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Understanding Subutex Addiction

Subutex is a partial opioid drug which is a brand name of buprenorphine. It shares properties with other opioid drugs such as Heroin and Morphine. It is usually administered in pill form within a medical setting for treating opioid addiction and dependence. If an addict is addicted to an opioid drug such as Heroin, they can be given Subutex to help counteract uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and strong cravings that could lead to relapse. Street names for Subutex include Big White, Sobos, Small Whites, Subs, Sub and Stops.

If taken correctly on the advise of a medical professional, Subutex isn’t harmful. It can help to reduce an opioid addict’s cravings, reduce withdrawal symptoms if a person has an opioid dependency, and prevent future abuse of opioids by blocking their effects within the body. Abuse of the drug can however lead to addiction. Those who abuse it may inject it intravenously after mixing it with water, or by crushing the tablets and snorting them. Subutex is an opioid drug in itself, and is therefore highly addictive. The drug has what is known as a ‘ceiling effect’, which means that it’s desired results only take effect to a certain point. If too much of the drug is consumed, negative side effects and the cycle of dependency can worsen.

What Effects and Abuse of Subutex?

When taken, Subutex produces a partial opioid response, and mimics how drugs such as Heroin or painkillers might make a person feel. The effects however are less intense. A user may feel mild euphoric sensations, less sensation, and an ability to feel pain, a slower breathing rate, and a state of relaxation. If Subutex is mixed with other opioids or depressant drugs, it can cause the body to slow down so much that a person risks cardiovascular collapse, respiratory failure, and even death.

When compared with other opioids, the long-term effects of using Subutex are relatively mild. That said, if the drug is taken within 6 hours of taking another opiate drug (such as Heroin), very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms will be felt. If an individual has been prescribed Subutex for an opiate addiction and stops taking it but returns to opiates instead, their body may become hypersensitive to the opiates, increasing the chances of death via an overdose.

What are Warning Signs of Subutex Addiction?

Subutex gives an abuser a euphoric high and a mild sense of calming relaxation. If a person starts to abuse Subutex and they do not have a background of opiate addiction, the Subutex on its own may be enough for them to experience a major high. Some opiate addicts may sell Subutex for other, stronger drugs. Signs of Subutex addiction include:

  • Secrecy and lies regarding Subutex doses
  • Lack of interest in work and home life
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Low mood and depression
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems

What are Subutex Withdrawal Symptoms?

Those abusing Subutex are at risk of fatal liver failure, as well as heart and breathing complications. Subutex affects the respiratory system by greatly slowing it down. In some cases, users have also experienced peripheral edema (swelling of extremities), and other allergic reactions. When the drug is abused frequently, the chance of an overdose is very high.

As it is so addictive, a user can experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when Subutex isn’t frequently taken. These include:

  • Cold and flu-like symptoms
  • Numbness and redness in the mouth
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Shakes and sweats
  • Pain and aching in the muscles

What Support for Subutex Addiction?

If you believe a relative or friend may have an addiction to Subutex, it can be a worrying time and you may wonder how you can help them. Firstly, it is important not to judge them or approach them in a confrontational manner about their addiction. Show that you are concerned for their welfare and safety, and try to educate yourself as much as possible about their drug addiction. Try to understand their situation and exercise empathy, even when you receive hostility, anger or denial from them. If possible, try to talk to the addict when they are trying to quit Subutex, as you will be able to encourage them to stop using. If the addict responds in a positive manner, you may able to constructively suggest that they try counselling or admit themselves to rehab.

You may have noticed recent changes in their mood, yellowing skin, red eyes, secrecy, a perforated septum, and flu-like symptoms in the person using drugs. Talk to them about how they are feeling and encourage them to get help for such symptoms, as this may prompt them to seek further help for their drug problem.

If an addict will not seek help on their own terms, another possible option is to stage an intervention. This often takes place with the help and advice of medical professionals and/or an interventionist or rehabilitation facility. An intervention is a rehearsed confrontation that takes place between the addict and their loved ones. It gives the family an opportunity to tell the addict how they feel and how the addiction is destroying the user’s life.

What Treatment of Subutex Addiction?

If a person is trying to stop abusing Subutex, the safest way to do so is in a professional medical setting where they can be supported and carefully monitored in case they experience uncomfortable or dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Supervised treatment is considered the most successful way to quit any type of drug.

Following a detox, ongoing treatment begins, usually in a residential rehab facility where clients are removed from temptations and distractions associated with their daily lives. Rehabilitation involves focusing on the causes of the drug addiction so that problems can be resolved and the user changes the way they think about drugs. Common therapies to motivate and heal clients include meditation and mindfulness, educational drug workshops, hypnotherapy, family therapy and counselling, speech therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). When admission to a rehab facility ends, many addicts still continue to attend Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, other 12-step groups and counselling sessions to remain on track with their progress when at home.

Medically Supervised Subutex Detox

Those embarking on a course of treatment for Subutex addiction will usually begin with a detox. This is essential if the drug is being taken alongside other dangerous opiates such as Heroin, as withdrawal symptoms will need to be managed and controlled. During a detox, substances are removed from the body in the safest way possible in around 28 days, depending on the severity of the addiction and how the user reacts to the treatment. Medications may be given to ease painful withdrawal symptoms.

Undertaking a detox means that a user will be able to stop using synthetic opiates or other drugs without suffering from withdrawal symptoms. A full assessment is undertaken before a detox begins to determine what a client needs. The detox process takes two stages. The first is the ‘induction’ stage, in which just enough Subutex is removed from the dosage to bring on withdrawal symptoms. This takes around a day to take effect, and the client is medically supervised throughout the process.

The second stage is called the destabilisation period. This is where the dosage of Subutex is tapered over a seven day period. The client takes less of the drug as the week continues until the dose is zero. Medical professionals monitor the destabilisation period carefully to ensure that the drug is being withdrawn safely and at a pace that is comfortable for the client. How the client reacts to the detox process and the length of time the tapering process takes depends on the severity of the addiction, whether the client experiences any setbacks or health problems as a result of withdrawal, and whether or not they are suffering from any mental health problems linked to Subutex addiction.