Subutex is a medication that is prescribed to help treat opioid addiction. The drug is administered to relieve symptoms of opioid withdrawal and to reduce cravings. Although the drug doesn’t get you high, it is still considered an opioid. This means you will feel withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking the drug.
Despite Subutex’s effectiveness, the drug does come with serious risks, such as dependence or addiction, so caution must be taken when using the medication. This post will discuss what Subutex is, the withdrawal symptoms felt, and how long they last.
Subutex – What Is It?
Subutex is a specific brand name for the drug buprenorphine, which can also be found in other opioid medications, such as suboxone. It is prescribed to people with opioid dependence to help manage intense opioid withdrawal symptoms. The drug is also effective in reducing cravings and therefore helps prevent the risk of a relapse. However, Subutex has been known to precipitate withdrawal symptoms in clients dependent on methadone.
Subutex, a partial opioid antagonist, contains the active drug buprenorphine hydrochloride, which acts as a replacement for opioids, such as heroin, oxycodone, or morphine. When taken, it is dissolved under the tongue before entering the body. Here, it copies the process of opioids and binds to the same receptors that the opioid would bind to.
Subutex is recognized as a partial opioid agonist, whereas other opioids, such as heroin or morphine, are known as full opioid agonists. Partial agonist opioids activate the same receptor sites that addictive drugs do and trick the brain into thinking that it is taking the drug it was once dependent on while minimising withdrawal symptoms.
Although beneficial in some cases, the medication has been criticised for simply replacing one drug with another. While it does not induce the same effects as other drugs, the brain and body will slowly become used to having Subutex in the system as it aids in controlling withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, someone may use the drug to fix minor things, such as headaches. Despite the criticism, the drug can help to reduce overdose or treatment dropout.
Opioid-dependent clients receiving buprenorphine typically take the drug at the start of their addiction treatment. The drug should not be taken for longer than prescribed by a medical professional; opioid maintenance treatment should be followed as recommended, as prolonged use of the drug can lead to dependence. If the medication is taken as advised, then the possibility of addiction is much lower.
Much like other medicines, Subutex comes with some side effects that range from mild to severe, with some even needing medical treatment. You may not experience any of these side effects, but it is good to familiarise yourself with them, so you are not alarmed.
The side effects most commonly experienced are related to opioid withdrawal syndrome. They are:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Body pains, e.g. abdomen, joints, and muscles
- Flu-like symptoms
- Dry mouth
- Depressive thoughts
Medication prescribed to an opioid-dependent client has been found to slow down breathing; this can be possibly fatal. Subutex should especially be taken with care if someone has problems with their breathing, such as asthma, pre-existing respiratory depression, or decreased respiratory reserve. If you are experiencing adverse side effects, then obtain medical assistance immediately.
The drug should not be taken with other medications or street drugs, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants, for the risk of developing serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition. Symptoms of this include agitation, hallucinations, sweating, shivering, nausea, and vomiting. Other drugs that should not be taken with Subutex include:
- central nervous system depressants- reduces the level of alertness
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI)
- alcohol abuse
Concomitant administration of buprenorphine and these drugs can be potentially life-threatening.
Subutex can cause dizziness, impaired thinking, and drowsiness. This is especially true during treatment induction, treatment initiation, or if taken with other central nervous system depressants. If these side effects are present, then a health care professional can suggest a dose reduction in a follow-up client evaluation appointment.
Subutex has been noted to be a safe means of medication for pregnant women with opioid use disorder. However, it is unknown whether the dosage of the drug affects newborn babies. It is likely that babies will be born with neonatal withdrawal syndrome, where they will have to be medically tapered from the opioids following their birth.
Buprenorphine has been associated with mild to severe hepatic impairment in clients. The risk is heightened in the opioid-dependent population as prolonged use of opioids increases the risk of hepatitis C, which can cause liver damage. If people drink to excess, it may also cause alcoholic hepatitis, which can result in severe renal impairment. Baseline liver function tests should be used before Subutex is administered.
There is also a risk, as with many opioids, that the drug can elevate cerebrospinal fluid pressure; therefore, the drug should be used with caution in clients who have recently experienced a head injury.
Subutex Abuse and Dependence
Although Subutex has been noted to be an effective drug in the treatment of opioid dependence, like with many drugs, prolonged use of the medication can potentially lead to a drug dependence, even if taken as prescribed by healthcare professionals. This is why it is important to take the recommended buprenorphine dose.
Similar to the abuse of opioids, buprenorphine can be misused in a similar way. However, abuse of the drug can lead to adverse risks, such as respiratory depression.
To help reduce the risk of misuse and abuse, those administrating buprenorphine treatment should take precautions. This can be achieved by regulating dose adjustment, avoiding the prescription of refills early into treatment, and by ensuring that client follow-up visits are regular with clinical monitoring.
Signs and Symptoms of Overdose
Respiratory depression is the result of central nervous system depression and is a key symptom of an overdose. If a person is experiencing any breathing-related problems then it is important to seek medical help immediately as it could lead to respiratory arrest and be possibly fatal. Other signs of an overdose include:
- Speech disorders
- Poor vision
- Low blood pressure
Subutex Withdrawal Symptoms
If you suddenly stop taking the drug, also known as going cold turkey, then it is likely that you will experience drug withdrawal syndrome; the experience of withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking a substance.
If you have a physical dependence on a drug then you will experience withdrawal symptoms when it begins to leave your body. Withdrawal is the body’s attempt to rid itself of the drug. You may experience psychological and physical symptoms such as:
- Muscle aches
These symptoms will vary depending on factors such as severity and duration of use as well as the dosage of the drug.
The use of Subutex during the opioid detox process has been criticized, as some people believe it is simply replacing one drug with another. However, Subutex is less strong than pure opioids, so the withdrawal symptoms will not be as intense. Nevertheless, uncontrolled withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable and can cause distress, so it is always best to seek professional medical help if symptoms are experienced.
Subutex Withdrawal Timeline
Typically, physical symptoms will abate after around one month whereas psychological symptoms can remain for a prolonged period of time. The symptoms peak in the first 72 hours of withdrawal and in the week that follows symptoms will lessen to general aches and pains which can be felt all over the body.
Some psychological symptoms may be felt such as insomnia and mood swings. However, the biggest psychological symptoms, like depression, are experienced throughout the second week. A month after stopping use is the most sensitive time for clients as they may experience intense cravings, posing the biggest risk of relapse.
This means that Subutex withdrawal can last from the last dose to around a month after. However, although a detox may have been completed, aftercare is needed to ensure clients are able to live a happy and sober life. A substance use disorder is both a mental illness and a medical disease
If you believe you or a loved one is dependent on Subutex, then it is important that you seek professional medical help. A medical professional will then be able to assess and determine the best means of treatment to aid in overcoming the drug addiction.
Medical professionals will then advise clients on whether they believe inpatient or outpatient treatment is needed to overcome possible severe withdrawal symptoms.
Detoxification starts when the drug is no longer being consumed and the body starts to function without the presence of the drug, this is when withdrawal syndrome begins. This process can take time so it is important to look after the body while it goes back to its healthy state. An inpatient detox allows the client to be supported throughout the process.
Substance Abuse Treatment at The Revoke Programme
We understand that it can be difficult to live with a substance use disorder of any kind and that it takes its toll on your everyday life. This is why we offer highly specialised outpatient care.
Our outpatient treatment programme enables you to undergo a comprehensive treatment plan while maintaining your daily routines and responsibilities. Here you are able to learn coping mechanisms that you can then immediately integrate into your everyday life.
Our experienced team have years of experience working in mental and behavioural healthcare and through our evidential and clinical trial-based treatment, we can work with you as you work towards a happy and healthy life.
Contact us today to out find more.