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Medically Reviewed

How to Stop Taking Suboxone Safely

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Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Medical Reviewer

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medically-verified

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) can provide individuals who are addicted to opioids with immense relief from withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. As a highly renowned treatment for opioid addiction, the medication is known to improve addiction treatment retention rates, prevent relapse after rehab, and decrease rates of illicit drug use and mortality. However, there are many reasons why a person may want to stop taking Suboxone.

First, it is important to note that you should never stop taking any medication, including Suboxone, without first speaking with your doctor. Stopping the use of this medication too early can put you at high risk for relapse or drug-using behaviors. As a result, it is always best to discuss your medication management plan with your doctor to come up with a regimen that is best for you.

That being said, when the time comes to taper off of Suboxone, you want to do so safely. Even though the medication is extremely useful in treating opioid addiction, the medication contains buprenorphine – a drug that can cause physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. As a result, people who abruptly quit taking Suboxone may experience withdrawal symptoms that are difficult to manage without professional help.

Buprenorphine Dependence vs. Addiction

People commonly associate withdrawal symptoms with addiction. Although people who suffer from addiction usually experience withdrawal symptoms when they first get sober, having withdrawal symptoms alone does not indicate an addiction. Instead, people who become physically dependent on a substance will experience withdrawals when they stop taking it. This is often the case with Suboxone. While the vast majority of people take this medication as instructed and don’t become addicted, it is still possible to abuse and become addicted to Suboxone.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. It binds to the same receptors in the brain that addictive opioid drugs do in order to prevent both the effects of opioids and withdrawal symptoms. Since buprenorphine has opioid-like properties itself, it activates opioid receptors when taken. Over time, the body adjusts to having the substance in the body, so it becomes physically dependent on buprenorphine. If a person is taking the medication as prescribed but experiences withdrawal symptoms, he or she is physically dependent. However, if the individual abuses Suboxone and experiences cravings for it, he or she may be addicted.

Even though people are likely to become dependent on Suboxone after long-term use, there are ways to stop taking the medication safely. Usually, the safest way to do so is with the help of a treatment program that will manage your symptoms of withdrawal.

Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms

Even if you are taking Suboxone as directed, you can still expect to experience some level of withdrawal when you stop taking it. As a result, stopping cold-turkey can make a person feel drug cravings and even the desire to relapse. This is dangerous because it can easily lead back into a toxic cycle of drug abuse and addiction.

Suboxone withdrawal is similar to opioid withdrawal as it produces flu-like symptoms, such as:[1]

  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Pains
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Teary eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors

Fortunately, these symptoms are typically less intense than those of opioid withdrawal. Furthermore, Suboxone withdrawal differs from opioid withdrawal because the symptoms may take several days to appear. Buprenorphine is a long-acting opioid, so withdrawal symptoms may not begin until 2-4 days after taking your last dose.

The timeline of buprenorphine or Suboxone withdrawal varies depending on how long you have been taking the substance and at what dose, but symptoms usually peak around 3-5 days. Most symptoms will resolve within one week, however, some psychological symptoms like depression or anxiety may last for several weeks. As a result, the psychological aspect of withdrawal is usually the most difficult part to deal with, which is why you should be receiving counseling or peer support throughout your recovery – especially when deciding to quit taking Suboxone.

How to Cope with Suboxone Withdrawal

Ultimately, the best way to cope with Suboxone withdrawal is to avoid experiencing it in the first place. Even if you become dependent on buprenorphine, you can avoid withdrawal symptoms by working with your doctor to slowly taper your dose. By tapering, your physician will gradually reduce your dose over a period of time so your body adjusts naturally. In general, a Suboxone taper can last between one week and 28 days. Tapering off Suboxone is considered the safest way to stop taking the drug.[2]

If you are still struggling with Suboxone withdrawal symptoms, you can try the following tips to seek some relief:

  • Eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water/fluids
  • Practice relaxation techniques like meditation or exercise
  • Find something to do such as read a book or watch a show
  • Talk to your therapist or doctor
  • Seek support from your support group, friends, or family

The biggest danger of withdrawing from Suboxone is the significant risk of relapse. As a result, you should never stop taking Suboxone without first consulting with an addiction specialist so they can help you develop a relapse prevention treatment plan.

When is it Time to Stop Taking Suboxone?

There are many reasons why people may consider stopping the use of Suboxone. For example:

  • Women who become pregnant should consider stopping Suboxone
  • People who experience dangerous reactions to or side effects of the drug
  • Those who are showing signs of addiction or substance abuse
  • People who have completed substance abuse treatment and want to try staying sober without medications
  • People who have shown significant progress in treatment in the manner of lifestyle and behavior changes

Moreover, the majority of people don’t continue taking Suboxone forever – most stop eventually and are able to stay sober. The most important thing is that you have received the counseling and support necessary to help you heal from past trauma, address mental health issues, and learn relapse prevention skills. For example, someone who has participated in several months of therapy while actively participating in a 12-step fellowship and is making healthy lifestyle choices may be ready to stop taking Suboxone.

It is vital that you don’t make this decision alone. If you’re considering stopping your medication, you must consult with your physician to do so properly. If your doctor and primary therapist agree that you are ready to quit taking the medication, they will devise a detox and relapse prevention plan to help you sustain your recovery.

What to do if You Want to Stop Taking Suboxone

As previously mentioned, the first step to take is to speak with your doctor and/or therapist about stopping your medication. Individuals are more likely to remain sober and have an easier time overcoming Suboxone dependency if they go through a medical taper. When you’re ready to venture into abstinence without Suboxone, there are a variety of treatment options available to you, including inpatient or outpatient detox, 12-step groups, and substance abuse counseling.

Combining talk therapy and peer support with the use of Suboxone is proven to make this type of treatment more effective than only taking the medication. Talk therapies teach people why they abuse substances in the first place, how to identify situations that make them want to get high, and learning new ways to prevent negative thought patterns and behaviors. With the help of therapy and peer support, people can successfully stop taking Suboxone while staying sober.

If you or a loved one is looking for help overcoming drug addiction or dependency, pick up the phone and call our addiction specialists in Memphis today. Our drug and alcohol rehab center specializes in Suboxone and medication-assisted treatment, so can help you with all of your related needs. Don’t wait any longer – get help from a Suboxone clinic near you today.

References:

  1. https://www.verywellmind.com/suboxone-withdrawal-4178344
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150159/