Approved by the FDA in 2002, buprenorphine – brand name Suboxone and Zubsolv – is now the “go-to” drug for medication-assisted treatment with opiate addiction. Unlike methadone treatment, it can be prescribed by physicians in the comfort of their own offices and, best of all, buprenorphine has a “ceiling effect.”
As a partial opioid agonist, Suboxone’s effects are weaker than the effects of a full opioid like heroin or methadone. The effects only increase to a certain extent. At moderate doses, Suboxone effects level off. If you continue to take more, it doesn’t create any additional effects. This reduces the risk of dependency, abuse, and side effects. It’s also long-acting, so many stable, low-dose patients don’t have to take it every day.
But what happens when you want to quit taking Suboxone?
Booting the Buprenorphine
If you’ve been using Suboxone as part of a medication-assisted treatment plan for opioid use, your body has probably become physically dependent on the drug.
Here’s a look at three steps experts commonly recommend for safely transitioning patients off Suboxone:
- Consult with your doctor: If you’ve been prescribed Suboxone, don’t stop taking it without talking to your doctor first. Your physician will help you set up a plan to carefully wean your body off the drug. Going cold turkey without medical assistance can be dangerous. Your doctor can also suggest other medications to help treat withdrawal symptoms as you begin the weaning process.
- Slowly taper off the drug: Health experts recommend gradually reducing your buprenorphine dosage. Over a period of three weeks (or more), reduce doses by 10 to 20 percent each week. This will reduce withdrawal symptoms. It also decreases your chance of relapse, since it reduces discomfort.
- Participate in therapy: As you taper off Suboxone, it’s important to continue seeing your therapist or counselor. Even though tapering reduces withdrawal, it’s likely you’ll still experience some symptoms – especially psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Never Go it Alone
The key to successfully stopping buprenorphine use is to get help. Don’t go cold turkey and don’t do it alone. Take advantage of the medical expertise and assistance that’s available. You’ll suffer less withdrawal and you’ll be more likely to succeed in your effort to quit. You can find additional help with buprenorphine use and quitting here.
Additional Reading: Suboxone Debate – What Is the Big Problem with Buprenorphine?
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