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Everything You Need To Know About Suboxone Treatment Programs and Holistic Recovery

Last Medical Review On: July 17, 2024
Updated On: June 15, 2024
6 min read
Written by:

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Medical Review by:

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., M.S.

Suboxone is a medication containing buprenorphine and naloxone, primarily prescribed to manage opioid dependence and addiction.[1] While Suboxone plays a crucial role in opioid addiction treatment by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings, it also carries risks of misuse and dependence if not used as directed.

The combination of buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, and naloxone, an opioid antagonist, helps individuals stabilize their opioid use and transition to long-term recovery. However, misuse of Suboxone, such as taking higher doses than prescribed or using it without medical supervision, can lead to adverse effects and hinder treatment progress.

Suboxone Treatment

Key Points

  • Suboxone is a medication containing buprenorphine and naloxone used primarily for the treatment of opioid dependence and addiction.
  • It helps manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with opioid use disorder while reducing the risk of misuse and overdose.
  • Despite its therapeutic benefits, Suboxone can be misused by taking higher doses than prescribed or using it without medical supervision.
  • Misuse and diversion of Suboxone contribute to its abuse potential, posing risks to individual health and treatment programs.
  • Suboxone addiction can lead to adverse effects on physical and mental health, including respiratory depression, sedation, mood swings, and cognitive impairment.
  • Dependence on Suboxone can develop with prolonged or excessive use, increasing the risk of overdose when combined with other substances.
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    What is Suboxone?

    Suboxone is a medication primarily used in the treatment of opioid dependence and addiction.[2] Comprising two key ingredients, buprenorphine and naloxone, Suboxone is designed to mitigate withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with opioid use disorder while minimizing the risk of misuse and overdose.

    Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, acts on the same brain receptors as opioids but with a ceiling effect, helping individuals manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings without producing significant euphoria. Naloxone, an opioid antagonist, is included to deter misuse by precipitating withdrawal symptoms if Suboxone is tampered with or injected.

    This combination makes Suboxone an effective tool in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs aimed at supporting individuals in their journey toward opioid recovery. However, it’s essential to use Suboxone as a healthcare provider prescribes to maximize its benefits and minimize potential risks.

    Suboxone, like all drugs containing buprenorphine, is a Schedule III drug, signifying that it has recognized medical uses but carries a moderate risk of physical or psychological dependence.[3]

    Suboxone Addiction and Abuse

    Suboxone, although primarily used as a medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence, can be abused due to its opioid component, buprenorphine.[4] Some individuals may misuse Suboxone by taking higher doses than prescribed, using it without a prescription, or combining it with other substances to intensify its effects. This misuse can lead to euphoria, sedation, and feelings of relaxation.

    Additionally, Suboxone diversion—where it is sold or distributed illicitly—contributes to its abuse potential. Such misuse and diversion not only pose risks to individual health but also undermine its intended therapeutic use within addiction treatment programs.

    Suboxone Quick Reference Chart

    Drug Category Prescription medication
    Commercial & Street Names Subs, bupe, oranges
    DEA Schedule Schedule III
    Administration Ingested, injected

    Statistics on Suboxone Use, Misuse, and Addiction

    Studies conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have demonstrated comparable efficacy between a buprenorphine/naloxone combination and extended-release naltrexone in the treatment of opioid use disorder.[5] However, the initiation of treatment with naltrexone presents challenges as it requires full detoxification, making it more difficult to start among active opioid users.

    While Suboxone is an effective treatment for opioid dependence, it is not immune to abuse.[6] Individuals addicted to low doses of opiates are more likely to abuse Suboxone, as it can precipitate withdrawal symptoms in high doses. The inclusion of naloxone in Suboxone serves as a deterrent against abuse by causing withdrawal symptoms when the drug is injected. However, reports from law enforcement and pharmacists suggest that Suboxone abuse is still prevalent, particularly through snorting.

    It’s important to note that combining buprenorphine with heroin does not intensify the effects, but when combined with methadone, the effects of both drugs are enhanced. Consequently, diverted buprenorphine may appeal to individuals currently undergoing methadone therapy for opioid addiction.

    Suboxone Addiction and Abuse

    Like many prescription medications, Suboxone carries a risk of misuse, dependence, and addiction when used outside of medical guidance.[7] Individuals may abuse Suboxone by taking higher doses than prescribed, using it more frequently than recommended, or using it via non-prescribed routes of administration such as snorting or injecting.

    Suboxone abuse can lead to various adverse effects on physical and mental health. Excessive use of Suboxone can result in respiratory depression, sedation, dizziness, confusion, and even overdose, especially when combined with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines. Additionally, individuals who abuse Suboxone may experience psychological symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment.

    Despite containing naloxone, which is intended to deter abuse by precipitating withdrawal symptoms if the medication is injected, some individuals are still able to misuse Suboxone successfully. This highlights the complex nature of substance abuse and the challenges in preventing the misuse of medications like Suboxone.

    Risk of Dependence and Overdose

    Dependence on Suboxone can develop when individuals use it for an extended period or in higher doses than prescribed. Over time, the body may become tolerant to Suboxone, requiring larger doses to achieve the desired effects.

    In addition to dependence, Suboxone overdose is a serious concern, especially when combined with other substances that depress the central nervous system, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines. Symptoms of a Suboxone overdose may include respiratory depression, extreme sedation, pinpoint pupils, confusion, and even coma or death. It’s crucial for individuals using Suboxone to follow their healthcare provider’s instructions carefully and avoid combining it with other substances without medical supervision to reduce the risk of overdose.[8]

    Suboxone Addiction and Mental Health

    Suboxone addiction can intertwine with various mental health challenges, complicating the treatment process. Individuals struggling with Suboxone addiction often experience co-occurring mental health disorders or substance use disorders, complicating their overall clinical picture.[9]

    Effective treatment for Suboxone addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders may involve a combination of therapy, counseling, medication management, and holistic interventions aimed at addressing underlying mental health issues while supporting individuals in overcoming Suboxone dependence. Seeking help from qualified healthcare professionals is essential for individuals navigating these challenges and seeking recovery.

    What Does A Suboxone Treatment Program Look Like?

    Suboxone addiction treatment varies in cost, duration, and process, depending on your individual needs. Treatment typically starts with an assessment to create a personalized care plan. For severe addiction, medical detox may be necessary to manage suboxone withdrawal symptoms safely. Following detox, individuals may enter residential or outpatient rehabilitation and engage in therapy, counseling, and support groups to address addiction’s psychological aspects.

    A team of professionals, including doctors, therapists, and counselors, provide support throughout treatment. After completing initial treatment, individuals may transition to aftercare programs like ongoing therapy or support groups to maintain sobriety and prevent relapse.

    Suboxone Treatment Programs At Alpas Wellness

    Everyone’s treatment journey is unique, which is why Suboxone addiction treatment centers typically offer several different levels of care that can best align with your specific needs:

    • Medical Detoxification (Detox): Detoxification, commonly referred to as detox, involves the intentional elimination of harmful substances such as drugs or alcohol from the body. This process is typically conducted under close supervision in a controlled environment, such as a medical facility or specialized detoxification center. The primary objective of detox is to safely and effectively manage the physical symptoms of withdrawal while preparing individuals for subsequent treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Medically Managed Care: Medically managed care combines medical expertise with therapy to support patients and aid their recovery. Medical professionals closely monitor patients’ progress, adjusting treatments as needed and working with other team members. This approach addresses physical and psychological aspects of patients’ conditions for overall healing and lasting well-being.
    • Inpatient Residential Treatment: Inpatient residential treatment is a rehab program where individuals stay full-time at a specialized facility during their treatment. This setup offers constant care and support from a team of healthcare professionals. Programs usually include individual therapy, group counseling, education sessions, and recreational activities to address addiction’s different aspects. By removing individuals from their regular environment, inpatient treatment allows for focused attention on recovery, intensive therapy, and learning coping skills for long-term sobriety.

    Therapies Used in A Suboxone Treatment Program

    Alpas offers several evidence-based approaches to treating Suboxone addiction:

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a popular therapy that targets negative thoughts and behaviors linked to mental health problems like addiction. In sessions, individuals work with a therapist to challenge distorted thinking, learn coping strategies, and manage cravings. This therapy aims to empower individuals to change behaviors and enhance emotional well-being through collaboration with the therapist.
    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT, a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, combines mindfulness, acceptance, and behavior change techniques. Initially designed for borderline personality disorder, DBT now treats various mental health issues, including addiction. It focuses on emotion regulation, interpersonal skills, and distress tolerance. Therapists employ individual sessions, group training, coaching, and assignments to teach coping skills and enhance emotional stability.
    • Motivational Interviewing (MI): MI is a counseling approach that boosts motivation for behavior change. It tackles ambivalence, enhances intrinsic motivation, and aids decision-making. Therapists employ collaborative conversations, empathy, and reflective listening to help individuals align their behavior with goals. MI empowers individuals to make positive changes by enhancing readiness and commitment.
    • Contingency Management: Contingency management is a therapy method using rewards to encourage desired behaviors like staying sober. Individuals receive incentives for meeting treatment goals, such as attending sessions or passing drug tests. Rewards can be vouchers, prizes, or praise to boost motivation and adherence to treatment.
    • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): MET is a therapy method that boosts motivation and commitment to change. It includes discussions and feedback to address uncertainty about behavior change. MET helps people identify their values and goals, building confidence in their ability to change. It emphasizes internal motivation for positive transformation rather than delving into the origins of addiction.
    • Experiential Therapy: Experiential therapy uses hands-on activities for emotional processing and growth. Instead of just talking, it involves activities like role-playing and art therapy. These experiences help individuals express emotions and develop coping strategies in a supportive setting, engaging body, mind, and spirit for personal transformation.
    • Relapse Prevention: Relapse prevention helps people recovering from addiction identify triggers, develop coping strategies, and create plans to avoid relapse. Participants learn to recognize warning signs like stress and emotions, gaining skills to manage them effectively. By increasing self-awareness and offering practical tools, this therapy supports long-term sobriety by addressing underlying issues contributing to addictive behaviors.
    • Twelve-Step Facilitation: Twelve-step facilitation supports addiction recovery by involving individuals in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). It includes group meetings, working through the Twelve Steps, and receiving encouragement from peers. This approach fosters community and accountability, helping individuals establish and maintain sobriety while providing tools for long-term recovery.
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    Frequently Asked Questions About Suboxone


    How is Suboxone different from other medications for opioid addiction?


    Suboxone combines buprenorphine and naloxone, while other medications may contain different active ingredients or formulations. It is unique in its ability to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings while minimizing the risk of misuse.


    Can Suboxone be used for pain management?


    Yes, Suboxone can be used for pain management in certain situations, particularly for individuals who also have opioid addiction. However, it is typically prescribed off-label for pain and should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.


    Can I stop taking Suboxone cold turkey?


    It is not recommended to stop taking Suboxone suddenly, as it can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Tapering off the medication gradually under the supervision of a healthcare provider is generally the safest approach to discontinuing Suboxone treatment.


    [1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2023). Buprenorphine. on April 4, 2024

    [2] Suboxone: Side effects, dosage, uses, and more. (n.d.). on April 4, 2024

    [3] DEA Office of Diversion Control. (2013). BUPRENORPHINE (Trade Names: Buprenex®, Suboxone®, Subutex®). on April 4, 2024

    [4] Grinspoon, P. (2018, March 20). 5 myths about using Suboxone to treat opiate addiction – Harvard Health Blog. Harvard Health Blog. on April 4, 2024

    [5] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, December). How effective are medications to treat opioid use disorder? National Institute on Drug Abuse. on April 4, 2024


    [7] Suboxone addiction: Signs, withdrawal, treatment, more. (2022, May 31). on April 4, 2024

    [8] Abuse, N. I. on D. (2023, January 20). Overdose deaths involving buprenorphine did not proportionally increase with new flexibilities in prescribing. National Institute on Drug Abuse. on April 4, 2024

    [9] Xu, K. Y., Huang, V., Williams, A. R., Martin, C. E., Bazazi, A. R., & Grucza, R. A. (2023). Co-occurring psychiatric disorders and disparities in buprenorphine utilization in opioid use disorder: An analysis of insurance claims. Drug and Alcohol Dependence Reports, 9, 100195. on April 4, 2024

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