Pros and Cons of Suboxone Treatment for Opiate Addiction
Pros and Cons of Suboxone Treatment for Opiate Addiction

Pros and Cons of Suboxone Treatment for Opiate Addiction

The Archives of General Psychiatry recently published a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) that showed that patients who fought prescription painkiller addiction with Suboxone were able to cut back or quit abusing their painkiller of choice. Suboxone, a drug that combines buprenorphine and naloxone, services the dual purpose of replacing the opiate prescription in the brain to reduce withdrawal symptoms while also providing an incentive to avoid relapse due to the negative physical reaction that patients experience when they try to return to opiate abuse.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D. is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She says, “The study suggests that patients addicted to prescription opioid painkillers can be effectively treated in primary care settings using Suboxone. However, once the medication was discontinued, patients had a high rate of relapse — so, more research is needed to determine how to sustain recovery among patients addicted to opioid medications.”

When Suboxone first appeared in treatment circles a few years ago, the hope was to find a medication that would help patients to stop abusing opiate drugs with fewer withdrawal symptoms like methadone does but without the abuse potential that methadone has. Doctors want to help patients to be more comfortable and detox at their own pace but they also want to set them up for success in terms of a long-term recovery free from relapse.

Roger Weiss, M.D. of Harvard Medical School is the lead author of the study. He says, “Despite the tremendous increase in the prevalence of addiction to prescription painkillers, little research has focused on this patient population. This is the first large-scale study to examine treatments exclusively for people who were abusing prescription painkiller medications and were treated with buprenorphine-naloxone, which can be prescribed in a physician’s office.”

While on the medication, about 49 percent of the patients were able to manage their prescription painkiller abuse. However, when Suboxone treatment stopped, that number dropped to just under nine percent. The existence of chronic pain made little difference on the patients’ progress.  Even counseling did little to help when the medication was removed and physical dependence was not eradicated. The issue becomes then, determining how long a patient should remain on Suboxone in order to best fight the return of opiate addiction.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 1.9 million Americans abuse or are addicted to prescription painkillers. More deaths are caused by prescription drug dependence than by heroin addiction and cocaine addiction combined.

If prescription drug abuse or addiction is a problem for you, contact us today. We can help you to determine the best course of action to help you stop abusing opiate painkillers and start living your life. Call now.