suboxone treatment Tag

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The Potential Fallout of Suboxone Treatment

 

What to Expect:

 

  1. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) uses prescribed drugs to help individuals struggling with opioid addiction manage their withdrawal symptoms and stay engaged in treatment.
  2. Suboxone (or Subutex) is popularly prescribed to save lives and reduce the harm of opioid addiction.
  3. What are the potential long-term effects of Suboxone in an individual’s overall quality of life?

 

Understanding Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

 

Opiate use in the United States is at a crisis level–too many people are dying from abusing and overdosing on these powerful drugs. Opiates are highly addictive and a single overdose can prove fatal. 

As a result of the opiate epidemic, lives are needlessly lost or destroyed, families devastated, and the socio-economic impacts widespread.

In an effort to save lives, medications have been developed as a means of harm reduction. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) gives an individual struggling with opiate addiction a fighting chance to recover and return to a normal life. That being said, a simple medication is not going to solve all of one’s problems–it is often a starting point where extensive counseling and therapy is necessary.

But is MAT just substituting one drug for another?

Not necessarily.

Drugs like heroin are unregulated and dangerous. Even prescription opiates are very dangerous when not taken as directed. 

MAT offers those struggling with opiate addiction safer, FDA-approved medications. MAT medications–like Suboxone–help reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms without producing that euphoric high.

 

Using Suboxone to Treat Opiate Addiction  

Suboxone is one commonly prescribed medication to treat opiate addiction. It is actually a combination of two different drugs–buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that blocks the brain’s opiate receptors to reduce urges. The effects are similar to an opioid, but weaker.

 

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist. It counters the effects of opioids in the system. In fact, Naloxone is a commonly used medication by first responders encountering an individual experiencing an opioid overdose. 

 

Suboxone is usually self-administered once a day as a film or tablet placed under the tongue to dissolve. 

 

Potential Future Challenges for Suboxone Users

 

As a result of the opiate crisis, we have a percentage of young people that are on some sort of opiate blocker or opiate substitute–the most common being Suboxone. 

 

The first crisis we may face in the future of addiction is the vast number of individuals taking Suboxone or Subutex for up to 10 years. We don’t really understand the long-term effects of these drugs. 

 

We don’t know how these medications affect people’s development. What happens when an 18-year-old is put on Suboxone. How will it affect their development as they reach the mid-20s? Maybe it’s hardly at all. Maybe it’s a big deal. BUT…we don’t know for sure.

 

Will it be a future challenge?

 

Will people start having mental health challenges as they reach their 30s, 40s, or beyond? Can it be related to Suboxone?

 

And then there is the issue of getting off Suboxone. It’s well known coming off Suboxone is harder than kicking heroin. So, Suboxone may be saving an individual’s life, but the detox and resulting depression can last months if not years.

 

So, in a nutshell, we are putting a band-aid on a gaping wound to help save a life. If we don’t tend to that “wound” with counseling, treatment, and teaching life skills, that “band-aid” may save lives, but not QUALITY of lives. 

 

Will we have the capability to deal with these issues? If we think proactively, there certainly is a potential. 

 

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Medication Assisted Treatment

Medication assisted treatment (including Suboxone and vivitrol)

 

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is using pharmaceutical medications, prescribed medications to help treat active addiction. 

 

It’s different than just the psychiatric medication that you use to treat underlying conditions of depression and anxiety. MAT treatment is a specific classification of drugs that are used to affect the addiction directly. And so there are agonists and antagonists drugs that provide an effect similar to the drug you were using, but allow you to be more functional and reduce the harm around the habit. You don’t break the habit you use something that’s like a derivative of that substance that would be like subtext for opiates or methadone. 

 

It’s a similar molecular structure and has similar effects but you can manage it better and you don’t deal with all of the negative repercussions or most of the negative repercussions of using heroin. 

 

Then there are the blockers that stop the effect or deter people from using certain substances and abuse of a trial. That’s that classes of drugs. And basically, that’s it’s come into treatment in recovery very strong.

 

It started with methadone a few decades ago, and then Suboxone a couple decades ago has become very popular. 

 

And it’s understandable. Basically, we’ve been in the midst of a pretty serious opiate epidemic and people are dying. You have city officials, county officials, government officials, parents, loved ones and society as a whole having a conversation about what we do about this. 

 

There are lots of research studies that show that people have a better chance of achieving recovery if they use medication-assisted treatment. 

 

Those studies are complex and I want to get too into that. They’re complicated questions to ask about those studies and their different opinions. It’s not univocal, and everybody has the same opinion. But I want to look at it in general. So what’s going on here? How do we think about this? 

 

You deal with different perspectives on MAT.

 

So if I’m a government official, and there are thousands of people dying in my district, or in my state, or in my city. I’m thinking, “How do I stop people from dying?” I’m gonna take 100 million dollars, and I’m going to put it into what statistically is the most beneficial thing, medication-assisted treatment, people have to stop dying. And it’s really all the government can do.

 

The government can’t assign an individual therapist, a psychiatrist, long term treatment, isolate people on an island, the government doesn’t have the ability to do nuanced individualized care. 

 

For each and every person who suffers from addiction, the government can’t assign treatment to even 5% of the people who need it. 

 

So I think, how do we stop an epidemic?  On that level, it makes perfect sense and I get it. On the individual level, it’s much more complex. I’ll give an easy example. If somebody is a poly substance abuser, let’s say somebody is 23 years old, they use and this is not uncommon. opiates or methamphetamine or cocaine or alcohol or marijuana. 

 

That’s a lot of young people, they use all kinds of stuff, whatever they get their hands on. They also lack discipline, and they lack a lot of structure and maturity. So they actually don’t know how to do basic things like make their bed. That’s something like 60% of the population and people in treatment right now. They don’t know how to live well. 

One of the things I’ve concerned about with Suboxone is the difficulty in getting off of Suboxone.

 

If you go look up, get off of Suboxone and go read the personal forums. You will see how incredibly hard it is. It’s kind of scary. It takes about 45 days, let’s say you’ve been on Suboxone and you started at a 12-milligram dosage, which is normal. And you’ve gotten all the way down to one milligram after three years. 

 

Then you decide, this is getting in the way of my growth, my psychological well being, and I don’t want to be dependent on this anymore. It’s been years. I’ve seen people want to get off one milligram of Suboxone, that it was a 45-day taper meaning take a little tiny bit just less than one milligram, little less over 45 days, and then another month without the substance to get through we call the acute and then sub-acute detox phases. 

 

Then you’re no longer having the physiological symptoms, but you’ve got months and sometimes even a year to deal with the underlying issues and depression that comes up after having been on this substance for so long. 

 

I’m really concerned about putting thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of people on Suboxone medication over long periods of time. 

 

What that looks like if there are negative psychological effects down the road. I don’t think we know. Some experts say to never take people off Suboxone. Once they’re on for two or three years. You leave them on it forever. But there’s nobody that’s been on Suboxone for 50 years. It hasn’t been around that long. We don’t know what that means and what that looks like. We still use Suboxone individually. 

 

It’s up to the treatment providers to figure out how to effectively administer Suboxone in smart ways.

 

Then to compile that data and share it with the rest of the community.  

 

Vivitrol is another option. 

 

I’m a huge fan of Vivitrol, Vivitrol is a blocker, and what Vivitrol does is two things, it stops you from being able to get high immediately from opiates. You can do it in an injectable form, which is a little frightening, but it lasts a month. 

 

On the one hand, it physically stops you from being able to do your substance of choice. On the other hand, it’s psychologically really helpful if I’m obsessive, but I know I can’t get high. And I’m willing to get into recovery, it’s a great message to send to myself. You could do Vivitrol with very little side effects for a year and a half, or six months.

 

Even with Vivitrol, we don’t know the long term psychological effects.

 

It’s been around 20 years, but they’re not great research and study on this stuff. And everybody’s very different with how they respond to the medication. I’m in favor, in general, of anything that helps people recover and get better, and of course, in favor of people not dying. But we also have to weigh these different claims. And figure out how we use medications in a way that’s effective for individual situations. That’s not an easy task. It’s going to be everybody working together and having conversations like this about medication-assisted treatment.

 

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Suboxone Treatment | The Future of Addiction

The Immediate Future of Addiction | Suboxone and the Opiate Crisis

 

The most immediate thing I see on the horizon in terms of the near future of addiction is consequences of what we’re doing now with addiction.

 

The most immediate thing I see on the horizon in terms of the near future of addiction is consequences of what we're doing now with addiction. Click To Tweet

 

So, we have a gigantic opiate crisis in the United States, unprecedented really. One of the things that we’ve done to save people’s lives, understandably, is we’ve approached it from a governmental level and an Institutional level, and our approach has been harm reduction.

Which means finding medications that reduce the amount of harm caused by heroin and oxy and these drugs and so the consequence of that is we are going to have a generation of young people or some percentage of this next generation that is on some sort of opiate blocker or opiate substitute the most common is called Suboxone most common is called a Suboxone or Subutex and the first crisis we’re going to deal with in terms of the future of addiction as we’re going to have hundreds of thousands or even millions of people who have been on Suboxone or Subutex for 3, 4, 5,10 years and we don’t really understand on that scale the effects of those drugs long-term on the individual.

 

We don’t know how that affects people’s development over the long-term you know, what happens when you put it on 18-year-old on Suboxone how does it affect the development when they are 24. Maybe it’s hardly at all, maybe it’s a really big deal, we don’t really know. But my guess is it’s something we’re going to have to deal with.

As people start to have mental health problems years out of their development may be in relation to the Suboxone the questions going to be how do we get these people off of this drug? And, what I found in my own experience in treatment, is it’s actually harder to come off of suboxone than it is to come off of heroin – it’s actually well known. If you’ve been on Suboxone for a long time, you know, two, three, four, five years the detox is horrendous and often the depression is really heavy and lasts months if not years and so…

 

The immediate future of addiction looks like what are we going to do with this group of people who will put a bandaid on their situation that we had to do so they wouldn't die but they didn't completely heal Click To Tweet

 

The immediate future of addiction looks like what are we going to do with this group of people who will put a bandaid on their situation that we had to do so they wouldn’t die but they didn’t completely heal and they’re on this medication, maybe for life or maybe they want to get off and what do we do so that’s a new media crisis that we will be in the headlines in a couple of years.

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