Is Suboxone Safe For Heroin Addiction?

Suboxone is a combination medication used to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are painful and highly distressing. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting and anorexia
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings
  • Restless leg syndrome and insomnia
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Extreme anxiety and weakness
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Feeling hot and then cold
  • Diarrhea

The acute phase can last for up to ten days to two weeks. Other symptoms, such as insomnia and weakness, can persist for as long as several months. Opioid withdrawal is very difficult to endure. It’s no wonder people who are addicted to opioids continue to use their drug of choice just to avoid it. Others, who would like to quit, aren’t willing to do so without some sort of medical assistance.

What Is Suboxone

Suboxone contains two medications. One is buprenorphine, which is a synthetic opioid. It helps to curb withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings by partially activating the same opioid receptors in the brain that heroin and other opioids do. It’s not a full opioid agonist, however. This means that its ability to activate opioid receptors is only partial. It has a ceiling effect. A ceiling effect means that buprenorphine will not work to ease withdrawal symptoms beyond a certain dose. Suboxone daily doses are generally around 16 milligrams. Some people feel fine on less. Doses beyond 32 milligrams are not recommended.

Suboxone also contains naloxone, a drug used to treat opioid overdose. It’s widely known by its brand name, Narcan. It’s included at doses equal to one-quarter of the buprenorphine content. If you’re taking a 4 milligram dose of buprenorphine, then you’re getting 1 milligram of naloxone. The naloxone is included to discourage abuse of the buprenorphine if it’s injected. When taken orally as directed, the amount of naloxone won’t have much effect, if any. However, if it’s injected, it will block any euphoric effects from the buprenorphine. People tolerant to opioids, as heroin addicts are, rarely experience any euphoria from oral doses of Suboxone.

Suboxone Safety

Suboxone is generally safe for most people. It’s certainly safer than using heroin, particularly if it’s injected. Intravenous injection of heroin can lead to endocarditis, an infection of the heart valves than can easily kill. If the damage to the heart valves is severe enough, the person will die without open-heart surgery to replace them. This type of surgery, even if successful, often leaves the patient with permanent, disabling health problems, such as weakness and shortness of breath.

People using heroin, even if it’s not injected, are still at a high risk of overdose. This is because the heroin scene has changed in recent years. Much of the heroin sold is now cut with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid about 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl has analogues, or chemical cousins, even stronger than that. These are sometimes used as cutting agents, too. It’s not hard to see how an unwitting heroin user could easily overdose and die from heroin cut with fentanyl.

The Suboxone Controversy

The use of Suboxone for the treatment of heroin addiction is controversial. It’s a synthetic drug. It’s not derived from opium like heroin is. Suboxone has only been in use as a treatment for opioid addiction since about 2002. Heroin has been around since at least the 1890’s. Much more is known about heroin than Suboxone. Suboxone has some peculiar side effects not generally seen with natural and semi-synthetic opioids:

  • Numbness in mouth
  • Red tongue
  • Redness inside of mouth
  • Insomnia

There is no way to be sure what these peculiar side effects might mean for long-term Suboxone users.

Suboxone has other problems, too. It’s addictive. It generally produces a protracted, highly unpleasant withdrawal syndrome that lasts at least a month. This is because the drug has an extremely long half-life. A half-life is an expression of the time it takes for the body to metabolize, or break down, half of the dose of an ingested drug. Buprenorphine’s half-life is a whopping 24-42 hours. Because they stay in the body so much longer, long-acting drugs produce longer withdrawal timelines than short-acting ones.

Precipitated Withdrawal

Suboxone will cause a phenomenon known as precipitated withdrawal, or PW, if given too soon into the withdrawal process. It typically cannot safely be given any sooner than around 48 hours after the last dose of heroin without risking PW. Therefore, the heroin addict must be in full-blown withdrawal before they can obtain any relief. This is a definite drawback. Many heroin addicts simply aren’t going to suffer that long before getting relief. They are more likely to turn to methadone, which can be given at any time. At sufficient doses, methadone will stop withdrawal symptoms in their tracks within an hour or two at most. Methadone is also a synthetic opioid, but it’s full agonist, not a partial one.

The fact is, in contrast to methadone, Suboxone won’t work for everyone. People with very high opioid tolerance levels tend to be the ones not helped by buprenorphine. These people will need to use methadone to get relief. Both Suboxone and methadone can be used on either a temporary or permanent basis. Both can be used in decreasing doses over time to slowly detox from the heroin and then stop all drug use. Both can also be used as maintenance drugs. This means that a stable dose is taken daily to curb drug cravings and to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. This allows a motivated individual to work and attend to family responsibilities.

A Miracle Drug?

Suboxone has been hailed as a miracle drug by its proponents. That’s probably not completely true, but it has allowed countless people to stop heroin use and pursue normal lives. Anything, whether it’s Suboxone or methadone, or drug treatment or whatever, is better and safer than continuing to use heroin.

If you’re trying to get off of heroin or any other drug, we can help. We have trained counselors available 24 hours a day to speak to you and assist you in finding the help you need. Just call us anytime at 877-978-3125. We look forward to helping you change your life.

Real Client Testimonials

  • Before coming to coastal I was hopeless, helpless, and my family wanted nothing to do with me. It wasn’t the first detox I’d ever been to, but it was the only one who showed me so much love and compassion. They gave me hope. It’s hard to put into words the amount of gratitude I have for this facility. The employees were my family when I had none. The staff went out of their way to make sure not only were my physical needs taken care of, but my emotional needs as well. From the first phone call prior to admission, to helping me set up continuing care, they never missed a beat. Even going as far as to help me with my legal issues via Zoom court. This isn’t just a detox, they are the family I never had. All of the techs, especially Karen, are phenomenal. They will take the time to listen to you, laugh, and cry(if needed) with you. If you are reading this and you or your loved one is suffering like I was, go to Coastal Detox. The level of care is more than I could ever put into a review. It wasn’t the first detox I’d been to, but it has been my last; I owe them everything I have today, including my life.

    Travis B. Avatar
    Travis B.
    12/07/2020
  • Had a really good experience at Coastal. The staff really went above and beyond in helping me get in and gave me the respect l, space and care I needed after I first got there. As I started to fell better they encouraged me to take part in groups which helped get me out of my head and bring positivity and health to my thinking. They had a great massage therapist, who came daily and it was evident the nursing staff genuinely cared. Got to know some of the staff as well and I’m grateful for the cooks Joe and Chris. Those guys literally made us sirloins and pork chops for dinner. Also I gotta thank Chris and Chris for helping me get in and setting me up with a transition plan. Real grateful for that help, I’m not sure if it’s management intention to hire guys named Chris but they got a good thing going there. Overall, I’m clean and sober today and walking it out. Coastal gave me a base that set me up for the success that I’m walking in today

    Brandon B. Avatar
    Brandon B.
    1/16/2020
  • My family is very thankful for Coastal Detox. They have went above and beyond for my son a few times. Unfortunately he has needed their help more than once and they have ever turned their back on him, even when he was at his worst. Jeannie and Chris have been amazing and kept me informed through the entire process. They truly care about the addict and want to help them especially when it would be easy to give up on them. I had many detox facilities be rude and uncaring to me when I was searching for help for my son, but Coastal never did that to us. I don't know the names of all the team members that have helped my son but I know their are many and y'all are angels!! One day we will be able to pay it forward and help someone as you have helped us. Thank you for all you do!!

    Brenda A. Avatar
    Brenda A.
    1/01/2020
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/13/2019
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/06/2019

No products in the cart.