How Long Should I Stay on Suboxone?

How Long Should I Stay on Suboxone? Learn the best length of time to stay on Suboxone for opioid addiction

Medication Assisted Recovery (ie: MAT) is used for treating those who are chemically-dependent on opioid drugs. (ie: OxyContin, oxycodone, heroin, hydrocodone, Opana, oxymorphone, etc.)

Suboxone (buprenorphine & naloxone) is used to help “virtually eliminate withdrawals and cravings”, while also helping prevent relapse. Though some people report feeling minor euphoria when first taking Suboxone, they typically do not feel “high” while taking it. Suboxone is a “partial agonist”. It partially covers opioid receptors in the brain which alleviates withdrawal symptoms, without the effects provided normal opioid drugs, which are considered “full agonists”.

Suboxone contains a blocking agent named naloxone. Naloxone helps prevent the feelings of euphoria if/when an opioid drug is taken along with it. Naloxone is also used in ambulances and emergency rooms to help prevent opioid overdose.

One of the questions we get asked most frequently is, “How long should I stay on Suboxone?”

Nashville Suboxone Recovery co-owner Drew Bourke shares his personal addiction issues, his Suboxone usage, and also what’s most common with Suboxone users at his clinic.

NR: How did you end up choosing Suboxone as part of your recovery?
Drew: You have to go way back to the beginning to understand my recovery. I drank and did recreational drugs from the time I was 14 years old. Rarely did I ever drink too much or do anything considered dangerous with drugs. I was truly a part-time recreational user until year 2000.
NR: What happened in 2000?
Drew: I suffered a lower back injury while skiing in early 2000 and didn’t give it much thought. Months later I woke up and was in a lot of lower back pain. I went to a doctor who did x-ray’s and an MRI. Turns out, I had a ruptured disc, a bulging disc and a pinched nerve. The doctor told me that some people have the same issues and never feel it, while other people like me feel a great deal of pain. He prescribed hydrocodone and I took that for many years without any issues.

“Opioids mess-up your body chemistry – Important chemicals like dopamine and testosterone plummet with long-term opioid use. Our bodies need time to begin making these chemicals again, and at normal levels.”

NR: When did your opioid drug use escalate?
Drew: I actually stopped taking hydrocodone in 2007. Just weaned off and didn’t think much about it. Sadly, my back pain returned with vengeance in 2008. So, i went back to my doctor and he upped my prescription to 4 – 10mg hydrocodone daily. I stayed on that for 2 years, but eventually began taking more than I was being prescribed.
NR: Then what happened?
Drew: In 2011 I went to a doctor in Nashville who was very liberal with his prescribing. A friend told me this doctor would “take care of me”, and boy did he. He prescribed me 120mg of oxycodone and 40mg of OxyContin per day. I would take the OxyCodone at night to prevent waking up in pain. It worked for a while, but came with a cost.
NR: What was the cost?
Drew: I quickly become even more addicted to the opioids. I couldn’t get enough. My pain actually got worse, which I later learned is a function of how opioids work with your brain. They trick us into thinking they are the solution, making us want more and more and more. All the while, they don’t work much better than ibuprofen. I was also going through a lot of personal issues and life changes between 2008 and 2013 and the pills seemed to dull my emotions and alleviate the emotional pain. Pills quickly become my solution to living a miserable life. For a time they appeared to solve all of my problems, but we all know that avoiding problems only makes them worse. That’s when I started buying pills on the street.
NR: How much were you taking at the end?
Drew: I think my highest level was about 250mg of oxycodone and 80-100mg of OxyContin every day for at least 6 months before I got clean.

“If I had to suggest an absolute minimum time to stay on Suboxone, I’d tell everyone to stay on it for at least a year.”

NR: Want made you decide to get clean?
Drew: I was ready to die. Really ready. I knew I couldn’t live without drugs in my system, I just couldn’t imagine being clean. So, I checked myself into inpatient treatment November 1, 2013 and stayed for two weeks. I got clean, but felt like a truck had run me over. My withdrawals lasted for 14 days and nights – no sleep, no appetite. I was more miserable clean than I was using. So, I relapsed over and over until January 9, 2014.
NR: What happened on January 9, 2014 that was different?
Drew: I remembered they had given me Suboxone the first 6 days in inpatient treatment. I remembered how great I felt. I felt normal, no withdrawals, wasn’t “high”, some of my emotions started coming back. My appetite returned, I started sleeping better, etc. That is, until they stopped my Subcone treatment. So, I set an appointment at a Suboxone clinic in Nashville and haven’t touched a drug or drink since. Suboxone saved my life. Without it, I’m sure I’d be dead by now.

“Life got good for me the moment I started taking Suboxone”

NR: How long did you stay on Suboxone?
Drew: I stayed on Suboxone for 5 years. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I had used opioids for 13 years and had messed up my chemicals. Suboxone allows you to gently become yourself again both physically and emotionally. I also joined group recovery and started seeing a therapist. I was desperate to change my life, and thank God everything I did to get clean and stay clean actually worked.
NR: How long do most people stay on Suboxone?
Drew: The question we hear most often is, “How long should I stay on Suboxone?” It’s actually a hard question to answer because it varies by individual. However, I can use our clinical data to show you what we’ve found at Nashville Suboxone Recovery.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Younger people who haven’t used opioids for more than a few months can sometimes get away with 5-6 months of Suboxone treatment. They heal faster due to age and short-term usage.
  • People over 25 who have used opioids for longer periods of time tend to stay on Suboxone for many years, and that’s a smart thing to do. In truth, you can’t unwind a 10-year opioid problem in 3 months. People need time to recover. Opioids mess-up your body chemistry – Important chemicals like dopamine and testosterone plummet with long-term opioid use. Our bodies need time to begin making these chemicals again, and at normal levels.
  • Some people, regardless of age or length of abuse, need to stay on Suboxone for years. People like me. I needed something in my system for a while to prevent me from using again. I felt great taking Suboxone and realized that being in a hurry to get off of it would only mean repeated relapse. I decided to do it once and do it right.
  • There’s also another group of people who need to stay on Suboxone indefinitely. Socioeconomic conditions have put them in a difficult place where drugs run rampant. Suboxone is not only keeping them clean, it’s also providing a better quality of life.
  • Most everyone asks, “How long should I stay on Suboxone?” Ultimately, they have to decide what’s best for them. From what I’ve noticed, longer Suboxone use is better than shorter use. The short-term users almost always relapse. I hate seeing that happen to good people, and they’re all good people.

NR: Anything else you’d like to add?
Drew: Yes. Don’t be in a hurry to get off of Suboxone. Turn it into an monthly investment that’s saving your life and making your life better. If I feel it necessary, I will take Suboxone again for as long as needed. Life got good for me the moment I started taking Suboxone and never got bad again. I’ve seen Suboxone save lives and change the lives for hundreds of people. The worst thing I see is when people get on Suboxone, life gets good fast, and then they think they’re cured and stop taking it. They relapse over and over again. And, relapses don’t get better, they get worse every time. If I had to suggest an absolute minimum time to stay on Suboxone, I’d tell everyone to stay on it for at least a year. Give yourself time to change your life, save your family, rebuild your job or career and be happy for a while, Then, and only then should you think about tapering off Suboxone.

Thinking of starting Suboxone treatment?
Call or text Nashville Suboxone Recovery today to speak with a staff member who can help you determine if Suboxone therapy is right for you.
Call or text: 615-431-3701

how long should I stay on Suboxone

This article, How long should I stay on Suboxone? is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and is not meant to be considered as medical advice.

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