How Suboxone Can Be Used to Treat Heroin Addiction

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a medication that works to treat opioid addiction. In general, it is known for alleviating severe withdrawal symptoms and lessening cravings. This substance is used to make heroin detox more comfortable, or at least, mitigate symptoms.

While its interaction with the body and brain can be beneficial during detox and rehab, it is important to use discretion. This type of medication-assisted detox may not be suitable for all cases.

Naloxone and Buprenorphine

Suboxone consists of a combination of two different substances: buprenorphine and naloxone. Naloxone is a drug that interrupts or blocks the euphoric effects of heroin. It is also known under the brand name Narcan, which is administered in the event of an overdose. Naloxone, or Narcan, has recently been approved to be sold without prescription. However, the prices remain fairly high with prescription and insurance. 

Buprenorphine is a medication that people may use to manage opioid dependency. It typically delivers a similar yet soothing effect. This drug is a partial opioid antagonist; however, it still falls under the opiate category. 

Suboxone is a very popular option many rehab facilities offer for detox. If you are suffering from an addiction to heroin or opioid medication, speak to your doctor or local addiction treatment facility. There are many options available to assist you, including medication-assisted detox.

Taking a Closer Look at How Suboxone Works

When it comes to heroin and opiate addiction treatment, individuals may be able to reduce the likelihood of relapse while on suboxone. However, the real question is, how does suboxone work? Breaking down the makeup of this drug a bit further will help to provide more insight. 

Suboxone is preferable for its ability to block people from feeling “high”. Specifically, this occurs because of the naloxone it contains. The buprenorphine, on the other hand, binds to your opioid receptors in an ironically similar fashion as heroin does.

However, it’s not meant to provide the same high as traditional opioid abuse. This fact alone makes it less desirable for abuse overall. This is why buprenorphine is considered an opioid agonist. 


When used alone, buprenorphine is essentially an alternative to treat severe pain. When opting for this type of treatment, it is important to remember that this drug is still in the opiate family.

However, when blended with naloxone to form suboxone, it can significantly assist in the detox and withdrawal process. But, as helpful as this medication can be when managing addiction, it involves a potential for abuse if individuals use it improperly. 

MAT: Trading One Addiction for Another?

Now at this point, many ask why professionals would use this medication to treat opiate addiction in the first place. That is where the naloxone comes in. Naloxone works by literally knocking opioids out of the receptors in the brain. It blocks any effect of buprenorphine’s opioid properties, therefore, rendering it useless for euphoria. 

Another reason why detox uses naloxone and buprenorphine together is because of their difference in half-lives. The half-life of a substance refers to the length of time a substance remains active within the body.

Naloxone has a considerably short half-life in comparison to its partner; it’s about 2 to 12 hours. Buprenorphine remains active for 24 to 48 hours after use. This allows the chemical makeup of suboxone to balance out the effects of the other within one medication. 

The two medications mixed together to form suboxone, work against each other, while with each other simultaneously. This makes suboxone effective in treating heroin and opiate addiction and tricks the body into producing fewer withdrawal symptoms. 

If Suboxone Contains Narcan, Can it Reverse an Overdose?

It is not exactly plain and simple. However, the immediate answer would have to be no. It cannot reverse an overdose. Though suboxone does contain naloxone, used to revive active users who are overdosing, the concentration is simply not high enough. 

That also doesn’t mean that administering more of the medication will be beneficial either. Doing so may even contribute negatively, due to the added mix of chemicals. The truth is, not enough research has been done on the subject.

That said, in a hypothetical sense, the hero might actually fall upon the other active ingredient in suboxone, buprenorphine. Potentially, by clogging the brain receptors, it renders them unable to utilize additional amounts of the drug. Therefore, inhibiting death by overdose. 

However, because the outcome is relatively unknown, it is best to stick with Narcan, if available. Narcan is designed to help in these life-threatening situations. On the other hand, doing something is better than doing nothing when someone’s life is at stake.

Either way, in the event of witnessing an overdose, emergency medical attention must be called immediately. EMT’s are trained in these types of emergencies and can provide lifesaving care without a moment to waste.

Suboxone is Not a Cure for Addiction, But it Can Help

Suboxone and heroin have similar side effects, though used very differently. Nevertheless, it is not a cure for addiction. It will not erase any cravings you have for heroin, although it will discourage usage.

Your doctor or rehab specialist will evaluate your specific case upon admission for drug detox. They will take care to weigh the benefits and possible interactions, prior to deciding if suboxone is the best possible treatment.

Additionally, Suboxone, which is still considered an addictive drug, has less withdrawal after discontinued use than heroin or opioid withdrawal. It still remains an important component in a recovery treatment program.

While taking this medication, however, keep in mind that it is not a cure-all. It is important you also receive behavioral therapy and counseling, to reinforce detox and manage further triggers and cravings. 

Suboxone Use is Not Without Risk

Like any powerful medication, it does not come without the possibility of harsh side effects. Everyone’s body reacts differently to different substances. Now that we’ve covered the question of “how does suboxone work,” one must understand the potential risks involved. 

Some of the side effects of suboxone can include constipation, vomiting and nausea. While this may sound unpleasant, it is less harmful than continuous substance abuse. This is the reason why many physicians recommend the use of suboxone for heroin detox. Considering the lack of active addiction with use, it is concluded that the most deadly element has been eliminated. 

How Suboxone is Used in Substance Dependency Treatment

Suboxone is a type of heroin treatment that is classified as medication-assisted detox. It may also be prescribed throughout the course of further rehab programs, as well as in residential treatment. Another more controversial medication that can sometimes be used in treatment is known as methadone. 

One benefit of suboxone in comparison to methadone is that a physician’s office can prescribe it. Methadone, on the other hand, must be given in a specifically designated clinic or rehab treatment care. This makes methadone a less preferable treatment because the availability is much more limited. 

Suboxone is more easily available as a treatment for both opioid and heroin addictions. Therefore, it is considered a more reliable and sustainable route of medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse and dependency. If your doctor is recommending a prescription for suboxone or methadone, be sure to discuss your expectations for treatment. 

Also, if you’d like to know about the potential benefits, it is important that you understand the details of how suboxone works. Speak openly with your doctor about the dangers of other drug interactions, especially when taking Valium or Xanax.

Some medications can be useless or even have unforeseen harmful side effects. Beware of the potential for abuse and discuss dosage options. Because of how suboxone works, along with other medications it can lead to unconsciousness, impairment, respiratory failure, or accidental death.

How Does Suboxone Work and Dosage Details

Once your initial assessment is complete and your rehab specialist develops your treatment, detox can begin. Deciding how suboxone works toward your goal and whether or not you should use the medication will be the next decision.

It may also depend on the type of rehab treatment that is best for each addiction. Again, this will depend on both a doctor’s recommendation and your own personal discretion. 

Addiction rehab specialists traditionally prescribed dosages anywhere between 2 to 20mg, depending on what is necessary. Dosage of suboxone will depend on the:

  • Severity of addiction
  • Severity of withdrawal
  • Dedication to sobriety
  • Specific recovery needs
  • Length of active addiction
  • The patient’s own discretion
  • Tolerance to the medication
  • Physical and individual body type receiving the medication
  • Amount of success and progress made during detox and rehab treatment

Many of these factors will depend on the initial exam and assessment. However, the dosage is subject to change. Some will decide that it is not for them and would rather achieve sobriety without further medication assistance. Other times, it may be added to a treatment plan.

If suboxone is found to be useful, the dosage may be altered accordingly. Professionals may increase or decrease suboxone dosage over time,  based on individual reaction and necessity. 

Usually, once the decision has been made, suboxone is prescribed on a month by month basis. This means you will most likely receive a 30 day supply at a time. This is why it is very important to have a true dedication to your recovery. Having a supply of the medication, can in itself, be a trigger for some. Furthermore, professionals will provide you with proactive supervision while you are using suboxone to avoid abuse. 

About Suboxone Abuse

Realistically, suboxone works much like heroin does in the body, though not exactly the same. MAT uses this drug because it does not deliver the full euphoric effect and has many surpassing benefits.

It is important you understand when you use suboxone to get off of heroin, you must have careful monitoring and supervision. This is because it is possible to develop an addiction to this medication, just like any other controlled substance.

When suboxone first became available for rehabilitation use, many were under the impression that suboxone abuse was not possible. Unfortunately, this was a naive sentiment. It was believed at the time that upon crushing and abusing the tablets, negative reactions would deter further misuse.

Also, the ingredient buprenorphine is said to have what is called a “ceiling effect.” This refers to the lack of effect that would be experienced upon inappropriately using, despite utilizing higher doses. Naloxone is added to prevent this. 

Though suboxone was specifically engineered to not be enjoyable, in the sense of getting high, there was a catch. When used with other substances, it has the ability to actually heighten the effects of the other chemicals. Some common substances that are abused along with suboxone are: 

  • Stimulants
  • Alcohol
  • Sedatives

How Does Suboxone Work When People Use it Properly?

First and foremost, only individuals with a valid prescription should use suboxone as part of rehab and recovery programs. Also, the use of this medication should only occur under careful professional supervision. Individuals should only use it according to the direction of a medical professional.

Suboxone that is acquired legally comes in a few forms and is designed for maximum effectiveness. The medication is embedded in a film that can be placed under the tongue or on the inside of the cheek. It is devised to be only taken orally. Alternatively, when the subsequent buprenorphine is prescribed separately, it may also come as a dissolvable tablet or an implant. 

Keep in mind that even if you are legally prescribed these medications, there is still a risk for addiction. Still, there are many that in fact chose to abuse this medication despite the dangers associated.

If you are altering your medication in any way, you are abusing it. Some ways this is done are by:

  • Taking more than your instructed dose
  • Compressing pills into a powder and snorting them
  • Swallowing, chewing or by any other means of ingesting
  • Injecting them using water to soak the powder of a crushed pill

Misintended or illegal use of suboxone or any of its divisions can have hazardous and even deadly consequences. Additionally, this also reinforces feeding a new and active addiction. Emergency assistance and rehabilitation treatment should be sought immediately in the event of suspected overdose or dependency.

Heroin Addiction and Suboxone

Suffering from heroin addiction can make you feel like your world is falling apart. Afraid and having no idea where to turn, many are unable to face the truth of their addiction. Understand what heroin is and what it is doing to your body, and the jeopardy you face if left untreated. 

Heroin is an opioid found on the black market. It is illegal in all rights. Drugs like this bought on the street, have probably been manipulated using different ingredients. These additives can be even more deadly. 

The purity of heroin varies, but it all works on your central nervous system and brain similar to narcotic painkillers. The heroin attaches to the opioid receptors in your central nervous system. It floods the brain with large amounts of dopamine. This is what causes the euphoric high. Once your high wears off, you most likely feel tired and run down. This is because the heroin has depressed your central nervous system. 

The consistent exposure of your brain to the dopamine is what causes addiction to heroin. It is extremely easy to develop an addiction or physical dependence. The worst part is knowing that if you stopped using heroin you would soon experience severe withdrawal symptoms. The genuine fear of detox is what leads to continual and harmful substance use. 

However, there is an upside to getting professional rehab care for detox. It is made easier with the help of suboxone, and it is not impossible to get sober. 

The Benefits Of Suboxone For Heroin Addiction

The latest research indicates that approximately only 10% of individuals suffering from opioid dependence or heroin addiction are receiving treatment. Only ten percent. Many are afraid to come forward and seek treatment.

But, no matter what you fear regarding withdrawal and substance abuse treatment, the alternative will be far more destructive. Know that there are people who understand what you are experiencing, and genuinely want to provide help. 

If you are ready to get relief from a relentless and life-threatening addiction, suboxone may be the answer. Still commonly used in detox and treatment, it has proven effective time and time again. Suboxone can make a difference. Helping to get a positive and successful start toward rehabilitation and recovery. Numerous studies and research have been conducted and reflect primarily positive outcomes. This is one statistic you could be proud to be a part of.

Getting Help for Heroin and Opiate Dependency

Please remember you are not alone. Discrete and compassionate rehabilitation care is available and can get you back on track. Contact our rehab facility for more information about being prescribed suboxone for heroin or opioid addiction. Take the first step towards breaking your addiction, and get the help that you deserve. You are worthy of a healthy and sober 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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