Suboxone is actually two drugs in one pill or film. The first and only active ingredient, Buprenorphine, is a narcotic analgesic, which was originally released as a regular pain medicine.
Buprenorphine in and of itself is a very effective pain medication. The second component is naloxone, which does nothing if the medication is taken as directed. If ground up, injected or snorted or when taken with other opiates, the naloxone component can precipitate withdrawal symptoms etc. When the medication is taken as directed, the naloxone passes through the GI tract totally inactive. Naloxone is there only as a deterrent to discourage abuse and as a safety factor.
Unlike other opiates and narcotics, buprenorphine does not cause as much tachyphylaxis and tolerance (loss of effectiveness of a given dose of the drug.) So you don’t develop ever increasing dose requirements etc. This virtue allows for safe long term use for patients who require pain medication chronically. Patients are more alert and cognitive functions are not as compromised on buprenorphine when compared to other opiates.
Because Suboxone is a long acting drug, there is less abrupt onset of withdrawal symptoms when a dose is missed. Therefore, when used as a tool to “detoxify” an individual, gradual reduction in dose to wean off of the drug is much easier than with the other opiates.
In our program, we use several unique techniques for helping people taper off of suboxone after being stable for a time. Ask our staff for details. Thus, Suboxone can be used as an effective pain medication or as a tool to detoxify an addicted patient gradually on an out patient basis.