Family support can be very helpful to patients undergoing SUBOXONE (buprenorphine) treatment. It helps if the family members understand how dependence is a chronic disease that requires ongoing care. It also helps if the family gets to know a little about how treatment with SUBOXONE works, and how it should be stored at home to keep it safe. Family life might have to change to allow time and effort for the patient to become healthy again. As is often the case, family members themselves can benefit strongly from therapy as well. The following are frequently asked questions we hear from family members about loved ones starting SUBOXONE treatment.
Opioids are synthetic and natural drugs that are related to the drugs found in opium. Some of these drugs include addictive narcotics such as heroin. There are many prescription pain medications that are classified as opioids as well, such as codeine, morphine, and oxycontin. Common medication-assisted treatments (MATs) such as methadone and buprenorphine medications are also considered opioids.
Opioids such as methadone and buprenorphine should not be viewed as “just substitutions” for your loved one’s current addictive substance. These medications are used to treat opioid dependence because they have been proven (since 1965) to help patients remain healthier as they transition from a harmful substance to one that will help them with stabilization and recovery. Medication-assisted treatments also prevent patients from getting into legal trouble and reduces their risk of developing diseases and infections that usually occur when needles are shared.
Opioid dependence is essentially described as the need to have the opioid receptors in the brain occupied by an opioid. Based on your loved one’s psychological and health evaluation during your first appointment with us, we will tailor a specific dose of SUBOXONE to fill such receptors at the right rate. The correct dosage of SUBOXONE will allow the patient to feel and act normally throughout the course of treatment.
Because every opioid can have either a stimulating or sedating effect—especially during the first few weeks of treatment—the dosage we initially give a patient may be adjusted until they begin feeling better. Sometimes, it may take a few weeks to find the correct dosage amount, simply because how the patient reacts to treatment could also depend on their tolerance and metabolism. For that reason, we often ask family members to help the patient keep track of any symptoms that occur during the first few weeks on SUBOXONE. The physician will be able to use all of this information to adjust the SUBOXONE dose accordingly and recommend the best time of day the medication should be taken.
Once the right dose is found, it is important that the patient takes it at the same time every day, so their body can maintain consistent medication levels to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Even though medication-assisted treatments for opioid dependence works very effectively, it is not a cure. This means that patients receiving SUBOXONE treatment will continue to need SUBOXONE doses, with regular monitoring by their physician. The best way to help and support the patient is to encourage routine medical care, not to skip SUBOXONE doses, and—most importantly—actively participate in regular counseling sessions or support groups.