Will I Have Withdrawal Symptoms When I Stop Taking Suboxone?

Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) is a prescription medication that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 to treat opioid dependence and addiction.[1] It is given 12-24 hours after the last dose of an opioid drug to help alleviate symptoms of withdrawal and dull cravings. Many individuals with moderate to severe opioid use disorder will continue taking Suboxone in the early weeks and months of their recovery because it can keep cravings at bay, allowing people to focus on their recovery.

Although Suboxone is one of the most effective treatments for opioid dependence, buprenorphine, one of the medications in Suboxone, is a partial opioid that can be physically addictive–even when taken as prescribed. As a result, people who take Suboxone for extended periods of time may experience symptoms of withdrawal when they stop taking it.

Suboxone produces similar withdrawal symptoms as other opioids, but the symptoms can last for a long time. Doctors generally recommend slowly lowering your dose over a period of time to allow your body to adjust to decreasing dosages. This approach is known as tapering, and it can prevent Suboxone withdrawal from occurring.

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Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that binds to opioid receptors in the brain, thereby reducing opioid withdrawal symptoms. However, because it binds to these receptors, the receptors remain dependent on opioid drugs, resulting in withdrawal symptoms that occur when people stop taking it.

Buprenorphine is a long-acting opioid, and in some cases, withdrawal can last for up to a month. Symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Cramps
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Digestive issues
  • Drug cravings
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Indigestion
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

Withdrawal symptoms can vary in duration and severity depending on how long someone has been taking Suboxone and what dose they were taking.

How Long Does Suboxone Withdrawal Last? Understanding the Suboxone Withdrawal Timeline

Long-term Suboxone use and higher doses are associated with a more severe and long-lasting withdrawal timeline. Most people begin experiencing symptoms within the first 72 hours after stopping Suboxone. Physical symptoms usually resolve after two weeks, but psychological symptoms can persist for a month.

Although different factors like age, weight, gender, metabolism, and liver function all influence how long Suboxone withdrawal lasts, an estimated timeline is as follows:

  • 36-72 hours after the last dose – Symptoms will appear and peak closer to the 72-hour mark. People may experience nausea, vomiting, chills, sweating, fever, cravings, and more.
  • 4-7 days after the last dose – Body aches, muscle pain, mood swings, and insomnia are common, but other physical symptoms begin to subside.
  • After 1 week – Symptoms continue to subside but may come and go.
  • After 2 weeks – Most physical symptoms will disappear, but depression, cravings, and irritability may persist.
  • 1 Month after the last dose – Mild cravings and depression may continue but should be manageable with healthy lifestyle choices and behavioral therapy.

Coping With Suboxone Withdrawal

Suboxone is a life-changing medication for many people struggling with opioid addiction, so the fear of experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon cessation should not stop people from getting treatment. It is possible to avoid Suboxone withdrawal by working with one’s physician and following their directions exactly. It is never advised to stop taking Suboxone cold turkey.

Clients who take Suboxone as prescribed will be slowly tapered off of the medication. Depending on their dose and medical needs, the doctor will advise cutting down their dose incrementally until the body is no longer physically dependent. Tapering can reduce, and in many cases prevent, withdrawal symptoms.

Most Suboxone tapering schedules take place over a course of 7-28 days. The longer the taper, the less likely withdrawal symptoms are. In fact, studies have shown that withdrawal symptoms are best managed with a slow, flexible tapering schedule.[2,3] A flexible tapering schedule means the doctor can slow down the taper or bring the dose back up if the patient begins showing symptoms of withdrawal.

Individuals who are still experiencing symptoms may be able to reduce symptom intensity by:

  • Taking symptom-specific medications prescribed by a doctor (such as Lucemyra)
  • Making healthy lifestyle changes such as drinking plenty of water, eating a well-balanced diet, and practicing relaxation techniques
  • Talking to a support group, counselor, or trusted friend about the experience to reduce anxiety and depression

When Is Medical Detox Necessary?

The only reason people should need to withdrawal from Suboxone at a medical detox treatment program is if they are addicted. Although Suboxone is used to treat opioid addiction, the medication itself can be addictive if abused.

People who are addicted to Suboxone may not be able to follow their doctor’s tapering schedule, forcing them to seek alternative options. Cravings and addictive behaviors are likely to result in continued Suboxone use or relapse if individuals don’t seek substance abuse treatment.

Drug and alcohol detox centers can prescribe medications, monitor symptoms, and provide supportive therapies to help people detox from Suboxone and begin their recovery journey.

Find the Treatment You Deserve

If you or a loved one need to detox from Suboxone or are curious about starting Suboxone treatment, please consult one of our qualified admissions coordinators at Moving Mountains Recovery. Our admissions line is available 24/7 to assess your situation, verify your insurance, and help you decide your next steps. Call now to get started.

References:

  1. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/buprenorphine.pdf
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1761270
  3. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2008.02455.x
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