Suboxone is a prescription medication used to treat opiate addiction, and contains the substances buprenorphine and naloxone, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It reduced symptoms of opiate withdrawal and cravings for opiates by both blocking and stimulating the brain’s opioid receptors. Furthermore, the naloxone in Suboxone can prevent clients from abusing this drug, as naloxone produces withdrawal if the Suboxone is used intravenously. 1
While Suboxone is approved for treating opiate addiction, detoxing from it can cause withdrawal symptoms and even increase the risk of relapse to illicit opiate use. A supervised drug detox program is therefore recommended for clients wishing to discontinue their use of Suboxone.
What to Expect During Suboxone Drug Detox
Suboxone is effective for treating opiate dependence. In fact, the authors of a report in a 2014 edition of the Journal of Psychiatry reviewed the numerous studies conducted with Suboxone and determined that it is more effective than other medications, such as methadone, naltrexone, and clonidine. The report further indicated that the research shows that Suboxone treatment lasting at least four weeks is the most effective for detoxifying from opiates and for reducing positive drug tests for opiates. 2
Despite its effectiveness, detoxing from Suboxone can involve withdrawal symptoms of its own. In a case study of a patient tapering off of Suboxone after years of prescription opiate use, a research team led by a scientist from the University of Florida College of Medicine discovered that withdrawal from Suboxone produced unpleasant symptoms in the patient, including:3
- Intense pain
- Upset stomach
How to Detox from Suboxone
Withdrawing from suboxone can cause unwanted side effects, but the research suggests that longer periods of Suboxone detox can increase the chances of success with discontinuing drug use. A study in a 2016 publication of the journal Addiction found that clients were more successful with remaining abstinent from opiate use when they completed a 56-day taper from buprenorphine when compared to clients who tapered for 28 days. Clients who tapered for 56 days also stayed in treatment longer. 4
In addition to the length of taper from Suboxone, medications such as naltrexone can play an integral role in Suboxone detox. A study in a 2015 edition of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment assessed the effectiveness of naltrexone when administered to clients who were discontinuing buprenorphine. After tapering, the clients discontinued buprenorphine and received oral naltrexone followed by a naltrexone injection.
Study results showed that all clients in the study were able to successfully detox from buprenorphine, and withdrawal scores actually decreased from day one through day seven of the study. 5 This finding suggests that naltrexone can assist with Suboxone detoxification, and drug detox programs can facilitate discontinuation of Suboxone by providing access to naltrexone.
The Necessity of Drug Detox from Suboxone
Drug detox programs are beneficial because they offer effective medications, and they could play a vital role in the maintenance of sobriety after weaning off of Suboxone. A study conducted at Yale University School of Medicine found that compared to ongoing buprenorphine maintenance, detoxing from buprenorphine after a period of stabilization on the medication led to increases in illicit opiate use and decreases in negative drug screens. 6 Detoxing from Suboxone can therefore be a difficult process and can lead to relapse, making supervised detox programs essential for success.
Supervised drug detox programs can reduce the risk of relapse when detoxing from Suboxone. These programs provide clients with access to medical support, medications to manage withdrawal, and linkages to ongoing treatment. It can be difficult to detox from Suboxone without support, and a detox program provides ongoing monitoring and effective tapering schedules that make success more likely.