a medical professional should be closely aware of how you are doing to prevent relapse. During this time, you will meet with your doctor weekly.  

Once you have entirely tapered off the medication, you will still need to check in with your doctor periodically to ensure everything is going well. 

Contact AppleGate Recovery to Learn More About Medication-Assisted Treatment 

If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid dependence or addiction, medication-assisted treatment may be the best option to break free. At AppleGate Recovery, we use Suboxone, the first-line medication for opioid use disorder. We combine medical treatments with counseling and case management to support every step of the recovery process. 

To learn more about our confidential care, contact us today