Although when confronting an addiction to opiates you probably want to ‘get back to normal’ as quickly as possible, in truth, quick fixes don’t tend to work very well and you’re much better off thinking of treatment and recovery as a marathon and not a sprint.
Opiate addiction creates lasting changes in the brain. Opiate addiction changes the way your brain’s memory and reward systems operate in significant and enduring ways and without medications such as Suboxone or methadone which dampen addiction’s influence on our thoughts and behaviors, relapse back to opiate use is depressingly likely.
If you’re considering Suboxone you probably want to know how long you’ll need to take your medication for.
While there is no one right answer – only a right-for-you answer to be determined on an individual basis in consultation with a knowledgeable doctor – here is some general information and advice on how long you should consider using Suboxone for.
How Long to Use Suboxone For
Here are 4 pieces of good advice from leading Suboxone expert, Doctor Jeffrey Junig MD PhD, to get you thinking about how long you’ll need to use Suboxone for, and when you’ll be ready (if ever) to stop using this medication.
According to the Suboxone Doc:
1. You Should Consider Using Suboxone at Least until a Better Medication Is Developed
On Suboxone you can live a healthy and happy life while participating fully in society. Off Suboxone you are always at risk to relapse back to opiate abuse – you are safer just staying on the medication.
The neural changes of opiate addiction may not be reversible, but with medications like Suboxone, these changes can be effectively managed and you should consider using this medication at least until a superior opiate addiction drug is developed.
2. You Should Consider Suboxone a Long Term Maintenance Medication (Not a Medication Just to Manage Withdrawal Symptoms during a Detox)
The short term use (under a month) of Suboxone almost always ends in relapse back to opiate abuse.
Suboxone works best when it is used as a long term maintenance medication, from a minimum of 6 months to a year; and ideally for much longer than that
3. If You Decide You Want to Stop – Make Sure You’re Ready
According to Dr. Junig, if you decide that you want or need to taper off Suboxone then wait until you are ready to do so before making your attempt. Signs of readiness to taper include:
- Being over 30
- Having stable employment
- No longer seeing any friends who are using opiates
- Having no immediate source to secure illicit opiates
- Being in a stable relationship or feeling secure being single
- Having completed relapse prevention work
- Feeling comfortable taking Suboxone once a day on an automatic basis (If you still take it ‘when you need it’ or if the use of Suboxone still provokes a lot of thought or feelings, then you are probably not ready.)
- Staying comfortably on a once daily dose of 8mg for several months
4. Avoid Using Alcohol, Benzodiazepines, Marijuana and Other Drugs While on Suboxone
People on Suboxone do best when they move forward in life while taking their medication. They do this most successfully when they engage in life through getting and maintaining employment, getting educated, enjoying hobbies and interests, getting sufficient daily exercise and working to forge and sustain healthy relationships.
People who switch from opiate use to the frequent use of another mind-altering substance while on Suboxone are much less likely to make positive life progress in any of the above listed areas.1
Page last updated Apr 16, 2012