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What is Suboxone used for?

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is a long-acting, partial opioid agonist used to treat opioid use disorder. 

Patients who have been taking opioids, like oxycodone (percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), methadone, heroin, fentanyl, on a daily basis can become dependent on these substances, meaning that if they do not take them daily, they will experience awful withdrawal symptoms, like nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, agitation/anxiety. Many people become addicted and the opioids start to take control of their life. They have cravings, think about opiates all the time, and are unable to fulfill their daily responsibilities like going to work or taking care of friends and family. It becomes an “all consuming disease”.

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) works by stabilizing the brain. By binding to the opiate receptors in the brain, Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) prevents withdrawal symptoms, staves off cravings, and also blocks these receptors so other opioids (like heroin or fentanyl) cannot bind, preventing overdoses and saving lives. As a partial agonist (meaning it only partially stimulates the opioid receptor), Burpneorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) rarely causes patients to feel “high.” Rather, patients taking buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) should feel NORMAL, able to go about their day and live their life to its fullest. For these reasons, Buprnorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is considered very safe, and it is considered evidence-based treatment for opioid addiction. 

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is most effective when used in conjunction with counseling and psychosocial support.

Rebekah L. Rollston, MD, MPH

Dr. Rollston is a Family Medicine Physician at Cambridge Health Alliance, Affiliate Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Primary Care Blog, and Founder of Doctors For A Healthy US, LLC. She earned her Medical Degree from East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine and her Master of Public Health from The George Washington University. Her professional interests focus on social influencers of health & health disparities, addiction medicine, sexual & reproductive health, homelessness & supportive housing, and rural health.

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