Opiate Dependency and Suboxone

Resources

 Opiate addicts need more access to ‘miracle drug’
 Opiate Addiction and Suboxone Treatment - an article by Dr. Rao
 Facing the light of day by: KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer

What are opiates?

Opiates are the drugs that are derived from opium, the addictive substance which is produced by the opiate poppy plant. Some opiates are manufactured directly from opium, while there are a few that are synthetically manufactured. These drugs include codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, methadone and heroin. They have very strong pain relieving properties and so have been used in medical practice for 150 years to alleviate physical pain and suffering. In addition, these drugs produce euphoria-the "high"--which addicts seek to experience over and over.


What is opiate dependency?

With repeat dosing, opiates have less and less of the desired effect, whether that be analgesia or euphoria. The user has to increase the dose to get the same effect. Trying to get back the same effect as before is known as "chasing the high," and usually, this is not possible. Gradually, the dependent person is pulled into a pattern of repeatly increasing the drug dose. This is known as "tolerance." In addition, dependency means the development of withdrawal when the drug is discontinued. Opiate withdrawal consists of hot and cold chills, sweating, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and tremor. Opiate dependency means that you have developed tolerance to the drug and/or you experience withdrawal when discontinuing the drug.


What is opiate addiction?

When a person physically dependent on opiates begins to engage in unethical and/or illegal activity to obtain opiates, they are said to be "addicted" to opiates. You are addicted to opiates when you have developed physical dependence (tolerance and withdrawal) and are engaging in addictive behavior to obtain opiates at any or all costs. An opiate addict is out of control. There is a 90% failure rate for addicts trying to stay off opiates.


What is the success rate for overcoming opiate addiction?

Ninety percent (90%) of opiate addicts relapse within the first year of treatment. In other words, there is a 90% failure rate, even with all the different types of treatments recommended by health care professionals. Suboxone has changed this.


What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a unique medicine which works on the part of the brain that causes opiate addiction. It is not like opiate pain killers, and acts differently than addictive drugs. Suboxone is a combination of two (2) drugs: buprenorphine, which is the active ingredient, and naloxone, which causes withdrawal if injected by vein (to discourage abuse).


Can Suboxone be abused? Can addicts get "high" from it?

"People take drugs for pleasure, and there is no pleasure in buprenorphine."-Tom, a former iv heroin user for 20 years

Drugs that are abused are those that cause euphoria or some other altered mental state that is desired. Most addicts say that they do not get a euphoric effect from Suboxone. One patient summed it up this way: "Addicts use drugs for pleasure, and there is no pleasure in buprenorphine."


Isn't Suboxone just another addictive drug?

Suboxone lacks the 3 fundamental characteristics of addictive drugs.
  • 1.) Euphoria. Most opiate addicts do not experience euphoria when taking Suboxone. They generally say that they "feel normal" after taking it. It is very difficult for them to get high from buprenorphine.
  • 2.) Tolerance. There is no tolerance with Suboxone. What that means is that instead of having to increase the dose repeatedly over time in order to get the same effect, most patients on Suboxone gradually lower their dose and use less and less of it over time. Instead of developing tolerance, addicts develop sensitization to buprenorphine. This is the opposite of what addictive drugs do.
  • 3.) Addictive behavior. Once stabilized on Suboxone, opiate addicts stop having cravings for opiates; therefore, they stop engaging in unethical and illegal behaviors. They are freed from the "monkey on their back."


Isn't Suboxone just like methadone? Aren't you just substituting one addictive drug with another?

Suboxone acts very differently than addictive drugs, including opiates. Suboxone does not have the numerous side effects methadone does, such as sedation clouded consciousness ("a foggy brain")and short-term memory problems.


Can Suboxone patients continue to use other drugs, like marijuana or benzos, while being treated with Suboxone?

No, the addict must be committed to living a clean and drug-free lifestyle and be devoted to the recovery process in order for Dr. Rao to be able to prescribe Suboxone on an ongoing basis.
For further information, see TMS: The New Treatment for Depression