19 Feb Suboxone Abuse Is a Growing Problem
Suboxone is one of several drugs used in medication-assisted treatment programs to help people with opioid addictions get sober. The drug is comprised of the opioid buprenorphine and the anti-overdose drug naloxone. And while studies have found Suboxone to be highly effective at helping people recover from drug abuse, there are a growing number of cases in which Suboxone itself has become the subject of a new addiction.
How Suboxone Works
When people who have become addicted to opioids attempt to go “cold turkey” and quit all at once, they experience severe withdrawal symptoms as well as strong cravings. Suboxone alleviates both cravings and withdrawal symptoms, reducing the likelihood of a relapse while keeping people from becoming seriously ill during the first few weeks after entering recovery. The naloxone component of Suboxone also prevents users from getting high by blocking the effects of other opioids.
The rate of relapse among people recovering from opioid addiction is extremely high, but studies have found that between 40 and 60 percent of people who are given Suboxone as part of their treatment succeed in staying sober. Understandably, many people in the field of addiction and substance abuse recovery regard Suboxone as a valuable and potentially life-saving tool.
Suboxone Seen to Have Minimal Abuse Potential
Suboxone is a partial agonist, as opposed to full agonists like morphine or methadone. As a result, Suboxone binds to the same brain receptors involved in opioid abuse but produces a much milder effect. This keeps the body from entering a state of withdrawal but also makes it very difficult to achieve a high. These features have earned Suboxone a reputation for being both highly effective and comparatively risk-free.
Unfortunately, the drug’s benign reputation is not entirely justified. It is certainly more difficult to abuse than full agonists, and when used correctly it does not cause a euphoric high. However, this doesn’t mean that Suboxone is immune from abuse or free from risks when it is abused or misused. And while this is true of most drugs, an increasing number of news stories suggest that Suboxone—thanks in large part to its positive reputation—is often prescribed with relatively little screening and monitoring. As a result, some users are able to abuse Soboxone fairly easily.
Using Suboxone as a Backup Drug
Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy executive director Van Ingram says that some people with opioid addictions are using Suboxone as a backup when they are not able to get the drug they normally abuse. The Suboxone may only give them a small high, or even no high at all, but it keeps them from entering withdrawal until they are able to get more of their drug. For this relatively small number of people, Suboxone actually becomes a tool to help them maintain their drug habit rather than a tool to help them get clean.
A small but growing number of people in recovery also appear to have used Suboxone as their primary drug of choice. Many of them have a long history of substance abuse, and began using Suboxone as treatment for opioid addiction. However, instead of using the drug as prescribed, some individuals began to dissolve the tablets in water so that they act more rapidly and more powerfully, or even to use the dissolvable strip form of the drug to inject Suboxone.
Improving Oversight of Suboxone
The small but worrying number of cases involving Suboxone abuse suggests that oversight of this drug needs to improve. Most of these cases involve situations where patients were given Suboxone in isolation, without any counseling or follow-up visits. Many experts caution that while drugs like Suboxone can inhibit the physical aspects of addiction, additional care is necessary to help people curb their addictive behavior. Despite the great recovery potential of drugs like Suboxone, growing instances of abuse suggest that they are still too potent to be prescribed without careful monitoring and, ideally, multi-faceted, comprehensive treatment.
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