Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms | Timeline & Detox
Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) is an FDA-approved medication used to treat opioid dependence. However, Suboxone is itself potentially dependence forming and can cause withdrawal symptoms best managed with tapering and medical detoxification services.
Suboxone is a brand name medication containing a combination of buprenorphine (a partial opioid agonist) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist).
Suboxone is used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat opioid dependence, a condition that commonly forms due to opioid use disorder (addiction).
However, even though Suboxone is used to treat opioid addiction and dependence, the drug itself can potentially be abused, and any long-term use can lead to some level of physiological dependence and eventual withdrawal symptoms when you stop use.
Symptoms Of Suboxone Withdrawal
While Suboxone is safely used to treat opioid withdrawal, buprenorphine itself is also potentially dependence-forming.
Going off this medication cold turkey after physical dependence has formed (either to Suboxone alone or to Suboxone following chronic use of other opioid drugs) can cause a range of psychological and flu-like symptoms, including:
- body aches
- difficulty concentrating
- drug cravings
- mood swings
- nausea and vomiting
- runny nose
The intensity of these symptoms and the discomfort a patient may experience can vary a great deal in severity from individual to individual, depending on a person’s dosage, length of use, and other factors.
Suboxone Withdrawal Timeline
Because Suboxone is a long-acting drug that binds to opioid receptors, Suboxone withdrawal symptoms tend to be unusually prolonged, lasting between ten days and one month.
1-3 Days After Last Dose
As the buprenorphine is metabolized and removed from the body, physical symptoms of withdrawal will begin and intensify.
1 Week After Last Dose
During the first week, mild or severe withdrawal symptoms will continue, peaking and then slowly falling off as the body adjusts.
Unfortunately, even after the physical symptoms of withdrawal have resolved, the psychological impact of the drug’s absence can linger in the form of depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and cravings.
4 Weeks +
Although the major physical symptoms of Suboxone detox will fully subside after around a month, cravings, unease, and other psychological symptoms can sometimes reoccur weeks or months into the future.
Suboxone Detox Programs
Tapering is the best option for managing Suboxone addiction and dependence. While quitting the drug all at once tends to trigger the worst withdrawal symptoms, a steady decrease in dosage can give the body time to adapt, reducing or even avoiding withdrawal symptoms entirely.
This process can be slow going, however, with weekly reductions of at most 10-20% of one’s starting dosage.
This amount can also be dramatically decreased if an individual needs a slower, more controlled taper down to better manage their symptoms.
Medical detox services can also help those who do wish to attempt to quit the drug cold turkey, as well as those who experience withdrawal effects (physical or psychological) even after working through a gradual tapering program.
Suboxone Vs. Methadone For Opioid Treatment
Suboxone was developed as an alternative to methadone and is generally used in the same way through a form of treatment known as opioid maintenance therapy. But there are also substantial differences between these two long-term options for medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Methadone is an unusually long-acting opioid agonist that relieves opiate withdrawal symptoms and also blunts or blocks the effects of opioids. However, methadone is prone to drug abuse and can only be distributed in controlled addiction treatment settings. It also needs to be taken every day.
Suboxone treatment, on the other hand, is considered to be a lower risk as the medication has a lower potential for abuse, allowing it to be distributed by healthcare providers in regular outpatient settings.
The drugs also come in different forms, including a long-lasting injectable form of buprenorphine. However, Suboxone treatment tends to be considerably more expensive than methadone treatment.
- African Health Sciences — Opiate withdrawal syndrome in buprenorphine abusers admitted to a rehabilitation center in Tunisia https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5398454/
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — What is Buprenorphine? https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/buprenorphine