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  • Writer's pictureDr. Soroosh Hashemi, M.D.

What Is Suboxone?

Updated: Feb 5





      

Suboxone is a medication consisting of two separate drugs, Buprenorphine and Naloxone. It is a partial opioid agonist and partial antagonist working at the mu-opioid receptor. The mu receptor is one of many opioid binding sites and is the one most closely associated with the euphoric effects of heroin and other opioid drugs. 

 

            What’s unique about the first ingredient in Suboxone, Buprenorphine, is that it partially stimulates and partially blocks the mu-receptor. It binds extremely tightly to these receptors and for a longer period than most other opioids. The result is steady, long acting stimulation of the opioid receptor with less intensity than other opiates. 

 

            The benefit of stimulating the brains receptors in this fashion is that it allows a gradual reset of its relationship with opioids. A slow, steady, milder form of stimulation eases a person off opioids gradually, allowing receptors, and the brain at large, to slowly reset its equilibrium. 

 

            The second ingredient in Suboxone is Naloxone, a complete antagonist, or blocker, of all opioid receptors. It is added to Suboxone to discourage people from attempting to inject or snort their medication. If taken inappropriately, Naloxone becomes active. It binds more strongly than any opiate to the opioid receptor, blocking their euphoric effects. Taken with Buprenorphine orally or sublingually as prescribed, Naloxone plays little to no role in the effect of Suboxone. It simply acts as a safety net to discourage misuse. 


Believe it or not, studies have shown that the easier withdraw is for a patient, the more likely they are to stay clean. Perhaps this is because a severe, complicated withdraw can be traumatic. Trauma itself is a trigger for opioid use. To make matters worse, the memory of a painful withdraw discourages a person from seeking help again should they relapse. 


Our model is simple. Provide medication assisted treatment with drugs like Suboxone, treat underlying mental health conditions, and watch our patients grow. After about a year of therapy, most patients feel ready to discontinue treatment with Suboxone and they are slowly tapered off. Treatment with Suboxone is temporary. If you choose, you can someday be free of medications for opioid use disorder.  


We believe in partnering with our patients for the long term. Slip ups and mistakes do happen and we keep an open door despite previous failures. We find continued support to be the biggest predictor of long term success. People need help and we are here to help them. 

 



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