Suboxone is a medication that contains a partial opioid agonist called buprenorphine and an opioid antagonist called naloxone. In other words, Suboxone has a weak opioid and an opioid blocker. The drug is used to treat opioid addiction, and it may be administered to a person to help avoid withdrawal and cravings. However, Suboxone treatment means that you will continue to be dependent on an opioid, and when you stop, you’ll experience withdrawal. In most cases of Suboxone treatment, you will go through a tapering period to slowly get off the drug without causing severe withdrawal symptoms. However, if the drug is abused, the naloxone becomes active by kicking opioids off their receptors and inducing withdrawal.
Suboxone shares withdrawal symptoms with many other opioids. In the vast majority of opioid withdrawal cases, the symptoms aren’t deadly. However, they can be extremely uncomfortable to the point that they represent a significant barrier to treatment. However, opioid withdrawal symptoms can be treated.
The buprenorphine in Suboxone binds to opioid receptors all over the body. It’s a partial agonist, which means that its effects on opioid receptors aren’t as strong as other opioids. Still, when you stop using Suboxone after becoming dependent on opioids, you’ll feel a chemical imbalance that affects your whole body. Symptoms are very similar to the flu, causing body aches, nausea, and high temperatures. Other symptoms may include:
The Suboxone withdrawal timeline you experience will depend on some personal factors. If you taper off the drug, you’ll have a longer withdrawal period with milder symptoms. If you quit cold turkey, you may experience more intense symptoms faster.
First 24 hours: Suboxone is administered daily. After 24 hours without the mediation, you’ll start to feel your first withdrawal symptoms. Early symptoms may include anxiety, fatigue, and general discomfort. It may feel like you’re coming down with a cold.
Three days: Once your withdrawal symptoms begin, they will start to get worse until they reach their peak. Peak symptoms are when withdrawal is at its worst. It may include fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Seven days: Peak symptoms are the worst, but they usually mark the turning point in your withdrawal period. You will start to feel better over the next few days, and most of your symptoms will be gone by the end of the first week. Some symptoms, especially psychological ones, may linger.
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Two weeks: In some cases, symptoms like anxiety, depression, and drug cravings can continue long after your acute withdrawal phase has ended. You may need to address those issues in addiction treatment or with a therapist.
Medical detox is a high level of care for people that have pressing medical needs during withdrawal. Opioid withdrawal isn’t known to be life-threatening. Most people experience particularly intense flu-like symptoms that are uncomfortable, but not dangerous. However, sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea can cause dehydration. If you can’t keep liquids down because of severe vomiting, it may require medical attention. Other people with medical conditions may be vulnerable to other symptoms like changes in heart rate and blood pressure. When you speak to a doctor about addiction treatment or enter a treatment program, you will go through a medical assessment to determine if detox is necessary.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, November). 8: Definition of dependence. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/neurobiology-drug-addiction/section-iii-action-heroin-morphine/8-definition-dependence
RxList. (2019, November 11). Suboxone (Buprenorphine HCl and naloxone HCl): Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Interactions, Warning. Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/suboxone-drug.htm
SAMHSA. (2019, November 22). Buprenorphine. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/buprenorphine