Suboxone Detox: Getting People Out of Suboxone Addiction

July 27, 2021

Addiction to prescription drugs is getting more and more popular nowadays. Unfortunately, the problem is that to get rid of addiction, many addiction treatment centers resort to the use of another drug to control and manage addiction. This then results in another form of addiction that may result in another series of treatments. Buena Vista has focused on producing quality treatment services that prevent such addiction to form. One of the most popular drugs used to manage substance addiction is Suboxone, hence the need for Suboxone Detox. 

Suboxone is a mix of two drugs: buprenorphine and naloxone. These two drugs act in helping people who suffer specifically from opioid addiction. Unfortunately, recent studies show that many who use suboxone to treat opioid addiction get addicted to the drug over time. Though they get off opioids faster than traditional treatment, they quickly get attached to this medically prescribed drug leading to another substance dependence. And for that reason, Suboxone Detoxification is needed to help people get rid of the drug and dependence on the drug properly.

What is Suboxone Detox?

Suboxone Detox is an intervention for those who have an addiction or dependence on opioids. This treatment uses Suboxone, a prescription medication that reduces opiate addiction and withdrawal symptoms, helping the patient eventually wean off of the opioid use. A Suboxone Detox program is administered by medical professionals and it integrates therapy and other mental health services to support and complete the patient’s recovery. Although used as a medication for opioid dependence, Suboxone addiction can possibly occur. Often, detox from Suboxone is the final phase of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) or medical detox.

suboxone-addiction treatment program

Drug Abuse and Suboxone

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a brand-name prescription medication used in detox treatment for opioid addiction that contains buprenorphine and naloxone. It is a controlled substance classified under schedule three (III) prescription, which means only medical professionals with special training and certification through the U.S. federal government can prescribe this drug for opioid addiction. A schedule three classification also means that although Suboxone has an accepted medical use, this medication can possibly cause substance use disorder (SUD) or addiction.

Suboxone comes in the form of a film that is placed under the tongue (sublingual) or between the cheek and gums (buccal) until it dissolves. It is usually available in four strengths:

  • — 2 mg buprenorphine / 0.5 mg naloxone
  • — 4 mg buprenorphine / 1 mg naloxone
  • — 8 mg buprenorphine / 2 mg naloxone
  • — 12 mg buprenorphine / 3 mg naloxone


It also has a generic version that can come in the form of a film or a tablet, both to be taken orally.

How does Suboxone work?

Suboxone is a combination of medication containing buprenorphine and naloxone. 

Buprenorphine, one of the main medications used to treat opioid drug addiction, is a partial opioid agonist. A partial opioid agonist is a substance that binds to the opiate receptors in the brain and activates some of them while blocking other effects. It is designed to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms without producing euphoria.

Naloxone, on the other hand, is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of opioid drugs. The addition of Naloxone in Suboxone is solely to help reverse the effects of opioids and prevent possible abuse of the medication.  It is also important to keep in mind that higher doses than what was prescribed of Naloxone can trigger dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Thus, taking Suboxone film is the safest way to release Naloxone in the body.

The combination of Naloxone and Buprenorphine is designed to reduce drug cravings and prevent withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid addiction. When used with the right guidance, Suboxone is proven to be an effective medication in treating opioid misuse.

suboxone withdrawal

Suboxone’s Role in Drug Detox and Treatment

In 2018 alone, around 2 million people struggled with opioid use disorder (OUD) or the prolonged use of and dependence on opiates. People often take prescription opioids for medical conditions (i.e. pain management) but eventually become dependent on them. This pattern can lead to addiction, overdose, and even death. The good news is that opiate addiction can be treated and one way to recovery is through Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). 

According to studies, people with OUD who follow a treatment plan of detox and abstinence will still likely relapse. Relapses are a normal part of the recovery process but they can be life-threatening if not addressed properly. This is where MAT can be helpful, as it provides further support to patients in maintaining their abstinence. 

MAT, as the name implies, is a type of treatment that uses medications combined with counseling and therapy to provide a holistic approach to effectively treating opioid dependence. This treatment plan has been proven to lower the risk of fatal overdoses by half (50%), and Suboxone is one of the main medications used in MAT to address drug addiction. 

The combination medication of Naloxone and Buprenorphine in Suboxone works by binding to the same receptors in the brain, mimicking oxycodone, morphine, and other opiates. It blocks intoxication and prevents urges, which helps patients reduce the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. This helps patients transition from addiction to recovery.

Apart from treating opioid-related drug addiction, Suboxone can also be beneficial for those who need pain management but are struggling with OUD.

Lastly, one of the main differences of Suboxone from other medications is that it does not require a prescription from a specialized treatment center; Suboxone can be prescribed by specially trained and certified medical professionals. This makes Suboxone more accessible to OUD patients.


Suboxone Detox Withdrawal Symptoms

Being a schedule three substance, Suboxone can possibly cause drug dependence when used long-term. Physical dependence can cause Suboxone withdrawal symptoms if patients go cold turkey or abruptly stop using the medication. Here are some of the physical symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal to watch out for:

  • — Nausea and vomiting
  • — Diarrhea 
  • — Headaches and muscle aches
  • — Sudden changes in heart rate
  • — Abnormal body temperature
  • — Dehydration


A patient experiencing Suboxone withdrawal may also experience psychological symptoms which might include anxiety and depression, and the following:

  • — Mood swings or irritability
  • — Sleep disorders (i.e. insomnia)
  • — Cravings


To prevent these mental and physical symptoms, the dosage should gradually decrease should the client wish to be off of the medication. If a patient thinks that they might have developed an addiction to Suboxone, it is important that they reach out to a medical professional or connect to a detoxing center. To reiterate, Suboxone can be addictive, and it should always be administered by specially trained medical personnel.

medicailly assisted treatment using suboxone

Alternatives to Suboxone

There exists a particular set of drugs that are utilized in Medication-Assisted Treatment or MAT. They are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and they are designed mainly to relieve or curb withdrawal symptoms from alcohol or drug addiction. For heroin-like or opiate detoxing, the following are substitutes to Suboxone:


This has been the primary medication for people with OUD for a long time. It is a long-acting opioid agonist which reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms and blocks the effect of short-acting opioids such as heroin as well as semi-synthetic opiates like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Methadone can be taken in liquid, powder, and diskette form. According to law, only Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)-certified treatment programs can dispense this medication to address opiate addiction.


Buprenorphine is one of the two medications combined in Suboxone. It is the first medication to treat OUD to be allowed to be dispensed in physician offices. It is a partial agonist that diminishes the effects of dependence on opiates.


This is an FDA-approved medication for both alcohol and opioid use disorders. Unlike the previous two medications, Naltrexone is not an opioid and has no potential addictive effects. It is designed to bind and block receptors, suppressing the euphoric and sedative effects of opiates and alcohol. 

All in all, these three substitutes are proven safe and effective if administered with the proper guidance of certified treatment centers or medical personnel. Regardless of medication choice, these drugs are not meant to be the cure-all for OUD. Instead, they should be integrated into a larger, long-term program that combines pharmacological and behavioral interventions to provide a holistic approach to the patient’s healing process.

Timeline of Withdrawal

Effects of Suboxone

Suboxone is a depressant, which means it reduces arousal or stimulation in various areas of the brain. The immediate desirable effects of those who take the medication are:

  • — Pain relief
  • — Reduced anxiety and stress levels
  • — Calmness and relaxation
  • — Overall sense of well-being


As discussed in the previous sections, those who take Suboxone may experience immediate side effects of withdrawal. Although rare, serious side effects of Suboxone can also happen. Below are signs to call for immediate medical attention:

  • — Breathing problems
  • — Severe allergic reaction
  • — Unconsciousness or coma
  • — Severe withdrawal symptoms


Moreover, misuse (i.e. prolonged intake and improper dosage) can develop into dependence or addiction to Suboxone, which may even lead to fatal results.

detox from suboxone


If a patient who developed a dependence on Suboxone decides to be taken off of the medication, withdrawal symptoms will occur. Various factors can affect the timeline, but generally, quitting cold turkey causes quicker and more intense withdrawal side effects. On the other hand, tapering off of the drug (gradually decreasing intake) results in milder side effects but with a longer period of withdrawal that may take weeks or months. Below is a general timeline for Suboxone detox and the effects commonly experienced:


24 Hours

Patients will start to feel the symptoms of their Suboxone withdrawal after a full day without the drug. General discomfort is experienced, and initial symptoms may include anxiety and depression.

72 Hours

In the first 72 hours of Suboxone detox, withdrawal symptoms start to worsen until they peak. Some of the worst effects may include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, and fever.

One week

After a week, Suboxone withdrawal symptoms are usually at their worst. However, this is also often the turning point of the withdrawal timeline. Most of the effects will be better or even gone by the end of the seventh day, but sometimes, psychological symptoms may remain.

Two weeks

Some patients may still experience the psychological effects of Suboxone withdrawal, such as depression, anxiety, and urges or cravings. These long term symptoms should be addressed through therapy or a further treatment plan


Patients undergoing Suboxone withdrawal should always seek guidance from a detox center or certified medical practitioners.

suboxone treatment trauma focused therapy

Suboxone Addiction Treatment Program

A Suboxone detox program mainly focuses on addressing the drug’s withdrawal symptoms. They are unpleasant and flu-like, but generally not known to cause life-threatening symptoms compared to other depressants like heroin. However, doing detox without proper professional guidance is generally not a good idea, since unmanaged symptoms can still lead to harmful results.

Dehydration is one of the complications that may arise from flu-like symptoms (i.e. sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.). Without access to proper supply of necessary fluids and electrolytes, dehydration can lead to serious medical emergencies. Severe dehydration can even lead to coma or death. A professionally supervised Suboxone detox can prevent these further complications.

Another benefit of undergoing a Suboxone detox program is that it provides structure and support for the psychological and behavioral symptoms of an addiction to the drug. A powerful craving can compel a patient to use the substance, and this compulsion likely leads to relapse. Relapses are a common part of the recovery process; however, if left unchecked, it can lead to an overdose which can be fatal. A Suboxone Addiction treatment plan can include counseling services such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which can be especially beneficial in addressing problematic thought patterns and behaviors of people with Suboxone addiction.

All in all, a detox plan in a professional setting is a safe and effective approach to recovery, as it establishes valuable support to minimize health emergencies, prevent relapse, and even avoid life-threatening complications.

The Use of Suboxone in Treating Opiate Addiction

Generally, a detox plan has two phases: induction and maintenance, and Suboxone is often used in both phases. 

The main purpose of the drug in the induction phase is to reduce the effects of withdrawal. Using this treatment in the induction is only for patients who are on short-acting opioids like codeine, heroin, and oxycodone. Additionally, this medication can only be used when the effects of these opioids are beginning to wear off and the signs of withdrawal have started.

In the maintenance phase, Suboxone is administered in a stable dose for a certain period of time. This is to control and manage the urges and other effects of withdrawal as the patient go through the whole detox plan.

Medications for substance abuse like Suboxone are designed to be transitory. After a while, your doctor or detox center professional will gradually take you off of the treatment.

medical detox suboxone

Types of Treatment for Opiate Addiction

MAT remains to be the first-line treatment for OUD patients. The immediate therapeutic intervention it provides through medication addresses the critical effects of drug abuse. Although vital in the recovery process, medications for OUD are designed to be impermanent and are recommended to be integrated with other detox treatments. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MAT is considered the best treatment option for OUD when combined with other support services as part of a larger, comprehensive treatment plan.

Some of the behavioral and mental health interventions that can be integrated with MAT are:



Another option for a patient is managing their OUD without involving other substances. Some of the key factors that should be considered in order for this recovery treatment to be effective are highly experienced personnel, effective alternative therapies, and intensive long-term care. This non-medicated detox is difficult, but it is an ideal treatment plan for those who do not wish to engage in other potentially addictive drugs.

Regardless of what addiction treatment a patient chooses, the most important thing is that they seek professional help from the right detox center to ensure their recovery and to transition back to the good life that they want for themselves.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Suboxone in Treating Opiate Addiction

Suboxone is considered a long-acting opioid partial agonist, which means that its effects are more dispersed and less intense. This lowers the risks of a patient experiencing its negative side effects. Being a partial agonist also means that it has a lower overdose potential compared to other drugs used in MAT. 

Apart from these advantages, this detox drug is relatively more accessible than Methadone, which is mandated to be dispersed solely by certified treatment centers. Suboxone can be prescribed by specially trained and certified doctors.

Suboxone is a schedule three substance, which means it still has the potential to cause tolerance and dependence. Like any other drug, this detox substance can cause adverse effects if abused and misused. Thus, proper guidance from health professionals is vital.

What to Expect When You Undergo Suboxone Detox or Treatment

It may be unnerving when patients decide to undergo a substance use treatment, especially for those who have no prior knowledge about this type of program. At a glance, here are some of the things that can be expected from a Suboxone addiction recovery plan:


  • — Physical symptoms of withdrawal appear within 12 to 24 hours. They resemble that of the flu (body aches, nausea, vomiting, etc.) mixed with cravings and sleep disturbances. Patients undergoing withdrawal may also struggle with anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
  • — The withdrawal period may last for a few weeks to months. Symptoms worsen and peak within the first 72 hours to a week. Some of them usually get better or even be gone by the end of the seventh day, but some psychological symptoms may remain. A more comprehensive recovery plan helps address any lingering psychological effects.
  • — A detox plan usually includes medical interventions combined with counseling, therapy, and other support services, to address the physical and psychological effects of substance abuse.


Recovery depends on various factors, but a comprehensive recovery guided by trained professionals offers a precise, safe, and effective transition from struggling with OUD to recovery.

suboxone detox treatment

What to Expect After Suboxone Detox

OUD is commonly known to be difficult to defeat, and relapses are common in a patient’s journey to recovery. This is due to the fact that most psychological aspects of substance dependence tend to linger longer than physical ones. Thus, a long-term plan with the main focus on relapse prevention should follow after medical detox. Studies show that psychological services such as counseling, combined with medical intervention, yield the most successful results compared to a singular approach to detox treatment. Participating in group or one-on-one psychotherapy can address deeper issues related to OUD, and it can also equip patients in managing their triggers and prevent future relapse.

Pertinent Statistics on Suboxone Maintenance, Use, and Treatment


  • — Suboxone is a controlled substance under the schedule three category, and should only be dispensed by health professionals with specialized training and certification from the federal government. 
  • — Misuse of this medicine can cause addiction, overdose, or death, especially for children.
  • — Taking this medicine during pregnancy can cause fatal withdrawal symptoms in the newborn.
  • — Use with alcohol and other drugs can produce deadly side effects.
  • — People with buprenorphine or naloxone allergy should not take it.
  • — Suboxone takes effect within 30 minutes to an hour.
  • — Store at room temperature (77°F/25°C)
  • — Use Suboxone exactly as prescribed by your doctor. 


Buena Vista’s Suboxone Detox Treatment

Addiction can affect anyone at any stage of their lives, but it is an illness that is treatable. With professional guidance, recovery is attainable and living life to the full is possible.


If you need to get help for a loved one or if you are in search of a Suboxone Detox Treatment in Arizona, we at Buena Vista are here to help. Our primary goal is to make sure that every patient we serve gets the safest and most comfortable individualized care, and we are proud to be a licensed 3.7 American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) detox campus.


Get started today. Visit us at Buena Vista Health and Recovery Center in Cave Creek, Arizona, or call us at (800) 922-0095.

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