If you struggle with the pain and heartbreak of opioid addiction, you are not alone. In 2019, over 10 million people misused opioids, including prescription pain pills, heroin and fentanyl. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is one of the safest and most effective ways to recover from opioid addiction. At AppleGate Recovery, we use the medicine 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.
If you’re considering MAT using Suboxone®, it’s important to understand what this treatment entails. That includes how long you will need to take the medication. There isn’t a clear answer, as the use of Suboxone® varies based on your needs and the recommendation of one of our highly knowledgeable medical professionals. Read on to learn more about this treatment option, including the right timing for tapering off Suboxone®.
Side Effects of Suboxone®
The active component of Suboxone® is buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist. Unlike drugs like heroin or fentanyl, it partially covers opioids 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.
Suboxone® is a highly effective medication, helping those suffering from opioid addiction find relief and freedom. However, like any drug, there are potential side effects that users may find unpleasant, including:
- Sleep disturbances.
- Stomach pain.
These side effects are rare and often tolerable. As your doctor works to perfect your medication dose, keep track of the severity of these side effects so you can discuss them.
Finding the Right Dose
An essential aspect of medication-assisted treatment using Suboxone® is working with an experienced medical professional to determine the right dose for you. A proper dose varies from person to person. The goal of Suboxone® treatment is not to keep you at the lowest dose possible, but the correct dose. The ceiling effect allows your doctor to begin a relatively aggressive treatment approach so you can stabilize more quickly and eliminate 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 Suboxone® treatment, your doctor will work with you to determine the proper dosage and monitor your progress every step of the way.
If you’re not sure if you’re taking the right dose, 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 and should be adjusted.
How Long to Stay on Suboxone®
Everyone’s addiction experience is unique — the same goes for their Suboxone® treatment. Because our medication-assisted treatment program is highly individualized, there is no standard time frame for how long our clients stay on Suboxone®. Some people only need the medication for a few months. For others, the treatment extends for a year or more.
You Should Consider Suboxone® a Long Term Maintenance Medication
Most addiction treatment professionals agree that Suboxone® should be considered a long-term maintenance medication. It works best when used as part of a long-term recovery plan for a minimum of six months to a year, but ideally longer than that. Short-term use of under a month frequently leads to relapse with potentially dangerous consequences.
The neural changes caused by opioid addiction may be reversible, but for some, they are not. Medications like Suboxone® ensure that the cravings and withdrawal symptoms created by these changes can be effectively managed.
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® use, your doctor will start lowering your dose of the medication 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 strong 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 feel comfortable taking 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 Suboxone® 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 completely 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 your best chance to break free. At AppleGate Recovery, we use buprenorphine and Suboxone®, two of the best-known and most beneficial MAT prescriptions. We combine those treatments with counseling and case management to support every step of the recovery process.