Will I Go Through Withdrawal When I Want to Come Off Suboxone?

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If you stop taking Suboxone abruptly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. But a tapered approach to discontinuation of Suboxone can mitigate these side effects.

While Suboxone isn't an illicit opiate like heroin, it works on opioid receptors in your brain. Sudden removal can cause your brain to withdraw, which can cause some unpleasant (albeit, not life threatening) symptoms.

If you do decide to discontinue Suboxone, don’t do so “cold turkey”. You can work with your doctor to avoid withdrawal as you wean off of Suboxone. 

How to Avoid Withdrawal From Suboxone

Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist, and people who take the medication daily can become dependent on it. This is different than being “addicted” to it. Physical dependence can occur when any medication is taken regularly.

Because of this physical dependence, you can experience Suboxone withdrawal symptoms if you quit use too quickly. Suboxone withdrawal symptoms are very similar to withdrawal symptoms from other opioids, and can include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Drug cravings

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says people taking Suboxone should taper their doses rather than quitting abruptly.[1] A taper allows your brain to adjust to a lack of Suboxone slowly, so you won't feel sick.

Do I Need to Get Off Suboxone?

No, not necessarily. We do not recommend patients stop taking Suboxone, particularly if they are in sustained recovery from opioid use.

Addiction is a chronic condition, and because of that, many patients may require the medication long-term. Shorter duration of Suboxone treatment is associated with higher risk of relapse.[3] Quit your medication too quickly, and you easily relapse to opioid misuse. Many people stay on Suboxone for years or even indefinitely, as it continues to support their recovery.

However, some individuals, especially those who have been abstinent from opioids for many years and do not have any concern for relapse, may prefer to come off of the medication.

If you feel ready to quit taking Suboxone, talk with your team. Researchers say people who are stable in recovery can taper within about 14 days, and they can then work on sobriety without medications. Others may require much longer tapers of several months. [2]

Think hard about your decision to quit Suboxone use, and talk to your doctor about your goals. Together, you can come up with a plan that's right for you.

Sources

  1. Suboxone Prescribing Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2018/020733s022lbl.pdf. February 2018. Accessed July 2022.
  2. Long-Term Suboxone Treatment and Its Benefit on Long-Term Remission for Opiate Dependence. Journal of Psychiatry. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anish-Shah-14/publication/276642642_Long-term_Suboxone_Treatment_and_its_Benefit_on_Long-Term_Remission_for_Opiate_Dependence/links/5b2edad2a6fdcc8506c772c7/Long-term-Suboxone-Treatment-and-its-Benefit-on-Long-Term-Remission-for-Opiate-Dependence.pdf. October 2014. Accessed July 2022.
  3. Factors Associated with Relapse in Individuals with Opioid Use Disorder Receiving Suboxone in Rural Areas. Journal of Addictions Nursing. https://journals.lww.com/jan/Abstract/2021/01000/Factors_Associated_With_Relapse_in_Individuals.4.aspx. January 2021. Accessed July 2022.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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