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subutex 2018-11-08T17:50:35+00:00

How Can Subutex Be Abused?

Subutex is a trade name for buprenorphine, which is a prescription medication used for the treatment of opioid use disorder and for acute and chronic pain management. It is a medication in the opioid class of drugs, all of which have morphine-like effects on the body’s pain regulation system.

Buprenorphine can be absorbed by the mucous membranes under the tongue or in the cheek (Subutex), injected in a muscle (Buprenex), injected long-term under the skin (Sublocade), used in a patch on the skin (Butrans) or administered as an implant under the skin (Probuphine). Like the other buprenorphine products, Subutex is a partial opioid activator with the quality of having less activity in this pain regulation system than full opioid activators like oxycodone or heroin, even though that regulation system shows a strong preference for Subutex over other opioids.

Subutex mostly acts like other opioids up to about 32mg; after that, increases in dose don’t increase the opioid effect. When Subutex is taken to treat opioid use disorder, it is taken only after withdrawal is established. Otherwise, the body will launch other opioids out of its access sites to accommodate buprenorphine, which is only a partial opioid activator. This situation creates withdrawal.

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A Subutex prescription to treat opioid use disorder must be written by a provider who has obtained special government permission to prescribe it and has undergone the training to do so. Unlike Suboxone, Subutex does not contain the opioid reversal agent naloxone, which helps discourage intravenous or intranasal usage; thus, Subutex is more prone to non-prescribed usage than Suboxone and is less favored for long-term usage than Suboxone to treat opioid use disorder.

When people use Subutex in a medically unintended way, the most common reason is to avoid withdrawal symptoms from other opioids that they have used and to which they no longer have access. It is also occasionally used to produce euphoria, or at least to feel better. Indeed, many users note Subutex’s positive effects on their mood.

However, if you use Subutex in a non-prescribed way, it will put you at high risk for opioid addiction. Subutex addiction follows the arc of other substance addictions: it occurs when you have lost control over your drug usage and spend increasing amounts of time, money and energy involved with the drug, using it or recovering from its effects.

Does this describe your situation? Are you worried that you might be using Subutex in an addictive way? If so, Transformations Treatment Center can help. Let us hear your story so we can understand how we can support your specific needs.

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How Subutex Works in Your Body

Opioids (including Subutex) copy the actions of the body’s natural painkillers, called endorphins, at points throughout the nervous system called mu-opioid receptors. Excessive or constant exposure to opioids leads your brain to reducing endorphin production, creating a “new normal.” Now, your body has become physically dependent on the opioid, and at this point you will experience withdrawal symptoms if intake of Subutex or other opioids is abruptly reduced or stopped.

Opioid withdrawal signs and symptoms vary but usually result in a flu-like condition. Symptoms can include:

  • Runny nose, coughing, salivating, tearing and yawning
  • Loose stools or diarrhea
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Digestive tract discomfort, nausea and vomiting
  • Lack of temperature regulation
  • Dilated pupils
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Opioid withdrawal usually peaks within three to four days, but it can last for weeks or months. Subutex is very effective at addressing these withdrawal symptoms even at low doses.

How to Spot Subutex-Related Problems

As with all potential substances of abuse, non-prescribed usage of Subutex is always problematic. Similarly, attempting to inject or use Subutex by nose indicates problem use. Other indicators include more or longer usage than prescribed, an inability to stop using it, hiding or lying about one’s usage, using it despite troublesome consequences, and serious problems resulting from its use.

Treating Subutex Addiction

Though opioid overdoses are responsible for an alarming average of 80 deaths per day, opioid withdrawal is rarely fatal. However, opioid withdrawal can be harmful and extremely physically distressing, so treatment begins with medical detoxification. In some closely supervised cases, physicians may allow you to taper off of Subutex in a controlled setting.

It is important to identify and address any co-occurring mental health conditions that may have contributed to the problematic substance use, such as mood or anxiety disorders. Examples of these include major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Mental health professionals can help you to begin to understand the links between your mental health and your substance use.

When addressing problems with opioid use, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the preferred psychotherapy. CBT helps you change your behavior by helping you better understand your patterns of emotions and thoughts. CBT has long been shown to be effective for treating addictive conditions. Other approaches include mindfulness-based stress reduction (which teaches you to stay dialed in to what is happening in your mind and body in the moment) and motivational interviewing.

At Transformations Treatment Center, we can help you to confront an addiction to Subutex. Our programs integrate a holistic approach with evidence-based practice to create a treatment environment that meets your specific needs. Contact us today to begin your journey toward a substance-free life.

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