What are the Alternatives to Suboxone?

The disease of addiction is infamous for the way it affects virtually every aspect of one’s life. Although it’s probably the health and physical effects one thinks of first, there are many profound and negative effects of addiction beyond those that are physical. When an individual becomes addicted to alcohol or drugs, he or she initiates a complete transformation.

In addition to severely weakening one’s immune system and potentially damaging a number of bodily systems, there are a number of personality effects that result from addiction as well, including dishonesty and deceit, desperation, emotional volatility, aggression, depression, and so on. These changes affect not only the addict but virtually everyone with whom he or she has a close relationship.

With so many different effects, addiction treatment and recovery can be somewhat complicated. After finally choosing to seek treatment, an addict must find the right programming for his or her particular needs. This includes finding a facility in an optimal location that offers the most appropriate programs and treatments that address one’s individual symptoms.

As such, there are many different approaches to the treatment of addiction with some programs or treatments even incorporating the use of medication as a useful tool for overcoming alcohol abuse or drug addiction. The most common and well-known medication for treating addiction is Suboxone, which is the trade name for a substance that contains buprenorphine and naloxone.

Although it’s a favorite, of many treatment providers and physicians, there are a few alternatives available as well, which differ not only in how they work but also in how they’re used as part of an addiction treatment regimen. Therefore, the following will define and describe Suboxone, including how it’s used in addiction treatments, before describing some of the alternatives and how they are used in the treatment of addiction.

What Exactly Is Suboxone?

Although it’s been occasionally used to treat chronic pain, Suboxone is most familiar as a medication that’s used to treat opioid addiction. Containing a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, Suboxone most often comes within a sublingual strip form or in tablet form, but there’s also a transdermal form as well. Buprenorphine is the primary and most beneficial ingredient in Suboxone as it’s the substance that prevents opioid addicts from experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they are no longer using heroin or opiates.

Unique among prescribed drugs, buprenorphine is described as “sticky,” which refers to its ability to bind to the brain’s opioid receptors, even kicking other opioids out of the way to take their place; having become bound to the receptors, the buprenorphine “sticks” to the receptors for a long period of time during which other opioids are rendered ineffective. In short, buprenorphine binds with the opioid receptors in the brain in order to block other substances from binding with them. As such, there are a number of addiction treatment programs that will offer patients Suboxone as part of treatment, especially during detoxification if individuals are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.

Additionally, buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which means that while it is readily able to bind to opioid receptors, it doesn’t activate them to such an extent that it would produce a sense of euphoria. The effect is that it renders all of an individual’s available opioid receptors occupied by a pseudo-opiate that doesn’t produce much of a sense of euphoria, which is why Suboxone is so highly favored for the treatment of opioid addiction.

The naloxone in Suboxone similarly binds to opioid receptors, but as an opioid antagonist, it doesn’t activate the receptors at all. Naloxone is added to Suboxone in order to make it tamper-resistant as individuals who introduce naloxone directly into the bloodstream — which can occur if an individual were to try to abuse Suboxone intravenously — will be thrown into immediate opioid withdrawal by the naloxone. This is why naloxone has become such an important drug for treating cases of opioid withdrawal.

Methadone & Methadone Maintenance

Until the development of Suboxone, the most readily available alternative was methadone. Used in a similar manner as Suboxone, methadone has traditionally been given to individuals who suffer from opioid addiction, allowing them to cease their opioid abuse without experiencing severe withdrawals.

It’s not uncommon for methadone to be prescribed to individuals who suffer from chronic pain, especially when they have already tried other, more common opiate medications. When used to treat opioid addiction, methadone works on certain areas of the brain and spinal cord in order to block the effect of opioids to a certain extent, although methadone’s ability to function as an opioid blocker is considered much less effective than that of Suboxone.

Many consider methadone to be more a form of harm reduction rather than useful in recovery, but methadone has proven to be especially effective at reducing cravings for heroin and opiates, making it a favorite medication for use in replacement therapy such as methadone maintenance programs.

In these programs, opioid addicts attend a treatment facility each day to dose methadone under the supervision of physicians and nurses; as a companion to the methadone treatment, these programs also offer counseling and group sessions to help individuals overcome the psychological aspects of addiction.

Zubsolv & New Drugs

While methadone and Suboxone are very common and widely used in a number of treatment programs today, pharmaceutical developers are always looking for more effective medications that will treat or alleviate the effects of addiction. Zubsolv is one such medication that’s newer than methadone and Suboxone and has been officially approved for use in opioid addiction treatments by the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Consisting of buprenorphine and naloxone like Suboxone, Zubsolv was intended to be taken once daily and comes in tablet form. However, the primary difference between Suboxone and Zubsolv is that the latter has improved bioavailability. This means that the body of an individual who takes Zubsolv is able to absorb and process more of the active ingredients than he or she would be able to process from Suboxone, making Zubsolv more effective at smaller doses. Other new medications with improved bioavailability include Bunavail.

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