Is Suboxone a Narcotic– Yes it is, but it is a special kind of narcotic that only weakly activates the opiate receptors but does make them think they are full, thus stoping the symptoms of withdrawal without having the pain relief or euphoria of harsher narcotics such as methadone. Suboxone is a schedule 3 controlled substance and is a narcotic/narcotic antagonist combination use to treat narcotic addiction.
The Myths of Suboxone:
Many times posts on the internet about suboxone contain comments about it ‘being worse than methadone’ or that it was somehow more addictive. These comments make good rumors because they have a grain of truth to promote the negative hype. Here is the truth to the rumors:
Suboxone has a 32 hour half life, compared to methadone (6-8 hr) or Vicodin (2-4 hr)
Because of the longer half life, suboxone takes longer to clear from the system and withdrawal lasts longer as a result. Suboxone addiction is more challenging to treat than vicodin or methadone/heroin.
Given that these are true statements, we can all see how problems can arise with suboxone. If patients are put on high doses (more than 2 strips per day) and NOT weaned every couple of months, they can become dependent. That is why we at Denali do not use ‘maintenance’ therapy similar to a methadone clinic. We do not use suboxone for ‘pain’ in an attempt to get past the 100 patient limit as we see and hear of some clinics doing.
The patients that are complaining about suboxone had problems because of poor prescribing and management by ‘suboxone clinics’ that started them on 3-4 strips a day and kept them there for years, a story we hear all the time. They were set up to fail by their doctors, and fail they did. Red flags that patients can look for when evaluating doctors for suboxone include:
- Using suboxone for ‘pain’. Suboxone in oral form is a poor pain medication. At $8 a strip, there are FAR cheaper alternatives to suboxone for pain control. Suboxone is approved for pain management as an injection, but oral suboxone for pain is ‘off label’ and frequently used to attempt to ‘get around’ the limit of 30 or 100 patients under treatment.
- Using suboxone for ‘maintenance’ long term. Suboxone can be used in a similar manner as methadone for narcotic addiction, but it is VERY expense and carries with it a much higher chance of addiction than the ‘weaning’ therapy employed by Denali Healthcare.
- Using ‘subutex’ instead of suboxone on a routine basis. Subutex does not have the narcotic antagonist combine with the narcotic that suboxone has. It has a very high potential for abuse. At Denali Healthcare the ONLY times we use subutex is for pregnant women and in cases of hospital documented anaphylaxis to suboxone.