Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is an option for those in treatment for opioid addiction. When a patient receives MAT services, the person will take medications, while also participating in counseling to treat the addiction. Medications can be used to reduce drug cravings and balance brain chemistry while a person is in recovery, whereas counseling can address the underlying problems that led to addiction.
Suboxone is among the medications used as a part of MAT, and many people wonder if it is effective. The answer can be found below.
What is Suboxone?
Before exploring the effectiveness of Suboxone, it is helpful to have some background information about this medication. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, Suboxone is the brand name for a drug that contains both buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning that it has some of the same effects as opioid drugs like heroin or oxycodone. What is different about buprenorphine when compared to other opioids is that its effects are weaker, and it has a “ceiling effect,” which means that as doses increase, its opioid effects level off, preventing misuse and addiction.
Buprenorphine works by helping people to manage their withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings, but it doesn’t have the strong effects that other opioids have. The naloxone in Suboxone acts as an additional deterrent against opioid abuse, as it will block the effects of opioids and lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if injected. What this means is that people are discouraged from abusing buprenorphine by injection, and instead encouraged to take the medication by mouth as prescribed.
How effective is Suboxone?
Research with buprenorphine, the active ingredient in Suboxone, suggests that his drug is effective for treating opioid addiction. For example, people who take buprenorphine are more likely to stay in treatment and less likely to test positive for illegal opioids. In addition, people who are maintained on buprenorphine are less likely to experience treatment failure when compared to those maintained on a placebo pill.
While Suboxone can help people to stay in treatment and abstain from using opioids, people must take this medication in high enough doses and for a long enough period of time for it to be beneficial. For example, research shows that people need to take doses of at least 16mg per day for Suboxone to be effective. In addition, those who take Suboxone over the long term are more successful with treatment than those who simply take it for brief periods to detoxify from other opioids.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, MAT in general provides the following benefits:
- Increased survival rates for those in treatment
- Reduced criminal activity
- Better employment prospects for those in recovery
- Better outcomes for babies born to women in treatment for opioid addiction while pregnant
Suboxone vs. Methadone
When considering the effectiveness of Suboxone for opioid addiction, people may also compare Suboxone to methadone, another medication commonly used in MAT. Research has shown that methadone and Suboxone are equally effective for preventing opioid abuse. That being said, low doses of buprenorphine are not as effective as methadone for keeping patients in treatment, which highlights the importance of patients taking adequate doses of Suboxone.
The Bottom Line
When taken as prescribed by a doctor, Suboxone can be effective for treating opioid addiction, as it helps people to stay in treatment, reduces drug cravings, and reduces illegal opioid use. People may experience other benefits from Suboxone use, such as improved survival and reduction in criminal activity. For those who qualify for MAT, Suboxone can improve the success of treatment when used alongside counseling and other behavioral interventions, so long as the doses are appropriate for the patient’s needs.
If you’re seeking convenient Suboxone treatment, iRecoveryUSA can help. We offer comprehensive addiction treatment services, including MAT, in an entirely online format via our telehealth portal. Visit our website today to learn more about our MAT services.