Coping with Suboxone Withdrawal: Symptoms and Timeline
What are the symptoms for Suboxone withdrawal?
Suboxone withdrawal can last for as long as a month, and symptoms can include:
- Muscle aches
- Digestive distress
- Drug cravings
- Concentration difficulties
Suboxone is a medication used to treat opiate dependence that contains buprenorphine and naloxone.
While Suboxone can be an effective medication to aid in recovery from opiate dependence, it is often a drug that must be taken for long periods of time after the user has stopped taking other addictive opioids.
Despite its effectiveness, Suboxone can also be addictive. As a partial opioid agonist, Suboxone produces similar withdrawal effects to other opioids if it is quit “cold turkey.”
Symptoms of withdrawal from Suboxone can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle/body aches
- Insomnia or drowsiness
- Anxiety, depression, and irritability
- Fever or chills
- Difficulty concentrating
The symptoms can vary in severity and duration, depending on how long users have been taking Suboxone, as well as the dosage of the drug.
Generally, most physical withdrawal symptoms will subside after one month, though psychological dependence can still remain.
Timeline of Withdrawal
Symptoms are the worst in the first 72 hours of Suboxone withdrawal. This is when most physical symptoms are experienced. Then, in the first week after discontinuation of Suboxone, symptoms generally subside to general aches and pains in the body, as well as insomnia and mood swings.
After the second week, depression is the biggest symptom. After one month, users will likely still be experiencing intense cravings and depression. This is the most delicate time after stopping Suboxone use, as users have a great potential for relapse.
As such, the timeline for Suboxone withdrawal is as follows:
- 72 hours: Physical symptoms at their worst
- 1 week: Bodily aches and pains, insomnia, and mood swings
- 2 weeks: Depression
- 1 month: Cravings and depression
Due to this prolonged potential withdrawal, it is important for those who have stopped taking Suboxone to be in contact with a medical professional to prevent relapse.
Managing Addiction without Medication
For most people in recovery, the use of Suboxone is temporary. Use of the medication will eventually be tapered to make way for total sobriety. This process should be done in a slow and measured way, allowing for plateaus to accommodate the individual’s experience and stability along the way.
When Suboxone becomes the object of addiction, however, and use of the medication no longer serves the person in a positive way, it becomes necessary to chart a new path to recovery that may not include use of addictive medications of any kind. This requires the guidance of a team of substance abuse treatment professionals who are:
- Educated and experienced in substance abuse treatment
- Aware of all the issues contributing to the client’s current situation
- Dedicated to offering a comprehensive treatment plan individualized to meet the client’s needs
- Available to provide long-term support
Through comprehensive treatment that includes medical care to address detox and associated withdrawal symptoms as well as therapeutic intervention, medication may not be necessary to stabilize in recovery.
Key Characteristics of Nonmedicated Detox
- Highly educated, experienced treatment professionals
- Alternative therapies to manage physical withdrawal symptoms
- Peer support
- Therapeutic follow-up care
- Long-term aftercare and continued relapse prevention
Therapeutic Support and Recovery
The key to maintaining sobriety for the long-term is therapy. Without it, it will be impossible to remain abstinence for any meaningful length of time.
Depending on the experience of the client leading up to and during addiction, and goals for the future, the therapeutic choices incorporated into an individualized treatment plan may vary widely from person to person. In most cases, however, a therapeutic treatment plan to address Suboxone addiction will include:
- Evaluation and assessment: A full understanding of all the issues that play a role in a person’s use of drugs is essential to creating a directed and effective treatment plan. Behavioral disorders, co-occurring mental health disorders, underlying medical conditions, trauma, and more are identified early on in order to ensure that these issues are all addressed during the treatment process.
- Unique treatment plan: Depending on the results of the evaluation and assessment, the person’s goals for recovery, length of time in treatment, and available resources, a unique treatment plan is created.
- Personal therapy: Meeting regularly with a therapist on a one-on-one basis can provide a “home base” for the client throughout recovery. Here, it is possible to work on past issues and present challenges, and manage treatment goals.
- Individualized case management: Case management is required to ensure that all pieces of the puzzle are fitting together in a way that provides coping skills for a long and stable recovery after treatment.
- Group therapy sessions: Meeting regularly with others who are also on the path to balance in sobriety can provide a valuable network of support during treatment and in the months and years following.
- Peer support, or 12-Step, meetings: The 12-Step treatment structure has proven beneficial in the lives of millions of people, and many treatment programs incorporate the philosophy and group session style into their programs. This not only offers clients positive support in recovery but also provides them with a portable therapy option that will assist them in the transition into independent sobriety.
- Alternative therapies: Artistic therapies, food-based therapies, exercise therapies, animal-assisted therapies, and more can be excellent additions to the traditional therapies mentioned above. These should be chosen based on a client’s interests and areas of need. For example, those struggling with making positive connections with other people in recovery and trusting themselves may opt for a sports and adventure therapy that takes them into the outdoors with a group to explore nature and step outside their comfort zone.
- Holistic therapies: Holistic therapies can also be personalized to suit the personality and interest of the individual. Some popular options include yoga, meditation, drumming, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, and more.
- Long-term aftercare and support: Treatment does not stop when rehab ends. Rather, this initial phase of recovery is just a starting point, and those who are most successful in maintaining sobriety for the long-term are the ones who remain actively engaged in treatment for all issues (e.g., addiction, co-occurring mental health issues, etc.) for years after transitioning into independent living. This can mean continuing to meet with a personal therapist, attending 12-Step meetings, connecting with other support group options, and engaging in holistic and alternative therapies that are meaningful.
Coping with Withdrawal Symptoms
While there is no foolproof way to stave off the symptoms of withdrawal or to make them less physically uncomfortable, there are a wide variety of coping strategies to deal with the stress of withdrawal.
Some coping mechanisms for Suboxone withdrawal symptoms include:
- Physical activity: This does not have to be just strictly exercise in the form of hitting the gym and working out; it can be simply taking a pleasant walk in the evening or hiking a scenic trail. Maintaining an exercise program is extremely beneficial for coping with stress and physical health.
- Social activity: Keeping in touch with close family and friends, even without having to tell them about possible withdrawal symptoms and the recovery process, is also an effective way to manage the stress of withdrawal.
- Relaxation time or hobbies: Making time to relax in the midst of everyday life can be hard, but it is absolutely necessary for maintaining recovery. Many who are suffering from withdrawal from Suboxone, or other opioids, may struggle with relaxing in a healthy way, but finding any appealing hobby (writing, art, crafts, etc.) can be very helpful in managing withdrawal symptoms.
- Adapting to the situation: Accept that withdrawal is part of the recovery process. Adopting a more positive outlook to the recovery process could help to replace feelings of shame, anger, and depression with feelings of satisfaction and pride.
Withdrawal may be a difficult process, but it, like most things in life, will not last forever. It is only a temporary condition that can be handled with many coping strategies.