Most people who start in recovery are rarely thinking about their Suboxone taper right off the bat. Nor do many people who start on Suboxone intend to take it for too long. The question is, how long is too long?
Years ago I was under the belief that six months or less was a good allotment of time before attempting a Suboxone taper. After all, state health insurance was using six months as a maximum for how long they were willing to provide addiction medication coverage. All that has changed, including my beliefs.
I was actually disappointed years ago seeing that many people were staying on Suboxone for much longer than I anticipated. I had made the assumption that most everyone would start Suboxone, get their life back in order, and then begin a taper. I can say now that was ignorant thinking on my part.
Suboxone is much more than just a transitional drug. It not only replaces harmful street and prescription drugs (hydrocodone, oxycodone, heroin) it also provides a change and often substantial improvements to someone’s lifestyle when they’re addicted to opiates.
For example, when someone is addicted to opioids they are in constant need of replenishing their supply. Often times, people are in need of more opioids every couple of hours in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. For me, it was about every three hours, and it was time to take another pill. That got expensive over time.
My habit changed quickly from a 20 milligram daily habit to a 230 milligram daily habit in only two years. And, there’s no going back when you increase your opioid intake.
I was constantly trying to take fewer pills every day, but it never worked. I swear, I actually took more pills on the days I tried to take less. My brain was being completely manipulated by opioids, even tricking me into thinking I had a very serious lower back issue. Turns out I don’t. At least, nothing some ibuprofen and daily stretching can’t handle.
“Pills were on my mind 24 hours out of every day.”
Drugs reprogram our brain into thinking we need more and more and more, and we become willing to do most anything in order to get what we need, especially when we get close to going into withdrawals. Trust me, it’s awful. I did things when I was addicted I never thought I’d do. My pill problem became the most important thing in my life.
Pills were on my mind 24 hours out of every day. I was living a nightmare but nothing else mattered.
Then I got onto Suboxone and found my solution. Suboxone gave me mental clarity, relieved me from hourly cravings, allowed me to eat, sleep and live like a normal human being. I can honestly say I owe my life to Suboxone.
When to Start a Suboxone Taper
The number one reason people relapse is because they stop taking Suboxone too soon. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times. People get their job back, their family back and they think they’re cured. That’s just simply not the truth. It can take up to a full year for our bodies to begin replenishing the critically important chemicals we’ve been starved of thanks to our opioid abuse. Remember, you can’t fix a 5 year opioid problem in 5 months. It takes time to fully recover.
“The number one reason people relapse is because they stop taking Suboxone too soon.”
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. It is being provided only as an observation having witnessed over 1500 Suboxone users’ experiences.
A Suboxone taper is not only a personal choice, it’s one that should be discussed with a medical professional – one who specializes in addiction treatment.
At the Nashville Recovery clinic our physicians ask patients every six three months about a Suboxone taper, which is twice as often as even the state recommends. However, it is always up the patient as to when a Suboxone taper makes the most sense.
“Remember, you can’t fix a 5 year opioid problem in 5 months. It takes time to fully recover.”
Based on my experience alone, I like to see people stay on Suboxone for at least one full year. A year is a good allotment of time to allow people to not only begin getting their life back in order, but also to decide what’s next in life. People change when they get clean. They make different (better) choices.
Sometimes families break up as a result of someone getting sober, especially if there’s other family members still using drugs an alcohol inside and outside the home. That can be a very toxic situation for someone who’s trying to stay away from drugs and change their life for the better.
One unwritten rule in most 12-step programs is to “take a year off” from making big decisions. People who move, change careers, get married or get divorced within their first year of sobriety are often filled with regret that they made important decisions too quickly.
For example, I was seven-plus years into recovery when my wife and I decided the marriage wasn’t working. I made a vow to myself to take one whole year off from dating in order to give myself time to adjust, and more importantly, to determine what it is that I really want in a long-term relationship.
My marriage happened at a time when I was using drugs. It only made sense that I take a year off since I have a completely different mindset, different wants and different needs than I did when I was using drugs and alcohol. What surprised me most was how quickly that year went by. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself.
After a year on Suboxone, people usually have a good idea of what life looks like clean. Regular conversations with their Suboxone doctor and/or a therapist can also help determine when the best possible time is for a Suboxone taper.
A few considerations before attempting a Suboxone taper:
It’s a great idea to have have enjoyed at least six months to a full year of stable living before attempting a Suboxone taper. Here are a few things to consider:
- Is your family life stable?
- Is your work / career going well?
- Have you avoided making big life-changes during your first year of recovery?
- Have you completely removed yourself from old triggers?
- Will you be able to react calmly to negative events and/or life changes during or after your Suboxone taper?
- Does the thought of taking less Suboxone worry you? (ie: Have you missed a dose or two in the past without any issues?)
Click this link to download The Most Painless Suboxone Taper on the Planet.
Read the Suboxone taper thoroughly. Notice the first step is actually quite a big one:
- Reduce your dosage by 25% each month until you reach 1 milligram
If Step 1 step makes you nervous, you’re probably not ready to for a Suboxone taper.
Why the 1 milligram goal before the remaining steps?
Great question! Believe it or not, even 1 milligram is a very effective amount of Suboxone to taper from. It can take a while to go from 1 milligram to 0 milligrams, and it’s the last milligram that’s always the toughest.
Why the 25% per month reduction?
According to the Suboxone doctors I work with, a 25% reduction over a period of one month is slow enough that most people will not experience withdrawal symptoms.
Final Suboxone Taper Notes
Speak with your doctor and therapist before starting a taper. Definitely don’t do it without their knowledge. Your doctor and therapist may make you aware of blindspots that you’re simply unable to see.
Best of success!!