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Suboxone History: A Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Buprenorphine is a synthetic opioid that can be used to treat opioid addiction. It is commonly known by the trade names Suboxone, Subutex, Buprenex, and Temgesic. Suboxone is a formulation of Buprenorphine and naloxone, and is used primarily for the treatment of opioid addiction, while some of the others above are used for pain treatment.

Suboxone history begins with Buprenorphine. Buprenorphine was manufactured in the 1980s as a treatment for pain that would be less addictive than morphine or other opiate-based treatments. It wasn't until 2002 that the FDA approved Suboxone. Suboxone was approved for use in the European Union in 2006. Suboxone was first made as a tablet that is placed under the tongue, and was made specifically to treat opiate addiction. It is meant to serve as a replacement for opiates, as it has some similar effects on the body. The effects, however, are less potent and thought to carry less abuse potential.

Suboxone has some advantages over other opioid dependency treatments, like methadone. One is that Suboxone can be prescribed and taken home, whereas methadone is often distributed at a clinic or in amounts small enough that it can't be abused. In contrast, someone can get a prescription for Suboxone, take it home and not have to visit the doctor again for 30 days.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that is added to the Suboxone in order to stop people from breaking it up and injecting it. If they were to do so, they would primarily experience the effects of Naloxone. To someone who is dependent upon opioids, this would cause them to immediately go into withdrawal and cause very uncomfortable effects.

Suboxone, when used properly, has been shown to reduce opioid use and help patients remain in treatment. It does this by reducing any symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal and reducing cravings for opioids.

Before the year 2000, treatments like Suboxone were not available to opiate addicts in order to manage their addiction. In 2000, the Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) was passed, which overturned a Supreme Court ruling which said that maintenance treatments were not acceptable as medical treatment. DATA gave medical professionals the ability to prescribe opioids for the management of addiction and for detoxification.

The first treatment program in the United States occurred at Columbia University. The success rates were so astounding (88%) that others quickly became interested in using Suboxone to treat opiate addiction. Since, it has become one of the most widely prescribed treatments for this malady.

Treatment with Suboxone is not perfect, but it does seem to have improved the lives of thousands. It allows them to reduce the number of relapses, and their severity when they do occur. Suboxone can reduce the costs associated with an addiction as well as the potential for criminal activity, as the reduction in cravings eliminates the need to procure drugs at any cost.

To provide Suboxone in the United States, a physician must obtain a specific waiver from the government. This waiver can be obtained after completing an eight-hour course that explains the potential dangers and concerns in prescribing an opiate replacement drug. In the early days of Suboxone history, doctors were only allowed to treat ten patients at a time. That number has since been increased to 100 due to the large numbers of patients looking for treatment after hearing of numerous success stories.

Suboxone vs. Methadone

Suboxone and methadone are the two most commonly used treatments for opiate addiction today. They both can be used for detox as well as maintenance treatment. Suboxone seems to be more effective than methadone at most doses. Suboxone eventually reaches a ceiling dose, after which it is no longer effective. Methadone's effectiveness seems to increase with dose. Suboxone lasts for a longer period of time, however, and the sublingual tablets can be taken once every two or three days. Methadone must be taken daily. As mentioned above, Suboxone can be taken home to be administered, while methadone patients must go through a period of receiving their dose from a clinic before they are approved for at-home treatment.

Both Suboxone and methadone have advantages for the treatment of opiate addiction. Suboxone may have less abuse potential, and may be more convenient for patients to take, especially initially.


  • Research indicates women tend to start abusing alcohol later in life than men, but usually get help sooner than men.
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  • Methadone has always been known as the replacement drug for people that are addicted to opiates such as heroin, morphine and other narcotics, and is commonly used as part of methadone maintenance treatment.