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The great Suboxone debate: friend or foe?

April 13, 2015 0 Comments

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Total abstinence or drug therapy? That is the hot question among drug treatment professionals when discussing recovery methods for opioid addictions. In the quest to get off street drugs or prescription medications and to avoid relapse, replacement drugs can play a pivotal role. The debate rages on, as good arguments on both sides of the fence make it a tough call.

Suboxone, a schedule 3 drug that is prescribed in a doctor’s office, is a daily sublingual tablet that blocks the intense cravings associated with heroin, oxycontin, Vicodin and fentanyl. The naloxone ingredient is reported to act as a deterrent, activating withdrawal symptoms if the patient abuses the drug by crushing it, shooting up or snorting it. The drug is covered by most insurance plans, although there might be limits on how long they will cover it.

Suboxone is designed to take the place of heroin and prescription opiates by zeroing in on the opiate receptors in the brain and binding tightly to them for days at a time. The drug creates enough stimulation to diminish withdrawal symptoms and removes all other narcotics off the opiate receptors so they would have no effect if used, also setting up a deterrent to use the original drug.

There are limitations to the benefits of Suboxone. The drug does not seem to stop cravings as originally hoped. Also, just switching from one opiate to another does not heal the neurological process of addiction. As long as any type of opioid is taken, the body will decrease its production of endorphins and increase the number of receptors in response.

Sales of Suboxone continue to skyrocket, as it is being widely prescribed in the U.S. It has been reported that its earnings shot up by more than six-fold between 2004 and 2009.  Since some treatment professionals refuse to prescribe the drug and 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous frown on replacement drugs, some addicts have resorted to the black market to obtain Suboxone in an attempt to get off street drugs. Buying on the street can have its own set of dangers, but many addicts are so hopeless to quit on their own they are willing to take the risk.

The jury is out on the long-term effects or consequences of Suboxone as an opioid replacement. The nature of addiction is very complex and science continues to reveal more and more as studies are conducted and research data reported. There are pros and cons attached to the use of Suboxone or any maintenance drug, but the limitations of methadone have made Suboxone a more popular choice among treatment professionals.

Sovereign Health’s boarding school for young men, White River Academy, places an emphasis on character development in adolescent males with behavioral issues, offering life skills classes and community service oriented programs to instill qualities that lead to a productive and successful life post-recovery. For questions about White River Academy or addiction, please call 866-300-0616.

Written by Eileen Spatz, Sovereign Health Group writer

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