What is the Best Way to Deal with Suboxone Withdrawal?

What is the Best Way to Deal with Suboxone Withdrawal?


The best way to deal with Suboxone withdrawal symptoms is to go to inpatient treatment and go through a proper medical detoxification process.

While you are in a medical detox, the nurses or doctors involved will carefully step you down off of Suboxone so the withdrawal symptoms you experience are minimized or eliminated.

Trying to figure out this process of stepping down by yourself is very difficult to do outside of a detox center for two reasons: One, you are not a doctor and you do not know what the proper taper schedule is based on your body composition, how long you have been taking the medication, what dose you’ve been taking, and so on. And two, while you are trying to detox yourself outside of a treatment on your own, there will be much more temptation to relapse on other opiate drugs as a result of the withdrawal process.

Because of these two reasons, the best way to get off of Suboxone is at an inpatient treatment facility. Anyone who is struggling with any kind of opiate withdrawal should really consider inpatient treatment.

In order to better understand the withdrawal process you may benefit from understanding how opiate drugs work in the body.

Imagine your body for a moment before you ever started using drugs. Rewind your life to when you were not taking any opiates whatsoever. Back then when you were totally clean and sober, your body was still delivering a trickle of natural opiates to itself in order to feel normal. This is part of our natural body systems that allow us to function and live. We have a certain amount of opiate receptors in the brain, and the body normally provides a very low dose of natural opiates to those receptors. This is how we function every day and it causes us to feel normal. This is the baseline: A steady trickle of natural opiates.

Now when you introduce a drug into your body such as heroin or Vicodin or Suboxone, the opiate based medication contained in any of those substances is going to go to the brain and fill some or all of those opiate receptors. In the meantime, your body is still producing that natural trickle of opiates and so the brain gets flooded with extra opiates and instead of feeling normal you feel even better. Extra dopamine makes you feel even better, this is why causes you to feel high.

Now in the case of opiate abuse where someone is constantly putting lots of opiates into their body every day, something starts to happen. The body starts to realize that those opiate receptor sites in the brain are being filled up by Vicodin or heroin or whatever, and eventually the brain starts to say “hey wait a second here…..I don’t need to supply that steady trickle of opiates any more, because this person is doing that for me. Every day there are plenty of opiates being introduced into this person’s body, and they definitely do not need that steady trickle of natural opiates that I normally supply to the brain.” So the production of that natural stream of opiates ceases completely.

At some point, every addict hits a wall. At some point, every struggling drug addict ends up in jail, or in the hospital, or they run out of money, or something happens and they cannot procure any opiate based drugs for a few days. When this happens, the struggling opiate addict is going to going into a state of withdrawal because they suddenly stopped putting large amounts of opiates into their system.

Normally this would not be a problem, because the body is producing that steady trickle of opiates to keep the body feeling normal. But the drug addict has conditioned their body to not need that stream of natural opiates, and therefore it is producing nothing. Cold turkey withdrawal happens because those opiate receptor sites in the brain are starving for opiates. Once you stop putting opiates into your system, the body goes into withdrawal because there is no way to satisfy those starving opiate receptors. It takes the body a few days to figure out that it needs to start up that production of the natural opiates again. This is why acute opiate withdrawal generally lasts for about three to five days, and potentially longer than this depending on factors such as: what opiate you are detoxing from, how long you took it, how strong a dose you were on, and so on. Some people have taken strong opiates for so many years or decades that their body never really is able to go back to satisfying its own opiate receptors naturally, which is one reason that medications such as Suboxone exist in the first place.

The opiate that is contained in Suboxone is not a “full opiate,” it is a partial opiate. This means that it does not overwhelm the receptors in the brain and cause the person to feel euphoric as a result. However, many opiate addicts eventually reach a point in their addiction where they just want to avoid being sick, they just want to “get well,” and so this process of getting well becomes equated with getting high. At first when we use a drug it feels euphoric and we enjoy the high, but eventually our tolerance reaches a point where we just want to avoid the discomfort of withdrawal. This is why a medication such as Suboxone, even though it is not a full opiate, can feel like it has abuse potential. Because it takes away the symptoms of withdrawal it feels like it is a drug of abuse.

This is similar to the way that a nicotine addict treats cigarettes after they are hooked as a smoker. Does every hit from every cigarette of the day get them “high?” Are the getting a euphoric rush every time they puff on a cigarette? Ask any smoker and they will tell you this is not the case. They smoke every hour or two in order to avoid the discomfort of nicotine withdrawal.

And so it is with opiate addicts. Their body has stopped producing its own natural trickle supply of opiates, so after they are hooked on an opiate based medication, they become dependent on that substance to fulfill their body’s needs. The only way around this is to go through the detoxification process and allow their body to start producing its own natural trickle of opiates again. And the best way to get through the detoxification process is to do it in a medical based detox facility, generally at an inpatient rehab.