Friday, July 06, 2007
Getting Off Suboxone
What follows is my reply to a recent email, the text of which follows:
Here's some of what it was like for me to quit Suboxone.
1. The first time I tried to get off Suboxone, I failed. I tapered from 4mg for about a month, then 2mg for 10 days. I went through some serious withdrawals (Christmas Day 2006...a massacre). I went back to the doctor and we decided to stretch it out on 2 mg for a longer period.
Lesson: You might not make it the first time. You can always go back if you have to.
2. After the Christmas mess, I stayed on 2mg throughout February 2007. I would experiment with skipping days. It worked. When I got down to 2mg I would occasionally skip a day. It was o.k. I made it. I also chopped the 2mg tablets in half. I would try it for a day or so, and if I started feeling bad, I would take 2mg and then get on with trying the halves the next day.
Lesson: Keep trying to go lower. Give yourself room to go back up if you need it.
3. I watched my bottle of Suboxone halves begin to dwindle. I was amazed that a chunk of a pill smaller than a breadcrumb was necessary to keep me normal. However, at some point I realized I couldn't just keep taking breadcrumbs. On March 9th, 2007 I ran out.
Lesson: Eventually you're going to have to quit taking it. If you really want off, you got to prepare.
4. Amazingly, when I ran out, I felt fine for two and a half days. The withdrawals kicked in at 36 hours, but (and this is important) it wasn't nearly as bad as it had been when I tried to quit during Christmas when I was at 2mg. I felt really tired, weak, and had all the typical symptoms, however, it was nothing compared to a full-blown withdrawal from what you might experience with Oxy or heroin. I took Clonidine for the first three days and it helped. It made it easier to sleep and easier to get up. This took place on a weekend, so I tried to take it easy.
Lesson: It's not as bad as you might think. Clonidine helps. Take it easy.
5.After seven days, I still felt weak. The withdrawal from Suboxone is long and tedious, but it isn't so bad that I felt like I needed to go back on it again. Frankly, it took a couple of months before I really felt completely better, and to be sure, I think that there are still some after effects that I am experiencing four months later (occasional sleep disruption, occasional digestive issues, low energy).
Lesson: Be patient. You'll get better a little bit each day.
6. Now for the good part. When I was actively using and I'd try to quit Oxy, I'd go through withdrawals for maybe three or four days, and the whole time, all I could think about was that I wanted some damned Oxy. When I quit Suboxone, I didn't realize it at first, but one day it hit me: "Even though I don't feel 100% better, what's weird is that I don't crave Oxy." If you've taken Suboxone, you know that you don't get high on it, and the fact of the matter is not only that I didn't crave Oxy, I didn't crave Suboxone either.
Lesson: There's a reward at the end of all of this. Your craving probably won't be there.
Once I got off the Suboxone, the seriously weirdest part was that I didn't want to go out and get drugs. I hadn't taken any opiates the entire 18 months I was on Suboxone, so I was completely removed from that whole scene.
I'm feeling a lot better now, but there's still more for me to do. Most of it has to do with realizing that I am no longer hooked and that now I need to find things to do that make my life worthwhile. If you've used opiates, you know that when you are high, there isn't anything that can bother you. Unfortunately, it is those things that we're avoiding when were high that will still be there when we're not. Here's what I am searching for: finding the contentment I felt when I was high, without being high. Ultimately, I guess that is what humans have been searching for since the beginning of time.
For technical information on quitiing Suboxone, I suggest taking a look at this article that my physician gave me from the following journal:
"Burprenorphine:how to use it right."
Johnson RE, Strain EC, Amass L.
Journal: "Drug and Alcohol Dependence." 2003; 70:S59-S77.
Good luck tapering off Suboxone. Lastly, remember that I am not qualified to give anyone medical advice. I am not a physician and nothing that I write should be construed as medical advice. Anyone who is looking for medical advice should consult a medical doctor.
Im sure you get a lot of emails asking how you got off the suboxone. Im stuck and scared. I search all over the internet just to find horror story after horror story. Ive been on it about 14 mos now--4-6mg a day. Im having trouble tapering and i want to be off this now.
About This Blog
For the past few years I have been writing about my experience using oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin, Percocet, and other prescription painkillers. I eventually developed a tolerance, then dependence, and became addicted. My archive covers my abuse of these drugs and my effors to quit using them.
I have tried to accurately report my experience without a sense of advocacy. It is my hope that you'll be able to make your own conclusions, as well as find my story factual, informative, and interesting.