Using Suboxone for Opioid Addiction Treatment

Opioids have a high addiction potential and their withdrawal symptoms can be agonizing (although not life threatening). Therefore, many individuals struggle with becoming sober when addicted to or dependent on opioids. Thankfully, there are medications that can help aid in this process by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings, as well encourage the development of positive long-term recovery outcomes for those ready to put a stop to their active opioid addiction.

This article will take a deeper dive into using Suboxone for opioid treatment. Find out more about what Suboxone is, how it works, and what the benefits of utilizing it for opioid use disorder treatment are.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is an addiction medication that is made up of two ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone, both of which have been FDA-approved in the treatment of opioid use disorder.2 It is used to treat opioid dependence, can be utilized during medically-supervised withdrawal from opioids, and for maintenance purposes.1 Because naloxone is an opioid antagonist and blocks the effects of opioids, if Suboxone is given to an individual when opioids are in their system, the individual will exhibit immediate withdrawal effects. As a result, Suboxone is given when the individual is experiencing moderate opioid withdrawal effects, which is a sign that opioids are no longer in their system. This medication can be dispensed in either film or tablet form.2,3

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning that it binds to the same receptors in the brain that other opioids do without producing the full effects.4 Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, therefore it fully blocks the effects of opioids in the brain.4 When taken together under the brand name Suboxone, these two ingredients can help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the likelihood of opioid misuse.1 Suboxone is most effective when taken in conjunction with a treatment plan that offers counseling and psychosocial support.4,5

How is Suboxone Administered?  

As previously mentioned, Suboxone can be administered either by tablet or film.5 Suboxone tablets should not be crushed, chewed, or swallowed, rather placed under the tongue until fully dissolved. Suboxone sublingual films should also be dissolved under the tongue, while buccal films should be placed inside the cheek for absorption.3,5 

In either form, Suboxone should only be provided to a patient when symptoms of withdrawal are clearly present, as doing so prior can cause precipitating withdrawal.5 It is not recommended for prescribing professionals to provide multiple refills of Suboxone for patients in early treatment, so most patients must obtain their medication during their visits.5

Side Effects of Suboxone

Despite the benefits of Suboxone for those recovering from opioid dependence, some side effects can occur when taking it. Some of the most common side effects of Suboxone can include the following:3,5

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with sleep 

How Does Suboxone Help with Opioid Addiction?

Extensive research has shown that Suboxone is highly effective in the treatment of opioid use disorder, especially when it comes to withdrawal.1 Not only can Suboxone help reduce withdrawal symptoms and overwhelming cravings as previously mentioned, but it can also lessen the likelihood of future misuse and minimize the desired effects of opioids.1,6 Suboxone has also been been shown to aid in retention in treatment, making it easier for patients to transition from the withdrawal stage into other levels of care, such as inpatient or outpatient programs.1

Studies show that those who participate in opioid maintenance treatment have greater long-term success in their recovery than with any other type of withdrawal treatment.3 In particular, Suboxone has demonstrated efficacy in:6

  • Decreasing the risk of overdose.
  • Reducing the risk of fatality by 50% (as opposed to when not in treatment).
  • Improving social functioning.
  • Reducing IV drug use, which in turn decreases HIV transmission.
  • Decreasing criminal behavior.

When taken as directed by a prescribing professional, Suboxone can offer these and other potential benefits to those who are recovering from active opioid use disorder.

How Long Are Patients on Suboxone?

Those patients who include Suboxone into their treatment plan go through three phases of maintenance during treatment.2 Each phase can last different lengths of time depending on factors such as what type of opioid they were misusing or how quickly their withdrawal symptoms fade.2

The three phases of maintenance are as follows:3

  • Induction – The first phase of maintenance treatment is the induction phase, which usually lasts about one week. At this time, the patient has begun transitioning from the opioids they were misusing to Suboxone. The goal of this phase is to find the appropriate dose of Suboxone for the patient to no longer experience withdrawal symptoms or cravings.
  • Stabilization – The stabilization phase, which often takes 1-2 months, occurs when the patient is no longer experiencing withdrawal symptoms or cravings, and is having minimal side effects if any at all.
  • Maintenance – The last and final stage of maintenance treatment is the maintenance phase, which is by far the longest stage, as it can last indefinitely. It is important for physicians to continue to remain vigilant of their patients during this time as to help mitigate cravings and prevent relapse.

The length of time that patients continue to include Suboxone into their recovery after completing the induction and stabilization phases will vary. It is recommended that patients should only remain on Suboxone as long as they are benefitting from it, which is a decision their provider can help them determine.1

Does Insurance Cover the Cost of Suboxone? 

If you are insured, the cost of Suboxone may be covered partially or in full. The easiest way to determine this is by reaching out to your insurance provider and inquiring about your specific plan to learn more about your coverage options for needs related to drug detox. Having information on using health insurance to pay for rehab can help you plan your next steps in your recovery journey.

Suboxone for Opioid Addiction Treatment in California

It can be challenging to overcome an opioid use disorder. If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid misuse, help is available. Contact our Orange County medical detox facility at to speak with an admissions navigator today. Admissions navigators can help you explore your treatment options including the rehab admissions process, paying for rehab, and the different levels of rehab we offer.

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