Citation: Ithinkthereforeiam. "Blessing and Curse: An Experience with Buprenorphine / Naloxone (Suboxone) (exp94970)". Erowid.org. Jul 26, 2019. erowid.org/exp/94970
I'm writing this from the viewpoint of both an addict and a doctor. I finally decided to write my experience because I've gotten increasingly frustrated with all the mis-information out there about suboxone in particular. By mis-information I mean two things--primarily I'm frustrated because most doctors prescribing suboxone are clueless, but also patients taking it are pretty misinformed also in other ways...I don't want to give much personal info for confidentiality reasons. I'll just say I've been in both worlds-- I've prescribed suboxone and also I'm a recovering addict taking it.
I've prescribed suboxone and also I'm a recovering addict taking it.
The truth is I can't find a single good research study looking into the length of time patients remain on suboxone and how difficult (or not) the withdrawal is... If I just do a basic Internet search it becomes really obvious that it is very difficult to get off suboxone and people are often on it much longer than they planned.
I think, and know, from my personal experience that tapering off suboxone can be hell. It is a long slow withdrawal that can leave me with ample time on my hands to lay in bed and talk myself out of doing it. Suboxone is interesting because there aren't huge differences between 32 or 24 or 20 mg...most people I know didn't really notice much issue moving between these higher doses. Personally, when I lowered my dose from 24 to 20 to 16 mg I honestly didn't notice much and thought 'this is going to be a piece of cake.' It's stopping those really small single digit doses that's hell. I was sick for months with mild flu symptoms and weight loss before I put two and two together and realized it was because I was basically stretching 2 mg doses out as long as I could (for like 36-48 hours). It seems stupid that I didn't realize this was what was going on, but I honestly didn't realize how bad withdrawal from suboxone can be and wasn't paying attention to my body...I was super anxious (more than usual), my mind was racing, I couldn't sleep, I was never the right temperature (mostly too cold but then suddenly sweating and too hot), lost at least ten pounds, was constantly having an upset stomach, had a pounding headache, my nose was running, my energy level was SO low...duh, I was withdrawing, but for some reason that just didn't click in my mind.
When I did click, I did in experiment to see what was due to the suboxone. I had taken my last dose (2 mg) about 48 hours before, and I went and took 12 mg and watched the clock. I hadn't taken 12 mg in months since I'd been going down on the dose. In 40 minutes I felt SO much better--this wave of relief started coming over me, and not only did I feel physically better but mentally incredible--I was able to focus for the first time in months and felt energized and hungry...at the same time in my mind I felt this dread and recognized this feeling from addictions before, a feeling I thought I was past--basically 'crap, I need this to function'. It's interesting and complicated the idea of getting 'high'--I didn't get high when I took the 12 mg dose because it just made me feel 'normal' (whatever that is)--but I had been so sick and down for so long that just feeling 'normal' again was almost euphoric for me.
I had been so sick and down for so long that just feeling 'normal' again was almost euphoric for me.
Kind of like if I had a really bad toothache and then I saw the dentist--it's weird how the absence of feeling miserable is almost euphoric in some ways, and I know this is really when I'm addicted to something is when I need it just to feel normal and make it through the day.
So, I'm back on suboxone again (I've been on it for several years), and while I'm feeling 'okay' now I'm also filled with dread--I know I can't be on this for forever, I know I'm going to have to write off several weeks in the future to get off this...I feel like I've just traded one addiction for another. I hate it when people say that, but it is true---it is a better addiction and I'm not running around buying things off the street and worried about what I'm getting...suboxone is better in so many ways if I have to choose. I guess the question I ask myself, and others I know on suboxone--is this the best I can do? When will I be ready to take the next step and stop this? I don't want to be on suboxone when I'm 70. Or 40. Sure, I can always say 'at least I'm not taking heroin (or OCs or whatever)' but am I just going to settle for that for life?
Working with addicts and being an addict myself I realize this 'at least I'm not...' is kind of a mind game we play with ourselves--it's okay for me to smoke cigarettes because at least I'm not shooting up, it's okay for me to eat crappy food because I'm a recovering addict, it's okay for me to sleep all weekend, it's okay for me to binge drink, etc etc...it's like this perpetual excuse I can give myself to not ever push myself. There is this initial period during/right after detox where I think it is important not to be too hard on yourself to try to 'fix' too many things at once, but I find myself (and other addicts I know) using this excuse for life to not feel bad for things and not push myself. I know that's going to piss off a lot of people because there's this real harm reduction just take it 'a day at a time' view in a lot of the recovery community...but I think it's important to step back once in a while and look at the big picture of where you've come and where you're headed--'yeah, I'm at a better place than where I was 5 years ago, but I want to do better than this even.' I feel like I've been blindly taking suboxone for years using this 'a day at a time' thinking and suddenly stepped back and realized I am still addicted to opiates and still living a super unhealthy lifestyle and want to make more progress. This isnt meant to knock on the 'day at a time' philosophy or encourage people to be too hard on themselves, it's just something I've realized personally that I've started to set these lower standards for myself indefinitely and this 'day at a time' thinking I've skewed and used as a way to not set bigger goals for my life or my recovery.
I've got to get off suboxone--and I'm realizing this basically means I need to take a solid 2 weeks (or maybe more) off of work and make some priorities. My plan is to take the dose as low as I can and then jump and have things stocked up at home to make myself more comfortable--ibuprofen, bubble baths, etc etc...I think with withdrawal it's important though not to hole-up too much for too long...that's just my personal experience--like it is good in many ways to have to force myself to get up and out of the house for a little time every day otherwise my mind starts to drive me crazy.
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