Suboxone withdrawal is worse than heroin withdrawal. No one has ever been able to successfully taper off Suboxone. Tapering off Suboxone is something that’s shrouded in both mystery and myth. While the thought of stopping the medication certainly generates a bit of anxiety, the unknowns and “what ifs” are truly the drivers of fear. What …
How to Ensure You Have a Successful Suboxone Taper
Suboxone withdrawal is worse than heroin withdrawal.
No one has ever been able to successfully taper off Suboxone.
Tapering off Suboxone is something that’s shrouded in both mystery and myth. While the thought of stopping the medication certainly generates a bit of anxiety, the unknowns and “what ifs” are truly the drivers of fear. What will it feel like when your Suboxone dose is decreased? Will it feel like you’re in withdrawal 24/7? Will anyone help you if the taper is going too fast?
By answering the what ifs and shining a light on the unknowns, tapering off Suboxone suddenly becomes a lot less frightening. Once the fear is under control, you’re free to play a leading role in your own recovery process.
What is a Suboxone Taper?
First thing’s first; let’s talk about what a Suboxone taper is and why it’s so important. Tapering is defined as gradually discontinuing or reducing the dose of a particular drug required by a patient over a prolonged period of time. Pay close attention to those last six words: “…over a prolonged period of time.”
The process of tapering is, by definition, meant to be slow.
Suboxone is an FDA-approved medication that has changed the way opioid addiction is treated. Its unique combination of two distinctive chemical compounds – buprenorphine and naloxone – give it the ability to virtually eliminate opioid withdrawal symptoms and minimize the risk of abuse. It takes time to recover from opioid use disorders, so most patients take Suboxone for an extended period of time.
Since buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, it does carry a risk of dependency. Given this risk, when you’re ready to stop taking Suboxone, a supervised taper is always recommended.
Trying to quit “cold turkey” without assistance can be dangerous and cause painful withdrawal symptoms, both of which increase your odds of relapse. A supervised taper, on the other hand, significantly lowers or eliminates withdrawal symptoms and prepares your body for life beyond Suboxone.
What to Expect During a Suboxone Taper
The road to a successful Suboxone taper begins with open, honest dialogue between you and your clinician. From those conversations, you will work together to develop a plan to reduce the amount of Suboxone you take. The result is a tapering schedule that is highly individualized and focused on your personal needs instead of being focused on adherence to one specific approach.
Your dosage can be lowered a little bit at a time over several days, weeks, or even months. According to the National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment (NAABT), Suboxone should generally be lowered in increments of 2 mg at a time every few days. Keep in mind, however, this progress relies on your level of dependence and individual experience. If you’re on a well-structured tapering schedule, you should only feel mild withdrawal symptoms for a few days following a reduction in dose.
If, at any point during the taper, your withdrawal symptoms or cravings become more intense, talk to your clinician. He or she can readjust your dose or slow the taper. You may need to go back to a previous dosage level in order to stabilize or increase the amount of time in between dosage reductions.
In some cases, a medication called Naltrexone may be used after you’ve tapered off Suboxone. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist medication that works by blocking the effects of opioids. When used after the Suboxone tapering process, it offers additional anti-craving properties that can strengthen long-term sobriety. If used before the Suboxone taper is complete, however, Naltrexone can cause precipitated withdrawal.
Getting Help With Your Suboxone Taper
Some people might tell you that getting off Suboxone is impossible – that no one can handle the withdrawals or function without the medication. Thankfully, that isn’t true. With proper treatment and support, you can successfully taper off Suboxone.