You may have heard of Suboxone but don’t really know much about it. You may know it’s used in the treatment of opioid addiction. This is true, although the narcotic component of Suboxone, buprenorphine, is also sometimes used purely in the treatment of pain. If you’re a spouse whose husband has developed an addiction to opioids, you may wonder how long your husband will need to see a Suboxone doctor during addiction treatment. Generally, Suboxone patients will need to see their doctors once a month. However, this may vary by the policies of the doctor and the state you live in.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a combination prescription drug composed of a synthetic opioid, buprenorphine, and naloxone, which is a drug used to reverse opioid overdose. The naloxone is commonly known as Narcan. It’s present in the Suboxone to discourage abuse. When taken by mouth as directed, the form and amount of naloxone will have little to no effect. However, if it’s injected, it will prevent any euphoria from occurring. It will also probably cause severe withdrawal symptoms as well.
Suboxone works by attaching to the same receptors in the brain that other opioids do. However, it’s not a full narcotic. Its effect on the receptors is limited, although it binds strongly and prevents any other opioids from working while the buprenorphine is there. It’s very long-lasting. A single daily dose is plenty to relieve drug cravings and hold withdrawal symptoms at bay. Suboxone has been called a miracle drug. It has helped many people to regain their sobriety long-term. However, it’s hardly a miracle. In fact, it has some significant limitations:
- It’s addictive
- It can only be prescribed by specially licensed doctors
- The patient must be in advanced withdrawal before the drug can be started
- It won’t help everyone
Suboxone is an opioid and will produce the same withdrawal syndrome as any other opioid if suddenly stopped. These symptoms tend to last longer than those of short-acting opioids, such as oxycodone. Many people find that getting off of this drug is very, very difficult, even if the dose is tapered downward first. This isn’t a problem for a patient who desires to continue therapy, but anyone who would like to quit will face at least some degree of discomfort from withdrawal symptoms from buprenorphine. Patients who remain compliant with the terms of their treatment plan may stay on the drug as long as they like. However, sometimes people want to stop. Other times, it may be a financial issue, such as the loss of medical insurance. Before beginning therapy, it’s important for the patient to understand that this drug is addictive. It’s not necessarily a reason to decline Suboxone therapy, but rather a part of the informed consent process.
Suboxone, by state law, cannot be prescribed by a doctor unless he or she has completed a special training program and is licensed to prescribe the drug. There are a limited number of these doctors, and each doctor can only have a certain amount of Suboxone patients at a time. Depending upon where you live, there may or may not be a Suboxone doctor near you. They may or may not be accepting new patients. You can see how access to Suboxone therapy may be a problem in some cases. However, once you find a doctor and have a prescription, there are no limitations as to where you can fill it. You will usually get a month’s supply at a time. You may fill it at any pharmacy that has it.
Because of the different way that buprenorphine works on opioid brain receptors, the currently addicted patient must be in a state of significant withdrawal before the drug can be started. This means that the patient must first endure two to three days of misery before they can get relief. This is asking a lot. The first dose is given in the doctor’s office under supervision. This is called induction. This is how the doctor determines the correct dose for each patient. More buprenorphine is added until the patient is comfortable. This dose is highly variable. Everyone is different. Patients currently clean of opioids who are worried about an imminent relapse may begin Suboxone at any time. No waiting period is necessary.
Buprenorphine doesn’t help everyone who tries it. Like any drug, it won’t work for everyone. Some people just don’t respond well to it. Others have addictions that are too high-level for the drug to handle. If this happens, methadone is a good option. Methadone is a full narcotic that will relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms reliably.
Compliance with Suboxone Therapy
With the possible exception of the induction period, your husband will likely need to see his Suboxone doctor only once a month for his month’s supply of medication. If there are any problems, he may need to see the doctor more often. It’s critical that all patients follow the doctor’s instructions exactly. Expect urine testing. Some doctors may also require that the patient attend counseling. This will all be detailed in the medication contract between your husband and the doctor. Many Suboxone doctors have a zero tolerance policy for any kind of non-compliance. One dirty urine test, such as one for the presence of other opioids not known to the doctor, can be enough to be expelled from the program. It will not be so easy to find another doctor, either.
Suboxone therapy is serious business. If drug cravings occur, or if withdrawal symptoms are not relieved, your husband needs to tell the doctor immediately. The dose can be increased to as much as 32 milligrams per day in most states. If Suboxone therapy isn’t working, it’s best to just be honest with the doctor. There is always methadone therapy when Suboxone fails.
How to Get Help Finding Suboxone Therapy
If you’re trying to find a quality rehab facility for your husband, you can call us for help. We can also help you find Suboxone clinics. We are professional addiction counselors, and we know how to best help you find the right treatment for your spouse. Just call us at 866-802-6848. We are available 24 hours a day. We help people every day, and we can help you.