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Suboxone – Treatment for Heroin Addiction

The Suboxone Stigma

You may have seen it floating around Facebook. “Suboxone – This is Not Recovery”.

Like Methadone, there’s an unfortunate stigma associated with medical treatments for heroin addiction like Suboxone. Some feel that medical treatments such as Methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol are a “crutch”. These same people often refute the benefits of Suboxone by claiming it’s just replacing one drug for another. While there may be some truth to these claims, many heroin users are so addicted that going cold turkey and experiencing the dreadful withdrawal effects from coming off of heroin or opiates is so awful that they simply keep using. But don’t those with a broken leg require a temporary crutch? Wouldn’t it be better to replace a deadly, illegal drug with a prescription pharmaceutical that can eventually lead to independence from any drug?

What is Suboxone and How Does it Work?

Regrettably, the success rate of quitting “cold turkey” is less than 25 percent, and the withdrawal symptoms that people feel are often physically unbearable. This is where medication assisted treatment, under the tutelage and close monitoring of a qualified health care professional can be greatly beneficial.

Suboxone is a prescription drug that contains both buprenorphine and naloxone (the active ingredients). The combination of these two active ingredients minimizes and even eliminates both withdrawal and cravings, making it possible to conquer heroin addiction and live a normal healthy life of sobriety. Simply put, medication assisted treatment for opiate dependence and addiction such as Suboxone, Methadone and Vivitrol, when done right is not unlike using a medication to treat a chronic illness such as diabetes or heart disease.

Buprenorphine is an opiod medication, which is also known as a narcotic that brings about the feelings of euphoria that are often associated with heroin and opiate abuse. Naloxone works in conjunction with buprenorphine by blocking the effects of opioids. Buprenorphine tricks the brain into thinking an opioid such as heroin is in their body, therefore suppressing symptoms of withdrawal and cravings that are associated with one’s drug / opiate of choice.

When Suboxone is no longer required, a slow taper is strongly recommended. Those who taper slowly off this medication will experience virtually no withdrawal effects. The taper is most effective when managed with and by your treating physician as well as counseling.

Some may choose Suboxone as their medication assisted treatment option because it does not require treatment in a highly regulated federal program similar to a Methadone clinic. However, Suboxone treatment does require visiting a clinic typically once a month to renew their prescription. This is typically accompanied by a drug test. So how does it work?

How do I Get Suboxone?
Suboxone Therapy

Acquiring Suboxone isn’t cut and dry. Because only certain doctors prescribe it, you first have to find a Suboxone doctor. Some require appointments while others do not. After arriving at the Suboxone clinic you may have to fill out some paperwork, show proof of insurance and wait awhile before the doctor is available. Typically, a visit at the clinic includes a consultation, a drug test and at the end of the visit, a prescription for Suboxone. Afterwards, Suboxone can be acquired at a local pharmacy, though sometimes it’s difficult to find a pharmacy that possesses Suboxone.

What are the advantages of choosing Suboxone?

Buprenorphine is a long acting form of medication assisted treatment, which means it gets stuck in the brain’s opiate receptors for approximately 24 hours. When this occurs, the “full opioids” (the misused drug of choice), cannot get in. This means you have a full 24 hours of a reprieve each time a dose of Suboxone is taken. If a full opioid is taken in that time frame, the high usually associated with it is simply not achieved. Thus, Suboxone blocks the affects of heroin and opiate abuse.

Another advantage is the “ceiling effect”. In other words, taking more Suboxone than prescribed by your treating physician will not result in a full opioid effect or the “high” drug addicts aim to acquire..

Another advantage is that you do not need to visit a clinic daily or admit yourself to a residential treatment facility. This can allow more time for family, work, and other activities that will ultimately improve your quality of life.

Choosing to use Suboxone means a monthly visit to a doctor’s office, which offers privacy and confidentiality while you recover safely. However, counseling is strongly recommended and even required by Suboxone doctors and frankly, those who couple medical treatment with some form of counseling have a much better chance of long term success and recovery.

Disadvantages of Suboxone

While there are certainly many advantages to choosing Suboxone as a heroin recovery option, there are also disadvantages. So what are they?

Regrettably, some physicians prescribing Suboxone are inexperienced and have virtually no knowledge about Suboxone or medication assisted treatment in general. Thus, while the ultimate goal may be to acquire the medication, there’s a much better chance of success when working with an experienced and knowledgeable physician. Research therefore, is crucial.

While Suboxone helps with the physical aspect of treating addiction, it does not assist with the emotional reasons that led to heroin and opiate addiction. It is highly recommended to seek counseling while on Suboxone to aid in a long term, successful recovery.

Additionally, Suboxone can be costly, even for those with insurance. Moreover, withdrawal symptoms can occur for up to two weeks when starting Suboxone. However, withdrawal symptoms and other effects are not nearly as strong or brutal in comparison to going cold turkey.

Suboxone abuse
Suboxone Abuse

While Suboxone can be an effective treatment for heroin addiction, it can be and is often abused. In fact, many drug users who have yet to try stronger opiates sometimes make Suboxone their drug of choice (DOC). While documentation may suggest otherwise, people who take Suboxone recreationally can experience a slight “high” or euphoria similar to but weaker than opiates like heroin, Percocet, oxycodone, morphine, etc. It may not be as popular, but Suboxone can be found on the streets and are being sold by drug dealers. Thus, those who use Suboxone for recovery purposes are encouraged to use it as directed by a licensed physician and not deviate from the program.


Suboxone is an opiate and thus, it is an addicting substance. Withdrawal effects are possible which makes getting off Suboxone very difficult. Thus, like Methadone, those who use Suboxone as a treatment for heroin addiction should be prepared to taper down slowly rather than quitting cold turkey. When used right, Suboxone can help people conquer their heroin addiction and saves lives.


Ultimately, you need to decide what is best for you that will aid and result in a full recovery. Every body chemistry is different. What works for one may not work for another. Before fully committing to any one treatment method, it would be in your best interest to talk to as many people as you can that have been through this, particularly those in active recovery (recovering addicts), as they have found what works for them. To speak with real recovering addicts and experts related to heroin addiction and recovery, visit our Heroin Addiction & Recovery Discussion Forum.

Technology is amazing. You can talk to people online in the privacy and safety of your own home, with people on discussion forums that have “been there, done that”. Educate yourself as much as possible before making a decision on your recovery option. This will not be an easy road. But any road to recovery is admirable and despite what others may say, and despite what stigmas may or may not exist, be proud of yourself.

Visit our list of prescreened addiction treatment centers and drug rehabs to see who we recommend. Click here to contact us and for addiction help.

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