It’s difficult to imagine that a drug that is supposed to help defeat an already existing addiction can be highly addictive itself. Subutex is a medication that is used to treat withdrawal symptoms, as well as fight the physical dependence and addiction to opioids. While it may be FDA approved and be less of a risk than methadone in treating addiction withdrawal, this medication has the capability to become immensely addictive if not taken properly.
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Subutex is the brand name of the generic drug buprenorphine, which is also found in other opioid addiction and dependence treatment medications including Suboxone. The medication is usually given as a dissolvable tablet that users place under the tongue and let melt, rather than swallowing or chewing it.
When someone takes Subutex, it binds to the same receptors in their central nervous system that opioid drugs like prescription painkillers or heroin bind to. Subutex is classified as a partial opioid agonist, so while it does activate the same receptor sites as addictive drugs, it doesn’t create a powerful, euphoric high. Instead, the drug makes the brain believe that it is taking the drug that it has become dependent on while warding off withdrawal symptoms.
This can be very problematic because it is almost seen as replacing one drug for another. While the euphoric high that other drugs provide might not be present, the body and brain still become accustomed to using Subutex to resolve any kind of withdrawal symptoms. This means the user can become dependent on Subutex to fix something as minor as a headache.
Subutex is not meant to be taken long-term. When the medication is taken as advised, it doesn’t have a high possibility for an addiction to come about. An addiction can appear based on how often the medication is used, the dosage, and the lack of concern for the side effects that Subutex can bring.
Some side effects that can occur while taking the drug are:
- Painful urination
When someone’s body becomes accustomed to the relief provided by Subutex, the withdrawal symptoms can be harsh. When a body goes through withdrawal, it is attempting to rid itself of the drug. This can be a very uncomfortable process in the beginning, but as Subutex withdrawal continues the symptoms typically lessen in severity.
When beginning the withdrawal process, it is recommended to seek help through a facility. The Recovery Village offers an abundance of locations where medical professionals can help make the transition into a drug-free life as smoothly and safely as possible.
Subutex Withdrawal Symptoms
There is some debate about the use of Subutex and other medications during the opioid detox process because some people feel like it’s leading people to replace one substance with another. Subutex tends to be a relatively low-risk option because it’s much less addictive than something like methadone. So are Subutex withdrawal symptoms possible when someone stops using this medicine?
In that case, something called a precipitated withdrawal can occur when a partial agonist like buprenorphine is used. This happens when someone uses Subutex to avoid withdrawal, but the receptors aren’t fully activated so they may go through some level of withdrawal despite the use of the medicine, leaving the receptors to believe that the Subutex isn’t working as intended.
If you’ve been taking Subutex as a medication-assisted treatment option for opioid dependence and you stop using it, you may experience mild withdrawal symptoms. However, Subutex is much less potent than true opioids, so these symptoms aren’t going to be as intense for the most part.
However, Subutex withdrawal symptoms can be similar to symptoms of withdrawal from opioids. These symptoms can include:
- Muscle spasms and aches
- Runny nose
- Excessive sweating
- Inability to concentrate
While it’s rare to experience extreme symptoms while on Subutex, there is a possibility of a much more intense withdrawal process which includes symptoms like:
- Stomach cramps
These symptoms can also be avoided if a person follows a tapering schedule to come off Subutex. If a patient is going through a medically-supervised detox program, a physician may have the patient does this so that they experience less severe withdrawal symptoms.
To ensure a successful Subutex detox, there are several steps that should be taken. It’s important, to begin with, an evaluation conducted by a medical professional. This first step is important because it allows the medical team at the rehabilitation center to determine the best form of treatment needed to overcome the patient’s addiction. During this step, physicians assess how severe addiction to Subutex is in order to find the most effective method for treatment. Inpatient and outpatient rehab programs may both be recommended to thoroughly treat the addiction.
After the evaluation, the Subutex detoxification process begins. The second the drug is no longer being consumed is when the detoxification stage starts. The body fights to function without the Subutex, and during this time is when the withdrawal symptoms come into play. The severity and intensity of the symptoms largely depend on how dependent the body was on Subutex. During this time it is important to keep in mind that the body is shifting back to a healthy state, and the process can take some time to complete, so patience is key. While at a facility, once the severe withdrawal symptoms subside, patients have the opportunity to go through one-on-one counseling, group therapy, or recreational therapy. The specific regimen depends on what the treatment team deems appropriate and beneficial toward the patient’s overall recovery.
Once detox is completed, aftercare beings. Aftercare is when a patient takes the skills they learned during treatment and takes them back to their community. . While Subutex may physically be out of the system, addiction is not as easily eliminated. Addiction is viewed as both a medical disease and a mental illness. Therefore, it can be suppressed rather than being cured. This means that it is important to continue with regularly scheduled therapy sessions to ensure the continuance of the sober living skills that were taught during treatment.
The Recovery Village offers a variety of facilities across the nation to assist someone going through the detoxification process. It is highly recommended to go through detoxification with medical supervision, as having proper supervision can reduce the chance of heightened withdrawal symptoms and for setbacks to occur.
Subutex Detox at Home
There are two different ways people attempt to detox at home. The first way is by quitting cold turkey, which means to suddenly stop Subutex usage. This is not recommended by medical professionals as it can have severe effects. When regular Subutex use is abruptly stopped, the body can go into shock. Detoxing through this method also allows withdrawal symptoms to potentially arise faster and be more severe, compared to the withdrawal symptoms that come with properly weaning off of the drug under professional supervision. While there have been some successes by cold turkey detoxing, it is not seen as a stable form of treatment.
Another way people try to detox on their own is by tapering. Tapering is when a set schedule is put into place to gradually remove the Subutex from the system, rather than all at once. This method is more supported by medical professionals, rather than quitting cold turkey, as it decreases the chance of intense withdrawal symptoms and the body can gently get used to functioning without the drug.
People often attempt to detox at home because they are concerned about the cost of professional treatment. However, addiction is viewed as a medical disease. This means that insurance companies are authorized to offer coverage for substance use disorders. Therefore, insurance may be the most viable option to pay for rehab. Each company has different stipulations regarding their coverage, so people should call their provider to find out what can be covered.
If paying through insurance is not an option, low-income and free centers may be a feasible way to receive treatment. There are numerous recovery centers across the country that offer financing options to help patients get the proper treatment that they need. However, free detox centers often have long waiting lists, so first finding out what financial options are available may be the best way to start.
No one who struggles with a substance use disorder should be turned away from receiving treatment to recover from a Subutex addiction. The Recovery Village centers can offer finance options for inpatient or outpatient rehab for patients. A call to The Recovery Village can be the first step to seeing what financial options are available.
Subutex Detox Schedule
There is not a set amount of time for someone to go through Subutex detox. The timeline depends on various factors like the prescribed dosage, the length of time the medication has been taken, and the method of detoxification was used. Some people may complete detox within a few weeks, while it can take others a few months.
The first couple of days during detox can be some of the most difficult. During this time, the body begins to operate without the use of Subutex. A person might experience some headaches and dizziness as their brain is trying to return to its original state, prior to the Subutex. The brain also craves the drug at this point, so the individual may feel somewhat irritable. It’s important to remember that the brain and body are fighting to function without the medication, so it’s crucial to be patient throughout this process.
When a person approaches the end of their first week free of Subutex, the symptoms they experience should begin to lessen in their intensities. Although the worst part is over, they still may struggle with cravings for the drug. This is all part of the normal recovery process though, so a person shouldn’t be discouraged if they’re still experiencing some urges.
As another week passes during detox, the patient may begin to have trouble sleeping. They may experience insomnia or have unpleasant dreams when they do sleep. The patient might be moody as well. These symptoms mean that the brain is working hard to restore its natural chemical balance. Once the patient reaches the end of their first month during the Subutex detox, cravings for the drug may still linger, but the Subutex should be completely out of the system at this point in time.
This typical timeline is not the set amount of time it should take to be Subutex free, but it can serve as a general guideline, as to how the process will play out. The length of an individual’s detox depends on their own unique situation and your own chemical makeup. Someone who has been addicted for one month can have a shorter detox process than someone who has been addicted for six months. Recovery isn’t something that should be rushed, so an individual should be proud of themselves for working toward it rather than disappointed they aren’t at the same stage as someone else.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.