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Common Myths About Suboxone Treatment

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June 14, 2021

As patients begin to explore buprenorphine/Naloxone (Suboxone) as an option to help treat opioid use disorder, they may hear many different things about this medication from friends, family, or online. It is important to separate facts from myths about Suboxone. This article will help address some of the common myths or misconceptions about Suboxone and set the record straight so that you can make an informed decision about whether Suboxone is right for you.

Myth #1: Patients regularly abuse Suboxone

In Reality: Many patients use buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) responsibly for its indicated purpose. Just like other opioid medications, Suboxone is a drug that can potentially be “abused” because it can produce euphoric effects, especially for people who have not been using full opioids prior. However, so long as you take your medicine as prescribed, it is a very safe alternative to opioids. Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) helps patients who struggle with opioids by relieving cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and dramatically reducing the risk of overdose. If you have concerns about a friend or loved one who may be using more of their medication than prescribed, please let your physician know.

Myth #2: Overdosing on Suboxone is common and easy

In Reality: Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is what we call a “partial agonist” at opioid receptors in the body, unlike most opioid medications, which are “full agonists” like oxycodone, hydromorphone, heroin, fentanyl, etc. Suboxone will bind to opioid receptors and turn them on, but not to the extent that full agonists will. This is called the “ceiling effect”: there is a “ceiling,” or a limit, to the euphoric effects of Suboxone and the extent to which it can cause respiratory suppression and overdose. Thus, while it is, of course, possible to overdose on Suboxone, it is a lot harder to do so than with other “full agonist” medications because of this “ceiling effect.” (1)

Myth 3: Suboxone isn’t treatment for opioid use disorder on its own

In Reality: On the contrary, many patients can abstain from misuse of all opioids once starting buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone). Of course, there are other therapies – both pharmacologic and behavioral – that can be important in recovery in addition to taking Suboxone. Depending on the individual, therapy, counseling, group support, hotlines, etc., can all be useful as well and may be as useful or even more useful than pharmacologic therapy. Each patient is different and will need different strategies in their recovery. However, for some patients, Suboxone alone may be more than enough to help them abstain from opioid use.

Myth 4: Long-term Suboxone therapy is bad

In Reality: Long-term therapy with any medication has risks and benefits. Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) came on the market in 2002; thus, we only have data for patients who have been on these medications for about 20 years. We, therefore, cannot say for sure what the risks of being on this medication for a lifetime might be. As far as we know, there is no reason that patients can’t be on these medications for decades or even life-long, particularly if the patient finds the medication to be helpful for them in continuing to be abstinent from opioids. Moreover, long-term Suboxone treatment is likely to be much safer than long-term use of opioids. 

To learn more about the success rates and safety of Bicycle Health’s telemedicine addiction treatment in comparison to other common treatment options, call us at (844) 943-2514 or schedule an appointment here.

Citations

  1. Zoorob et al. Buprenorphine Therapy for OUD. Journal ofAmerican Family Physician. 2018 Mar 1;97(5):31332

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