Suboxone Detox and Withdrawal

Author: NP Addiction Clinic
Published: September 22, 2022

A person may be offered Suboxone when they decide to become sober and abstain from opioid drugs. But what happens when they stop Suboxone use? Can a person develop an addiction to Suboxone?

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is the brand name for buprenorphine, a prescription medication used for detox treatment. It is made up of two components that help to treat opioid dependence, namely buprenorphine and Naloxone. Buprenorphine helps to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, while Naxolone, an opioid antagonist, kicks opioids off of opioid receptors to block its effects.

While people usually take prescription opioids for pain management or as a way of dealing with an opioid use disorder, there is always a chance of developing an opioid addiction to the medication. The body also has to adjust to no longer having the presence of a substance when someone decides to stop the use of opioids. This is when someone experiences severe withdrawal symptoms.

In the case of Suboxone, some people are not using it in the treatment of opioid addiction but obtain it illegally to use when they undergo withdrawal from other drugs such as heroin. Whether Suboxone is used legally or illegally, its use can easily lead to a Suboxone addiction, substance abuse, or an overdose.

What Are the Side Effects of Suboxone?

Around three million US citizens and 16 million individuals worldwide have had or currently suffer from opioid use disorder (OUD). As Suboxone works very well in preventing relapse, it plays a vital role in helping people with OUD.

While Suboxone can ease the withdrawal process, it does come with some side effects. The most prominent side effect is that, despite being a helpful tool for addiction, it may cause addiction itself. Other side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Respiratory problems (shortness of breath)
  • Decreased libido
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and anxiety

Sometimes a person may try to cope with withdrawal symptoms caused by stopping the use of a substance and by incorporating other drugs or alcohol. Alcohol abuse interacts badly with most drugs, whether they are prescribed or over-the-counter medications, causing very dangerous side effects. Mixing Suboxone and other drugs can lead to severe side effects like coma or even death.

How Does Your Body Get Rid of Suboxone?

The majority of Suboxone is metabolized in the liver. It is then excreted as bodily waste, and a part of it (10-30%) is excreted as urine.

There is no short way of instantly removing Suboxone from a person's body. While the effects of Suboxone can be felt in one day, it remains in the body for much longer. Many factors determine how long the body takes to remove the substance.

It largely depends on a person's metabolism and the amount of Suboxone that is in the system. Someone who has been using it for a long duration may have a more difficult time trying to get rid of it, and Suboxone may be detectable in their body for a longer time.

Other factors include age, weight, the frequency of suboxone use, the presence or non-presence of other drugs, and a person's muscle mass versus their fatty tissue. A person's height and weight determine the amount of fatty tissue they have, and this is where Suboxone is stored in the body. Body composition plays a significant role in how long Suboxone takes to leave a person's system.

Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reported that 700,000 people in the United States were misusing buprenorphine in 2021. As with most drug addictions, withdrawal symptoms of buprenorphine can make quitting substance use very challenging.

Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist, meaning that an attempt to stop it will cause similar withdrawal symptoms to most other opiates.

Abruptly stopping Suboxone or quitting cold turkey is dangerous. Detoxing from Suboxone takes time. Usually, the presence of painful side effects can cause someone to continue use or abuse when they try to give up a drug without medical supervision. Under medical care, withdrawal is manageable and can be done safely, and a medically supervised detox ensures precision and less chance of relapse.

Not only do medical professionals have experience in addiction medicine, but medical intervention also places a person in contact with therapists who can support them in ongoing recovery. Once a person has beaten the physical dependence on opioids, another element of addiction remains. This is the psychological side of withdrawal.

Withdrawal can cause underlying mental health problems to come to the surface, so a person may need emotional support as they go through detox. A medication-assisted treatment plan may include treatment such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or other forms of support.

Physical Symptoms of Suboxone Withdrawal

Some people have described the withdrawal as being similar to flu-like symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms may vary in intensity and duration according to how much of a substance was used and the duration of use. Physical signs include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Indigestion
  • Lack of energy or enthusiasm
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headaches
  • Concentration difficulties

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms are a big part of why relapses occur. Relapses are often common in the recovery process as a range of mental health problems may have been muted by drug abuse, and will come forward during withdrawal.

Psychological symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Drug craving
  • Mood swings

How Long Does Suboxone Withdrawal Last?

Compared to most opioids, Suboxone remains in the body for longer and also takes longer to act in the body.

The Suboxone detox process and Suboxone withdrawal are known to last longer than other opioids as it is chemically built to stop cravings for a long time. As Suboxone is a long-lasting drug, withdrawal symptoms do not set in rapidly and do not fade rapidly either. Hence, the time of an opioid withdrawal syndrome can be extended and Suboxone withdrawal can be more difficult than withdrawal from other opioids.

A Suboxone withdrawal timeline will vary from person to person, but usually, most physical withdrawal symptoms will fade after one month, while psychological aspects may remain much longer.

How Long Does It Take to Detox From Suboxone?

Detoxing from a substance use disorder is challenging, as the body attempts to return to a healthy or natural state by metabolizing chemicals until they are missing. The length and severity of the addiction will help determine the length of a Suboxone detox. More duration or severity means a longer detox.

Some people may experience withdrawal symptoms only for one to two weeks, while others may endure longer periods. A comprehensive detox treatment plan designed by a medical professional will give a person a clearer time indication for detoxing from Suboxone.

In general, physical symptoms peak in the first four days, while after one week, people may still experience muscle aches, insomnia, or mood swings. Between two and four weeks into a Suboxone detox, a person will start to experience psychological withdrawal symptoms. Here, a therapist will be needed.

Treatment for Suboxone Addiction

Luckily, there is help for overcoming substance abuse problems or an addiction to Suboxone. 

It starts with professional medical advice. A treatment center can provide someone with various treatment options and design a comprehensive treatment plan. There are key factors in recovery treatment that ensure its effectiveness, and therapeutic intervention is one of the most critical elements that are provided by treatment facilities.

Experienced and licensed medical professionals who specialize in addiction treatment will help a person in detoxing from Suboxone, while mental health services will support them in dealing with the damages the drug addiction has caused. A drug detox program will address opioid dependency and integrate therapy into an individualized treatment plan so that a person has the best chance of achieving sobriety and maintaining it after drug abuse.

Substance abuse treatment includes a long-term plan, where there is a focus on preventing future relapse. That means that a person may undergo various kinds of therapies while at a treatment center.

Talk therapy plays a very important role in relapse prevention, as it can help a person uncover the reasons for starting drug use in the first place. Cognitive-behavioral therapy will provide someone with tools and skills so that they may identify triggers causing relapse, and know how to respond to them in healthy ways. Behavioral therapy can teach someone coping mechanisms so that they can live free of opioid dependence after treatment is completed.

Apart from improving behavioral health conditions, other ways to prevent relapse include holistic therapies. This approach uses alternative therapies, such as exercise, meditation, or massage therapy as part of healing.

Addiction treatment often includes the family as it is a big part of support in achieving and maintaining sobriety. Family therapy ensures that a family unit expresses and addresses issues concerning addiction and can thereby support a person who is trying to abstain from drug use.

Group therapy and support groups are also used to treat opioid addiction. Here, a person is surrounded by other members who are abstaining and undergo challenges of their own. A person not only develops empathy but also a sense of community and peer support, elements crucial to preventing relapse.

Where Can I Find a Treatment Facility?

At NP Addiction Clinic, we understand that overcoming an addiction can be very challenging. That is why we have a specialist team that can make your recovery as painless as possible.

While starting with a Suboxone detox, our state-of-the-art residential treatment program can be tailored to your individual needs, and our experienced and professional staff will ensure you receive the highest standard of care.

We care about sobriety beyond a treatment plan, which is why our programs adopt a holistic approach, ensuring both mental and physical health while addressing addiction simultaneously.

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