People who are addicted to heroin are often given medications as part of their rehabilitation programs. In the past, these medications were only distributed in liquid form in clinics, so the addicts had to keep appointments to receive their drugs, and these appointments were often considered stigmatizing. In addition, some addicts managed to sell their medications, or hoard their doses so they could abuse them. This all changed in 2002, with the introduction of Suboxone. This medication comes in a pill form, so doctors could prescribe the medication and allow the addict to take the drug at home. Addicts could then work, live at home and otherwise go on with a normal life, all while taking medications for addiction in a private manner. In addition, the medications in Suboxone were supposed to be impervious to abuse. In fact, the manufacturer came close to suggesting that Suboxone actually couldn’t be abused. This made doctors feel even better about giving the addicts the drug in an unsupervised manner.
Assessing the Risk
The manufacturer is working hard to reduce the risk of abuse, but by getting help for people who are addicted, families can help turn the tide of addiction and allow those who need the medication to access it and take it properly.
Unfortunately, some people have discovered ways to abuse Suboxone, and that abuse is on the rise. According to a 2004 bulletin from the National Drug Intelligence Center, users are crushing and snorting the drug and successfully achieving a high. Some users are also selling their medications for prices as high as $25 per pill. Some news reports suggest that doctors are responding to this abuse by refusing to prescribe the medication to anyone, including people who need it in order to deal with heroin addiction. This could be the true tragedy of Suboxone abuse.
Is Suboxone Necessary?
People who take heroin or some forms of prescription medications for long periods of time do severe and long-lasting damage to their brains. When these drugs enter the bloodstream, they travel to the brain and attach to specific receptors. This attachment causes a series of chemical reactions, essentially flooding the brain with signals and creating a feeling of euphoria. Over time, the body becomes accustomed to being flooded, and when the user stops taking drugs, the brain simply cannot function properly. The addict might experience:
- Involuntary twitching of the legs
- Cold sweats
Some users feel variants of these symptoms for months after they stop drug use, and they may relapse in order to make the symptoms stop. In a way, this makes perfect sense.
In short, medications can help ease these symptoms and keep a relapse from occurring. However, Suboxone itself is an addictive substance and should not be a first choice in the way of opiate addiction treatment. There are alternatives to these types of drugs. Consult your doctor to figure out what is the best treatment method for you needs. Alta Mira’s philosophy is we work with clients to create an individualized treatment plan that is medically responsible. We are happy to talk with you about our services our services to ensure that we’re the right place for people to get care. Please contact us, if you’d like to find out about the Alta Mira recovery process.
Even though the manufacturer has tried hard to reduce abuse potential and some studies have found these efforts to be successful, the fact remains that some people are abusing the drug. The people who are abusing the drug, however, tend to snort the medication instead of injecting it. Perhaps the naloxone in the drug isn’t active when the drug is snorted, but it is active when the drug is injected. More research is needed in this area, to be sure.
It’s also possible that some people who abuse Suboxone have no history of heroin or prescription medication abuse. Suboxone has a treatment “ceiling,” meaning that taking higher doses of the drug doesn’t result in an increased feeling of pleasure. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, some people who are accustomed to high doses of heroin actually go into withdrawal symptoms when they’re taking the proper dose of Suboxone. It’s not considered strong enough to touch the symptoms these people feel. Therefore, if these people tried to abuse Suboxone, it’s likely that they wouldn’t feel any effect of the drug. People who had never used heroin, by contrast, might feel quite a punch from Suboxone, as their systems aren’t so finely tuned to abuse.
The manufacturer of Suboxone has developed a new format of the drug that might reduce abuse potential. According to the manufacturer’s website, Suboxone is now available in a film that can’t be crushed. It’s possible that this might reduce the number of abuse cases popping up across the country, but that remains to be seen.
Many people truly need to take Suboxone in order to get through their addiction programs. It can be difficult to determine whether or not these people are abusing their medications or simply taking their medications in the way their doctors intended. In general, people who take the medication properly shouldn’t seem sedated or slow as a result of their use. People who display slurred speech or slowed breathing after taking Suboxone might be abusing the drug. A call to the person’s therapist might be in order if these symptoms occur.
People who have no prescription for Suboxone and who are abusing the drug might display sedation and slurred speech. They might also display these side effects of Suboxone, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
- Mood swings
Suboxone can also be quite expensive, so the addict might be forced to ask for money, sell off possessions or resort to crime in order to feed their habit. The addict might also withdraw from family activities, miss school or work, and become protective of his or her privacy. These are clear-cut signs of addiction, and can be considered a cry for help. If someone you know is showing these signs of Suboxone abuse, it’s time to get help. At Alta Mira, we can provide therapies that can help the addict stop the abuse and move forward with life. Please call us today and find out more about our programs.
How Suboxone Works
Suboxone contains two separate medications: buprenorphine and naloxone. One of these medications, buprenorphine, works in much the same way as heroin or prescription painkillers. When it enters the bloodstream, it attaches to the same receptors and produces a mild sensation of euphoria. The brain is fooled into believing that it’s in a state of flood, and the user feels no sense of withdrawal. Buprenorphine stays attached to these receptors for up to 24 hours, so if the user takes in another drug such as heroin, the drug has nothing to attach to, and it will cause no effect. When given alone, however, buprenorphine can be abused. According to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, more than 75 percent of addicts reported that they had injected the drug. At high doses, the drug can cause a high. This is why the second medication was included in the Suboxone formula.
Naloxone works a bit like a bouncer at a bar. If a user takes in naloxone, it bumps all medications from their receptors. The user goes into a severe and serious withdrawal. This medication is sometimes given to people who have overdosed on heroin, as it stops the drug from working. Addicts who take in naloxone alone will feel quite ill from a sudden withdrawal.
According to information published by the manufacturer of Suboxone, when a user takes a Suboxone tablet, very little naloxone reaches the user’s system. By contrast, if the user chose to crush the tablet and inject it, a large amount of naloxone would reach the user and the person would feel quite sick as a result.
This reaction has been reported in studies of addicts who have attempted to abuse Suboxone by injecting it. According to a study published in the journal Addiction, addicts reported mild and unpleasant reactions when they injected Suboxone. As a result, most said they would pay much less for the drug than they would heroin or buprenorphine alone.