Home » Library » How Is Suboxone Treatment Different than Drug Abuse?

How Is Suboxone Treatment Different than Drug Abuse?

What Is an ‘Opioid Antagonist’ (Opioid Blocker) and Why Is it Added to Suboxone?

An opioid antagonist like naloxone is a medication-assisted treatment option for opioid addiction that also fits perfectly into opioid receptors in the brain. Naloxone is not absorbed into the bloodstream to any significant degree when Suboxone is taken correctly by allowing it to dissolve under the tongue. However, if a Suboxone tablet is crushed and then snorted or injected the naloxone component will travel rapidly to the brain and knock opioids already sitting there out of their receptors. This can trigger a rapid and quite severe withdrawal syndrome. Naloxone has been added to Suboxone for only one purpose – to discourage people from trying to snort or inject Suboxone.

How Is Suboxone Taken As a Form of Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Because it is long-acting (24 hours or more) Suboxone only needs to be taken one time per day. It should be allowed to completely dissolve under the tongue. It comes in both a 2 mg and 8 mg tablet, and a 2 mg or 8 mg filmstrip. The filmstrip is now the preferred preparation because it has less potential for abuse by people with opioid addiction (it cannot be crushed), serial numbers on the filmstrip packs help prevent diversion (trafficking), and the strip dissolves more rapidly than the tablet.

Patients should not eat, drink or smoke for 30 minutes before their dose of Suboxone, or for 30 minutes after their dose of Suboxone. Food, beverages, and nicotine can block the absorption of Suboxone. Chewing or dipping tobacco can seriously impair the absorption of Suboxone and should be promptly discontinued by anybody going through medication-assisted treatment.

What Is Recovery, and How Can Family and Loved Ones Help?

Put simply, recovery is restoring the life that was lost during active opioid addiction. As a complement to medication-assisted treatment, there are many ways that family and loved ones can help the person suffering from addiction. Family and significant other involvement is an important part of a recovery program. The following is a list of 10 ways you can help:

  • Learning about the disease – the biology, psychology, and sociology of addiction.
  • Understanding that addiction is not a problem of poor willpower or poor self-control.
  • Understanding that this is a hereditary disease that results in long-term changes in the structure and function of the brain that lead to behaviors that are potentially fatal.
  • Learning about the behaviors that occur during addiction, why they occur, and how they can be changed.
  • Learning how living and social environments play a key role in triggers, cravings and relapse.
  • Learning how easily family members can get drawn unwittingly into supporting their loved one’s addiction (co-dependency).
  • Encouraging and motivating your loved one to attend and complete treatment even when they don’t feel like it.
  • Understanding that you cannot make the addict get better, but you are not helpless. You can make changes that promote recovery for your loved one, and for you.
  • Participating in support groups that help the family of the addict recover (such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon).
  • Attending the family education sessions with your loved one.
How Is Suboxone Treatment Different than Drug Abuse?

Jeffrey Stuckert, MD

As an American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) certified physician, Dr. Jeffrey Stuckert, M.D. has practiced clinical emergency medicine in Ohio for 29 years. He currently serves as the CEO and Medical Director of Northland, an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment center and The Ridge, an inpatient treatment center near Cincinnati, and has personally attended to more than 70,000 emergency-room patients. Dr. Stuckert has served as Chairman and Medical Director of Emergency Medicine Departments of both the Christ Hospital and Deaconess Hospital for 22 of his 29 years, supervising all clinical personnel and administrative operations of those divisions.

APA Reference
Stuckert, J. (2018). How Is Suboxone Treatment Different than Drug Abuse?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.