Chronic Pain Management Options
Finding a way to manage chronic pain that can’t be eliminated through surgery and other treatments can be very frustrating. Narcotic drugs like Vicodin, codeine and morphine all work splendidly at blocking out chronic pain, but they are not safe enough to use on a long-term basis. That is truer still for people who suffer from addictions or who are at risk of developing addictions, as narcotics carry a high risk of dependency and other issues.
What is Suboxone?
There’s a lot of confusion out there about Suboxone and what it can and can’t do. This addiction therapy drug was developed and first made available in the early 2000s. It was specifically designed for the treatment of opioid addiction to block the opioid receptors. The drug is made up of two drugs: buprenophrine and naloxone. Buprenophrine is what is known as an opioid partial agonist. This means that it activates certain receptors in the brain. Buprenophrine is what makes Suboxone effective against certain types of pain.
Suboxone also contains naloxone, which is what is known as an opioid antagonist. This means that it works to inhibit certain receptors in the brain. Naloxone is the ingredient that reduces the risk that Suboxone can be misused as with addiction. This medication is specially formulated to curb drug abuse, and the combination of these two ingredients puts a limit on the positive effects that can be derived after a certain point. In most cases, doses exceeding 16 to 32 mg per day will not produce any additional beneficial effects. As a result, this drug is much less likely to be abused, as there is a definite limit on how much it can affect the brain at a certain point.
How is Suboxone Used?
With all of that being said, it is easy to wonder what Suboxone is good for. After all, if it isn’t typically used to treat chronic pain, when, how and why is it used at all? Until Suboxone was introduced, methadone was the preferred way to treat opioid addiction and withdrawal symptoms. However, to obtain methadone, addicts had to visit special clinics that could only dispense so much of the medication at a time. There are drawbacks to methadone too, so Suboxone was developed as a way to assist in opioid addiction therapy.
Overcoming an addiction to opioids is difficult for many reasons. One of the most pressing concerns is getting an addicted individual safely through the initial withdrawal stage, which can be very dangerous. Indeed, people can and do die due to withdrawal, so it is crucial to be under the care of a doctor before attempting to do so. Because someone who is addicted to opioids has developed a tolerance to them, they can’t simply quit “cold turkey.” At the same time, opioids are very dangerous and difficult to taper down from. Suboxone is prescribed to help manage pain and withdrawal symptoms of opioid addiction.
Pain Receptors and Suboxone
Does Suboxone help with pain? Absolutely. It works by blocking receptors that allow your brain to feel pain. However, it does this much less effectively than many other types of drugs. By the time that someone is prescribed Suboxone, they have typically abused opioids to the point where they have developed additional narcotic receptors in the brain. For this reason, they typically need more and more of the drug to achieve any relief. This is where the risk of overdose becomes very real.
Suboxone is prescribed because by switching to this medication, an addict can give their brain a chance to get back on track with its receptors. They can safely switch to taking Suboxone instead of whatever drug they had been abusing, which gives the brain a chance to eliminate some of those extra receptors. Ideally, then, Suboxone should be taken until narcotic receptors have stabilized to the extent where the addict can then wean themselves off of the Suboxone and start living a drug-free life.
Even though Suboxone carries far less risk of addiction than opioid medications like Vicodin, it isn’t an optimal choice for the management of chronic, long-term pain. In fact, it is not approved by the FDA for this purpose but only for addiction therapy. When used in addiction therapy, Suboxone treatment must still be carefully monitored by a qualified physician. Additionally, Suboxone can be harmful or even deadly if used along with alcohol, benzodiazepines and certain sedatives and CNS depressants. For these and many other reasons, people are not prescribed Suboxone for pain. It is highly unlikely that this medication will ever be approved for this purpose as it was specifically formulated to address addiction.
While it is technically true that Suboxone helps with pain, it is never prescribed for this purpose. It should not be used for this purpose, either. When someone is prescribed Suboxone, it is because they have an addiction to opioids and need to safely withdraw from them as a part of the recovery process. People who suffer from addictions to opioids and other drugs must take special care when managing chronic pain, as the risk of developing a dependency is especially high. Although Suboxone isn’t prescribed under such circumstances, it is a medication that can have very positive benefits for those who suffer from addiction.