Is Suboxone treatment effective as an MAT strategy?
Is Suboxone treatment effective as an MAT strategy?

In the midst of the third wave of the opioid epidemic, abuse and overdose rates remain dangerously high. Fortunately, suboxone treatment, as well as other medication-assisted treatments, have been introduced to suppress these rates. While overcoming opioid addiction is a multi-tiered process, medicines like suboxone can effectively assist individuals in achieving and maintaining sobriety.

Because opioid addiction is a complex disorder, it is important to not only consider the effects of suboxone treatment, but also the fundamental dangers of opioid addiction. This recognition will allow you to make an informed decision regarding treatment if you or a loved one is suffering from this disorder, as suboxone has disadvantages as well as advantages.

Dangers of Opioid Use Disorder

Opioids come in various forms. Prescription opioids, such as Vicodin, morphine, and OxyContin can be prescribed by a physician or obtained illegally. Semi-synthetic opioids, primarily heroin, are illicitly manufactured and are relatively cheaper to obtain illegally than the previously mentioned prescription pills. Fully-synthetic opioids are manmade and contain no natural compounds. Fentanyl is the most dangerous fully-synthetic opioid due to its potency being 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70,630 drug overdose deaths were reported in 2019 alone, with opioids being the main driver of fatal drug overdoses. Opioid abuse affects numerous organs and poses a serious risk of death when misused. Although there are many dangers associated with this type of drug, cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, and viral infection are among the most prominent.

As depressants, opioids suppress the operation of various vital organs. The lungs are among the most affected. When opioids are ingested, they virtually slow everything down, this includes breathing. When an excess amount is ingested, the individual using it may suffer respiratory arrest which is when breathing ceases completely. Respiratory arrest is one of the main contributors to opioid overdose fatality.

Because opioids cause respiratory suppression, neighboring vital organs are denied a sufficient amount of oxygen. Lacking an adequate amount of oxygen, the heart is highly at risk for dysfunction. If opioids have been abused in excess, or for a prolonged period of time, an individual may experience cardiac arrest. Along with the cessation of breathing, cardiac arrest is a leading cause of overdose fatality among those with an opioid use disorder.

Organ failure is a very present danger among those suffering from opioid addiction. An additional health risk associated with opioid abuse involves the method of administration. Heroin is typically administered via hypodermic needle. Individuals who share needles are at a very high risk for contracting viral infections such as Hepatitis or HIV. Due to their subsequent drug abuse, their immune systems are extremely weak, making contraction all the more likely.

What is Suboxone?

Approved by the FDA in 2002 in an attempt to minimize the rates of opioid overdose and relapse, suboxone is the combination of two counteracting substances. Suboxone effectively combines naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, with buprenorphine. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist while buprenorphine is an opioid. By combining these two drugs, opioid cravings are diminished and symptoms of opiate withdrawal are subdued. Suboxone comes in pill form and can be taken by being placed inside of the cheek or under the tongue until it dissolves. Unlike similar addiction medications, patients prescribed this drug are responsible for following the instructions for use outside of the medical facility.

Is Suboxone Treatment Effective?

Medication-assisted treatments, such as suboxone, are very effective in treating opioid use disorders. Due to the high rate of addiction, relapse, and overdose involving opioids, suboxone works to prevent cravings and the likelihood of relapse; therefore, reducing the chances of overdose fatality. As stated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, suboxone reduces opioid use and opioid use disorder-related symptoms, reduces the risk of infectious disease transmission, and reduces criminal behavior associated with drug use. Individuals taking suboxone are also far more likely to successfully complete an addiction treatment program compared to those who are not on the medication. Like most addiction treatment options, however, there are both advantages and disadvantages to suboxone.

Advantages of Suboxone Treatment

Suboxone is highly effective in treating various components of opioid use disorder. The naloxone/buprenorphine combination effectively reduces opioid cravings by chemically manipulating neurotransmitters in the brain. Due to this reduction in craving, the chances of an individual relapsing decrease significantly. By eradicating the urge to use opioids and minimizing the probability of relapse, individuals are more likely to be focused while receiving professional addiction treatment, improving the likelihood of maintained sobriety and successful recovery.

Disadvantages of Suboxone Treatment

Although suboxone is an effective opioid addiction treatment option, there are disadvantages in receiving this medication. Containing the opioid component buprenorphine, suboxone can lead to dependency, abuse and withdrawal. The efficacy of suboxone is largely debated within the medical community, with some physicians arguing that  the intention of medication-assisted treatment is to eliminate substance dependence, not foster dependence on a safer alternative. Due to the mildly addictive quality of suboxone, physician supervision is necessary so that usage gradually tapers off, avoiding unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, cravings, or relapse.

Trust The Experts

As communities across the United States struggle to resist the ongoing opioid epidemic, medication-assisted treatments, such as suboxone treatment, provide long-awaited relief to those suffering from an opioid use disorder. When left untreated, opioid abuse can lead to respiratory or cardiac arrest, the contraction of a viral infection, and overdose.

Suboxone works by combining buprenorphine, an opioid, with naloxone which is an opioid antagonist. This medication effectively reduces cravings and the likelihood of relapse while assisting in the continuation of professional addiction treatment. Although suboxone is highly beneficial towards the treatment of opioid use disorders, it is at risk for abuse; therefore, clinical supervision is necessary.

If you or a loved one is suffering from an opioid use disorder, the professionals at Harmony Health Group want to help. Our team consists of treatment specialists who are experienced in opioid addiction and recovery. As experts in the field, we strive to provide quality treatment to all those in need by implementing scientifically-proven treatment techniques in combination with personalized, compassionate care. You are not alone. Contact us at Harmony Health Group today to see if suboxone treatment is right for you.