How to Wean Off of Suboxone

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Suboxone --a mixture of buprenorphine and naloxone--is used for treatment of addiction to opiates. Suboxone is rapidly replacing methadone as the treatment of choice for addiction because it can be prescribed in a doctor's office.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, suboxone is less physically addictive than heroin or morphine. However, some people report that going off suboxone can trigger symptoms of narcotic withdrawal: insomnia, diarrhea, sweating, chills, anxiety, and fatigue. Symptoms vary with the individual, and can range from very slight to very uncomfortable. With careful preparation and a slow taper, you can quit and minimize discomfort.

Things You'll Need

  • Calendar or datebook
  • Pill cutter
  • Bottle of aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • 2 mg. loperamide tablets
  • 50 mg. diphenhydramine tablets
  • Ginger ale
  • Heating pad (optional)
  • Flannel pajamas or sweats (optional)
  • Calcium supplements (optional)
  • Vitamin B complex (optional)
  • Vitamin C (optional)
  • Milk thistle (optional)
  • Write your current dosage down in a datebook, and record gradually decreasing dosages for the days that follow.

  • Cut your dosage by 2 mgs.--a quarter of an 8-mg. pill--per week. When your daily dosage reaches 2 mgs. a day, take 2 mgs. for the next two weeks, then take 1 mg. for the final 14 days. For the 15th day, write "0.--target day" in your notebook.

  • Use a pill cutter to help you divide dosages precisely.

  • Clear your schedule, if at all possible, even if you have to use vacation time. At the very least, try to schedule your detox for a time when there are no pressing deadlines or crises in your life, and arrange things so that days 3 to 5--usually when discomfort peaks--coincide with a long weekend. Withdrawal lasts up to 10 days, with symptoms gradually subsiding after that.

  • Take aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, and diphenhydramine--an antihistamine that causes drowsiness---before bedtime for insomnia. Speed detoxification by drinking lots of fluids; ginger ale is useful for reducing nausea.

  • Take loperamide to help your body adjust. This over-the-counter medicine is technically an opiate--although it doesn't produce euphoria. You can safely take the maximum dose for a few days; you may have to then wean yourself slowly from the loperamide, but this is usually easy to do.

  • Keep your eyes on the prize. No matter how slowly you tapered, you will probably suffer some symptoms for the first week off suboxone; keep reminding yourself that the discomfort is temporary and is actually a sign of the drugs clearing your system.

Tips & Warnings

  • Buy generic loperamide in pill form rather than liquid; with a cost of around $5 for a bottle of 48, this is the cheapest way to go.
  • Go to a sauna, take hot baths, or use a heating pad--the warmth is therapeutic.
  • Join a 12-Step program such as Narcotics Anonymous for guidance and encouragement.
  • Dress in warm, comfortable, loose-fitting clothes for the first few days of your detox; avoid tight or scratchy clothing.
  • Read all labels, and don't take any medicines if you have medical conditions or allergies that preclude their use.
  • Don't drink alcohol; it will dehydrate you and worsen symptoms.
  • Prolonged use of over-the-counter painkillers can cause stomach or liver problems, so take the smallest amounts you can.
  • Don't use the heating pad while falling asleep.

References

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