Is Tapering Off Suboxone an Effective Way to Detox?
Chronic opiate addictions often leave those in recovery to contend with ongoing withdrawal and drug cravings effects. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, medications such as Suboxone and methadone help relieve addiction’s aftereffects and restore normal chemical functions in the brain.
Suboxone acts a medication therapy that usually requires months or even years of taking the drug. For this reason, someone who’s ready to stop Suboxone may well require ongoing treatment to break the body’s dependence on the drug’s effects.
Tapering off Suboxone offers an effective means for detoxing off the drug, though there are some drawbacks to consider. Since Suboxone treatment must be administered by a physician, tapering off Suboxone likewise takes place under a doctor’s supervision. In general, the longer a person remains on the drug, the harder tapering off Suboxone will be.
The Need for Suboxone Detox
Like methadone, Suboxone’s active ingredient, buprenorphine is an opiate-based drug. Though Suboxone’s opiate effects carry a considerably lower addiction potential than other opiates, it can nonetheless breed physical dependency in cases of long-term use.
Suboxone also has a considerably longer half-life in terms of the length of time it takes for the drug to leave the system. For these reasons, Suboxone detox can take longer than it would to detox from other types of opiate drugs.
Detoxing from opiates remains the same regardless of whether the drug in question is an opiate addiction treatment medication. This means, a person faces the same types of withdrawal effects when detoxing from Suboxone. Tapering off Suboxone can help relieve much of the discomfort that occurs during the detox stage.
How Tapering Off Suboxone Works
Tapering off Suboxone involves gradually reducing dosage amounts over a period of time. The taper duration can vary depending on how long a person has been on Suboxone and how his or her body responds along the way. When done correctly, a person should experience little to no withdrawal effects or drug cravings.
For someone who’s been on the drug for a year or longer, tapering off Suboxone may entail reducing doses in miniscule amounts since the body has likely developed a strong dependency on Suboxone’s effects. Under these conditions, it may take a year or longer to completely wean the body off the drug.
Part of the reason why tapering off Suboxone can be so difficult has to do with the drug’s long half-life in the body, which runs as long as 36 hours. As Suboxone is formulated to remain active for up to three days at a time, balancing the drug’s half-life with the time it remains active in the system makes it difficult to prevent withdrawal and cravings effects from developing when reducing dosage levels.
Ultimately, tapering off Suboxone helps to reduce the body’s tolerance levels at a gradual rate. In effect, the tapering process works to distribute the effects of withdrawal over the course of months as opposed to putting the body through an intense 30-day detox period.
As Suboxone detox can be a stressful and lengthy process, it’s especially important for a person to keep the lines of communication open with his or her attending physician in order to minimize the likelihood of an untimely relapse.