Opioid Addiction Has Taken America By Storm And The Individual Addict Still Suffers
By now, most Americans know that opioid addiction is ravaging the country. Millions of Americans are addicted to opiates like heroin, Morphine, and Codeine, and synthetic opioids like Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Fentanyl.
The problem is so devastating, President Donald Trump recently declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. Since then, the federal government has promised to allocated millions of dollars to solving the problem.
In the meantime, men and women of all ages from all walks of life continue to suffer from opioid addiction. They need a solution to the problem now. For decades, the only medicinal solution to opioid addiction was Methadone. Today, there are a couple of different Opioid Replacement Therapies (ORTs) available that help people who are addicted to these highly addictive and dangerous drugs.
One of these Opioid Replacement Therapies is Subutex. Subutex offers a solution to the problem of opioid dependence. If you’re looking to get relief from your addiction to opioids, this medication can help immediately– so you don’t have to wait for the federal government to get its you-know-what together.
What is Subutex?
Subutex is also known as Buprenorphine. We will use these two names interchangeably in this blog. Subutex belongs to a classification of drugs known as opiate (narcotic) analgesics. It is prescribed to treat pain, but it is more commonly used to treat people who have become addicted to or dependent on opioid drugs. To be clear, Buprenorphine contains opioids.
Subutex was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October 2002 for the treatment of pain and opioid addiction. More commonly, it comes in an 8 or 16 milligram tablet form, which is used to treat opioid dependence.
However, Buprenorphine also comes in a transdermal patch. This is applied to the skin just like a nicotine patch for people who want to quit smoking. The Subutex patch is only prescribed to people who are in extreme pain – like cancer patients or those with a life-threatening illness.
Opioids, Opioid Addiction, And Opioid Withdrawal Explained Simply
Before we talk about Opioid Replacement Therapy, let’s talk for a minute about the evils of opioids. Opioids are euphoric sedative drugs that are derived from the opium poppy plant, which is grown in tropical climates in countries like Mexico, Bolivia, and Columbia.
Opioids create a warm, relaxing feeling the brain loves and craves more of. Someone who takes opioids will quickly become dependent upon them and crave more and more and more of the stuff. They are highly addictive, dangerous, toxic substances.
In the simplest terms, opioids are so addictive because they make you feel so good. But, if you’ve taken opioids, you already know how these drugs make you feel. Let’s discuss why they are do difficult to quit. We can sum it up in one word – withdrawal.
When you become physically dependent on opioids, your body needs them to function. If you stop taking them, your body goes through the excruciating process of withdrawal, otherwise known as detox. Because the feeling of withdrawal is so unbelievably unpleasant, you will continue taking opioids at all costs just to avoid the experience altogether.
Here are just a few of the godforsaken symptoms you experience when you’re going through opioid detox:
- Extreme head-to-toe body aches
People who withdrawal from opioids say it is the most painful and uncomfortable experience on planet Earth. It’s no wonder people who suffer from opioid addiction are willing to go to any lengths to continue to use their drug of choice. Avoiding opioid withdrawal is what drives opioid addiction.
This is why Opioid Replacement Therapy is so desperately needed for those who want to stop the madness of opioid abuse. Without medication assistance, quitting opioids is next to impossible.
What is Opioid Replacement Therapy?
Once someone is hooked on opioids, they need a chemical intervention to get off the stuff. Quitting these powerful narcotics without replacing them with something that will lessen the withdrawal symptoms and overwhelming cravings is unbearable. This is where Buprenorphine and Opioid Replacement Therapy come in.
Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT) is currently the most common and effective way to treat opioid addiction.
Someone who has an opioid addiction and is ready to stop the addictive cycle will take see a doctor who is certified to prescribe Subutex. They will begin taking the medication instead of whatever opioid they are addicted to and slowly remove the drug from their body over a period of time. This lessens withdrawal symptoms and cravings for more opioids.
The idea here is that someone who undergoes Opioid Replacement Therapy will be able to successfully quit using opioids by tapering off the medication instead of quitting cold turkey. Statistics have proven that people who try and quit opioids all at once are at a high risk for relapse. Those who go the ORT route have a much greater chance of overcoming opioid addiction than those who quit cold turkey.
How Does Subutex Work As An Opioid Replacement Therapy?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), Buprenorphine treatment happens in the following three phases:
- “The Induction Phase is the medically monitored startup of buprenorphine treatment performed in a qualified physician’s office or certified OTP using approved buprenorphine products. The medication is administered when a person with an opioid dependency has abstained from using opioids for 12 to 24 hours and is in the early stages of opioid withdrawal. It is important to note that buprenorphine can bring on acute withdrawal for patents who are not in the early stages of withdrawal and who have other opioids in their bloodstream.”
- “The Stabilization Phase begins after a patient has discontinued or greatly reduced their misuse of the problem drug, no longer has cravings, and experiences few, if any, side effects. The buprenorphine dose may need to be adjusted during this phase. Because of the long-acting agent of buprenorphine, once patients have been stabilized, they can sometimes switch to alternate-day dosing instead of dosing every day.”
- “The Maintenance Phase occurs when a patient is doing well on a steady dose of buprenorphine. The length of time of the maintenance phase is tailored to each patient and could be indefinite. Once an individual is stabilized, an alternative approach would be to go into a medically supervised withdrawal, which makes the transition from a physically dependent state smoother. People then can engage in further rehabilitation—with or without MAT—to prevent a possible relapse.”
It is important to keep in mind that Subutex is not handled like Methadone. With Methadone, someone has to go to the clinic every single day to receive their dosage. With Buprenorphine, the doctor allows the patient to take the medication home and manage it themselves, trusting that they will take it as prescribed. They return to the doctor on a regular basis to report how they are doing and to move from phase to phase, per the doctor’s direction.
Buprenorphine Side Effects – What You Should Know Before You Take This Medication
Like every other drug on today’s market, Buprenorphine has its side effects. Here are the most serious, less common side effects. If you experience any of these side effects, you should call your doctor immediately:
- Blurred vision
- Mental confusion and disorientation
- Difficulty breathing
- Shallow, irregular, fast, or slowed breathing
- Dizziness or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
- Fainting spells
- Extreme drowsiness and the inability to stay awake
- Pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
- Pinpoint pupils or very dilated eyes
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
Here are the more common, but less serious side effects that do not necessarily require medical attention:
- Back pain
- Cough or throat hoarseness
- Fever or chills
- Lower back or side pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Painful or difficult urination
- Runny nose
- Abdominal pain
- Stuffy nose
- Feeling warm
Keep in mind, like with any other medication, when you take Subutex, you and your doctor have determined that the benefit of the drug outweighs the risk of the potential side effects. Although the side effects may be somewhat uncomfortable, so is opioid addiction.
Does Subutex Get You High? Is It Addictive?
Although Buprenorphine is an opioid that creates a buzz for the user, it is significantly weaker than opioids like Oxycodone, Methadone, Hydrocodone, and Fentanyl. This is what makes it a prime candidate for Opioid Replacement Therapy. Because it does not produce the same kind of chemical high you would expect from heroin or Oxycodone, most people find that using this drug for recreational use is disappointing.
Because Subutex is an opioid, it is addictive and it can be habit forming. However; Buprenorphine has what is called a “ceiling effect.” This means taking more of the drug does not produce a greater effect. This lessens the likelihood of abuse and lowers the risk for overdose.
Keep in mind, that you will not be taking Buprenorphine forever. Most people stay on this medication for six months to a year while continually lessening their dosage slowly over this period of time. Those who have used Subutex as prescribed say the transition off the medication was relatively seamless. They report experiencing mild to no cravings and very manageable, slight withdrawal symptoms.
When taking Subutex, it is especially important that you take it as prescribed and that you stay accountable to your doctor. If you find that you are taking more than you are supposed to, you need to notify your doc immediately.
Subutex Vs. Suboxone – What’s The Difference?
Many people confuse Suboxone and Subutex – mostly because the names of the medications sound the same. But make no mistake – although they have a lot and common and are used for the same purposes, these two Opioid Replacement Therapies are actually quite different. Suboxone is an opioid medication that, like Subutex, is used to treat pain and opioid addiction. However; Suboxone medication is very different in its chemical makeup.
Here is the main difference between Suboxone and Subutex: Subutex is a stand-alone medication. Suboxone, on the other hand, contains Buprenorphine and Naloxone.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist. This means it works to block the effects of opioids in the brain. When someone takes Suboxone, they may get a teeny tiny buzz from the opioids found in the Buprenorphine, but not much at all. Also, Naloxone significantly reduces the probability of opioid overdose.
People often choose Suboxone over Subutex because it is reportedly safer and produces less side effects and less effects from the opioids, which allows the user to better participate in their everyday life.
Subutex Is Not A Magic Pill – It Should Be Taken In Conjunction With A Program of Recovery
Many people make the mistake of thinking they can take Subutex, kick back, and recover from opioid addiction. Simply put, this is wrong thinking. We sincerely hope that one day, modern scientists will come up with the ever elusive “magic pill” that will allow people to be instantly cured of addiction. We really do. But, as of 2017, it just doesn’t exist yet – or, if it does, we’ve never heard of it.
Taking Buprenorphine should be part of a Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) plan. Medication Assisted Treatment includes medication and therapy.
This means if you have had a problem with opioid drugs, and you are taking Subutex, you are going to have to do more than take your medication. You are going to have to get actively involved in your recovery and take aggressive measures to recover from the disease of addiction. This happens through counseling, behavioral therapy, rehabilitation, and the process of 12-step recovery.
If you want to break the bondage of addiction, you simply must work through the issues that caused you to become addicted in the first place. Maybe you experienced trauma as a child. Maybe you have a co-occurring disorder. Whatever your individual circumstances are, you are going to need to stay steadfast in your commitment to remain abstinent from all mood and mind-altering substances. We also recommend that you pursue alternative methods to treat your addiction; like art therapy, yoga, meditation – or whatever you can find that will help you stay clean.