Alex, now in his mid-thirties, began experimenting with drugs during high school. Opioids quickly became his drug-of-choice. During college, he traded opioids for heroin. Now older, Alex met a girl he wanted to start a life with, but he knew he wanted this life to be drug-free.
Prescribed Suboxone® for Curbing Addiction
He went to a treatment program and was prescribed Suboxone®, which is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, to help find relief from heroin cravings. His starting dose of 8mg three times a day was standard. To supplement his treatment program, Alex also began 12-step meetings, daily mediation, acquired a sponsor, and refrained from alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.
Suboxone® and a Recovery Lifestyle
His hard work and dedication paid off. He married the girl of his dreams and had a baby girl. Eight years later and with baby number two on the way, Alex was still taking prescribed Suboxone®. But he was ready to be off all medication.
This was when Alex experienced something he never thought he would. The physician at his treatment program did not support his goal of ending his Suboxone® consumption. Alex was told that his substance use disorder was a life-long affliction, and he should plan to take Suboxone® for the rest of his life, too.
Self-Detoxing Off Suboxone®
But this didn’t change his goal. Alex was nervous about not having his doctors’ support and was concerned that, if his doctor found out how determined he was to stop using Suboxone®, he would be asked to leave the program before he was ready.
But he pushed forward. Alex reduced his daily dosage of 24mg down to just 8mg per day without any painful side effects, then down to only 3mg of Suboxone® per day. But this is when the side effects started. Alex found himself in a perpetual state of withdrawal.
The Coleman Method
We see this scenario a lot at Coleman Addiction Medicine. Buprenorphine, the component of Suboxone® that occupies the opioid receptor, is quite resilient. In fact, this is why it is a powerful part of many opioid detox programs…but it’s also why it is so difficult to stop taking it Suboxone®.
To fully stop taking Suboxone®, you need to first remove the buprenorphine from the opioid receptors. This is a gradual process, typically taking place over about a week. With the buprenorphine removed from the receptors, you can then begin using naltrexone, which is an opioid blocker. We specialize in the long-acting naltrexone implant, which is placed under the skin in the abdominal area.
The implant lasts approximately two months and slowly dissolves, completely populating the opioid receptors and alleviating cravings.
Free From Suboxone®
Alex’s detox wasn’t easy. Even with our comfort medication, eliminating the buprenorphine resulted in some withdrawal symptoms. But Alex was determined to be free from Suboxone®. While Suboxone® provided an escape from all the complications of being addicted to heroin, it ultimately ensnared him in another cage of addiction.
Joan Shepherd, FNP