Using medications to fight opioid addiction has long been a vital part of the road to recovery. For many years, methadone was the best-known Medication-Assisted Treatment tool. But in the last two decades, new drugs have taken over as the best choice for supporting patients in recovery. Medications like Suboxone fight cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms when patients stop taking opioid drugs. One of the most positive developments is that in many cases, primary care providers can prescribe Suboxone. When patients no longer need to go to a dedicated treatment facility, it makes treatment more accessible and easier to integrate into overall wellness.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is an FDA-approved medication used to treat Opioid Use Disorder and a valuable tool in fighting addiction. When used correctly under the guidance of a healthcare provider, it is an effective component of treating addiction to opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers. However, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reminds us that medications like Suboxone are part of a “comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and other behavioral therapies to provide patients with a whole-person approach.”
How Does Suboxone Work?
Suboxone combines the drugs Buprenorphine and Naloxone. The two medications join forces to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings while preventing a new addiction. Buprenorphine is a “partial agonist.” Like opioids, it activates pain-blocking receptors in your brain. It creates feelings of well-being similar to opioids. Naloxone (used in the emergency drug Narcan to reverse an opioid overdose) is an opioid antagonist. That means it blocks the effects of opioids at the receptor sites. Naloxone’s role is to make the drug less addictive than Buprenorphine alone. Providers often prescribe Suboxone in the form of film strips that dissolve under the tongue.
What Are The Pros and Cons of Using Suboxone?
One of the primary benefits of Suboxone is that it’s less habit-forming than methadone, the longtime choice in MAT medications. Suboxone can be used in pregnant and nursing women and is less likely than methadone to cause neonatal abstinence syndrome in newborns. Another significant benefit is that patients don’t have to go to a specialized treatment center for Suboxone. Primary care providers can get certified to prescribe Suboxone, making it more accessible to patients. On the downside, because of the opioid-like effects of Buprenorphine, Suboxone can be illicitly used as a street drug. As with many prescription drugs, there is a potential for dependence and abuse. If injected, it can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone is also dangerous if used with alcohol or other drugs. According to the pharmaceutical company that makes Suboxone, common side effects include:
- Sleepiness or dizziness
Potential serious side effects include:
- Respiratory problems
- Liver problems
- Allergic reactions
- Opioid withdrawal symptoms
How Can I Get Suboxone?
As part of an initiative to make Medication-Assisted Treatment more accessible to patients, the federal government has made it possible to get Suboxone and similar drugs at your doctor’s office instead of only in specialized treatment centers. Doctors must go through special training and get certified to prescribe Suboxone.
Is Suboxone Right For Me?
If you are struggling with opioid addiction, your primary care provider is a helpful place to start. Get a dialog going with a trusted provider who knows your medical history and focuses on your overall wellness. Suboxone can play a vital role in getting you through the early stages of recovery. Combined with counseling and ongoing primary care, it can help you stay healthy and opioid-free.
A primary care provider with a mental healthcare and addiction background can be an essential source of support. Comprehensive Primary Care’s Dr. Ghulam Abbas is an addiction specialist certified to prescribe Suboxone. Dr. Abbas is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and board eligible in Addiction Medicine. Combined with referrals for counseling plus nutrition and lifestyle changes, Suboxone treatment through your primary care provider can help you move through recovery while focusing holistically on your overall health.