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What Is Subutex?

What is Subutex? This is a question that you need to ask - especially considering how many people in the US have been grappling with the opioid crisis. In particular, you should understand that there are many different treatment options, including medication-assisted treatment (or MAT) for opioid dependence and addiction. Chief among these treatments is Subutex.

Essentially, it is a prescription medication that the FDA (or the Food and Drug Administration) has approved. Read on to learn more about what is Subutex, what it does, how it is used, what it is used for, and more:

Understanding Subutex

Subutex first came into the market in 2002 for use in treating opioid addiction. Before it was introduced (alongside another combination medication called Suboxone), doctors primarily used methadone in addressing this form of substance addiction. Although methadone was useful at the time, it also came with many downsides, including the potential for dependence and addiction.

As a brand name medication, Subutex is comprised of buprenorphine - which is the active ingredient in the drug. It is a sublingual pill, meaning that you should place it under your tongue and wait for it to melt instead of chewing or swallowing it whole.

Today, both the FDA and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Authority) control Subutex less than they do methadone. This means that doctors who are certified and trained in its administration can prescribe Subutex whereas patients in need of methadone need to visit specialty clinics that are allowed to dispense the medication. One of the reasons why Subutex is controlled less than methadone is that it comes with a lower risk of abuse, dependence, addiction, tolerance, and overdose.

While trying to find answers to the "what is Subutex?" question, you should also look into its ingredients. As we mentioned earlier, this medication only contains a single active ingredient - namely buprenorphine.

Before buprenorphine was introduced into the treatment of opioid dependence and addiction, it was first used as an analgesic or pain relief medication. It works by acting on certain receptors in the brain - much in the same way as any other prescription opioid painkiller. However, it is different in the sense that it does not provide the full effects of euphoria and pleasure you would derive from an opioid.

As such, buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. This means that when you use Subutex, the active ingredient will bind to the opioid receptors in your system. By so doing, it will effectively trick your brain, so it thinks that you have taken the opioids that it has become dependent on.

In this process, you can effectively avoid the painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that arise when you stop abusing your opioids of choice. This means that you might be better placed to continue focusing on your addiction recovery and treatment.

You might also feel some well-being when you take Subutex. However, these feelings will not be the same as the euphoria derived from opioids. This is the main reason why Subutex is generally not considered to be addictive.

Subutex Uses

As we mentioned earlier, Subutex is primarily used in the treatment of opioid dependence and addiction. This means that you can find some relief from your physical and psychological addiction to opioids through this medications.

If you have developed a dependence on opioids and you stop taking them - or you reduce the dosage you have become accustomed to - your brain, as well as your body, might go into shock. To ensure that this does not happen, your doctor might prescribe Subutex. This way, you will be able to stop using these addictive drugs and instead focus on your ongoing recovery and treatment. This is a better option in comparison to struggling with opioid withdrawal and detox.

However, Subutex was made for limited use while helping addicts feel safe and comfortable while in detox. It is also effective at assisting addicts to eliminate or at least reduce their cravings for their opioids of choice as well as completely decreasing their risk of relapse.

Suboxone is another drug that is similar to Subutex because it contains buprenorphine as an active ingredient. However, these two medications are different in the sense that Subutex only contains buprenorphine while Suboxone is a combination drug that also contains naloxone.

To this end, Suboxone is more effective than Subutex because the naloxone component in it can stop you from abusing it. If you choose to misuse this medication, you will experience opioid withdrawal.

Although you could theoretically try to abuse Subutex to achieve pleasurable effects, this is not highly likely. Still, some people crush or dissolve the drug so that they can administer it in any other way other than its prescribed sublingual use. However, even those who do this cannot produce an intense feeling of pleasure. Subutex also comes with a ceiling effect - meaning that even if you take over 30mg, you will not be able to derive any additional pleasurable effects.

In some cases, Subutex can also be used in treating pain although it is not used in this way in the United States. This is even though the drug can reduce pain sensations since it will occupy the opioid receptors of the CNS (central nervous system).

As we mentioned earlier, Subutex is usually administered to opioid addicts. The buprenorphine ingredient acts as a partial opioid agonist that will bind to the opioid receptors in the central nervous system to prevent you from experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

In most cases, Subutex is safer and far less addictive than methadone. As such, it carries a lower risk of abuse and dependence. Even so, it should be used as part of a more comprehensive opioid addiction rehabilitation program. This way, it could potentially allow you to continue focusing on your ongoing recovery instead of suffering discomfort while withdrawing from opioids.

Subutex Abuse And Addiction

Although Subutex is effective in the management of the withdrawal symptoms arising from opioid abuse and addiction, it also comes with some adverse effects. If you do not take this drug as your doctor recommended, therefore, you are likely to reinforce additional substance abuse habits.

Even so, the euphoric high you might derive from Subutex is not as intense as you would derive from other drugs. As such, even though it comes with uncomfortable side effects, doctors do not generally consider it to be addictive.

Still, since this drug is used in the treatment of opiate addiction, you might eventually develop tolerance to it. This is because the medication easily calms and soothes the withdrawal symptoms arising from other drugs.

If you develop tolerance as a result of misusing Subutex, you are likely to eventually derive psychological and physical dependencies that could affect your health negatively.

That said, the reaction that you are likely to experience as a result of using Subutex will vary from one patient to another - based on a variety of factors like:

  • How long you have been taking this medication
  • If you consumed other intoxicating and mind-altering substances alongside Subutex
  • The dosage of the drug you took
  • The state of your mental and physical health

You might also experience withdrawal symptoms - which are both psychological and physical. If this happens, you should try and detox from Subutex under the supervision and care of a team of medical professionals. This way, the team will ensure that you are as comfortable and as safe as possible.

Even so, it is possible to experience the following physical symptoms if you are addicted to Subutex:

  • Body aches
  • Changes in appetite
  • Cold sweats
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Intense muscle pain
  • Physical cravings for Subutex
  • Sneezing

On the other hand, Subutex withdrawal can also cause the following psychological symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings

Subutex Effects

a) Short-Term Effects

While using Subutex, you might suffer some side effects. Although these effects are not necessarily life-threatening, they might turn into a serious concern if you continue using the drug even while your health is deteriorating. These effects include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

b) Long-Term Effects

Subutex was not made to be used over the long term. Instead, you should only take it while undergoing opioid withdrawal during the detoxification process. This is because the drug can cause the following long-term effects:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Hives
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite

In some rare cases, Subutex can also cause dangerous - and sometimes fatal - levels of intense sedation.

Subutex Overdose

Overdosing to Subutex is almost identical to overdosing on Suboxone. However, the symptoms of a Subutex overdose tend to be more pronounced because Suboxone contains naloxone - a drug that can inhibit the effects of such an overdose.

That said, overdosing on this drug could come with the following symptoms:

  • Bodily pain that occurs at different intervals and varying levels of intensity and originates from the abdominal area, core, and extremities
  • Confusion
  • Discolored urine
  • Fatigue of the body and mind
  • Jaundice or yellow hints on the eyes and skin
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced pupil size or pinpoint pupils
  • Uncontrollable body movements, including seizures, convulsions, and spasms

However, this form of drug overdose is hardly accompanied by breathing problems. If this happens, it means that you are overdosing on a stronger opioid and you should seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Subutex Withdrawal

Although Subutex is primarily used in treating an existing addiction, it is also addictive and can cause dependence. This means that if you abuse it, you might develop a drug dependence that could cause intense withdrawal symptoms if you reduce your usual dose or stop taking this medication altogether.

Some of the side effects that you might experience as a result of taking Subutex include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Hoarseness
  • Nausea
  • Painful urination
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

Over time, your body might become used to the relief that Subutex provides. When this happens, you are likely to experience intense withdrawal - an uncomfortable process initially that tends to lessen in terms of severity over the course of time.

Some of the symptoms of Subutex withdrawal include:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Excessive sweating
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle spasms
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose

Although you are highly unlikely to experience any extreme symptoms of withdrawal from Subutex, it is still possible. If this happens, you may suffer:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

The best way to avoid these adverse symptoms is by following the tapering schedule that your doctor provided while trying to help you come off the medication. This means that you should only try to overcome your Subutex addiction through a medically supervised and monitored detoxification program.

Subutex Addiction Treatment

Subutex addiction is similar to any other form of drug dependence in the sense that you should only try to overcome it with medical help. This way, a team of professionals will help to wean you off the drug in the safest way possible.

If you try quitting this drug cold turkey, you are likely to experience intense withdrawal symptoms that could compel you to continue using it. On the other hand, a professional addiction treatment program will help you withdrawal safely through a tapering schedule recommended by a trained, experienced, and certified/licensed medical professional or doctor.

Today, there are many accredited addiction treatment and rehabilitation centers that you can check into to help you overcome your dependence on Subutex. These centers provide opportunities that you can take advantage of so that you receive the thorough treatment and rehabilitation resources you require. During this process, the team of experts who work on your case could also uncover other underlying co-occurring mental health disorders and provide treatment for them.

Overall, it is imperative that you seek treatment the moment you realize that you have started abusing Subutex. This is the best options because it will ensure you do not suffer any adverse effects and that your substance abuse does not develop into tolerance, dependence, and addiction - conditions that are far harder and expensive to treat.

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