In the journey toward recovery from opioid pain medication addiction, deciding which opiate detox method to choose plays a pivotal role. While Suboxone has long been a cornerstone of therapy in addiction medicine, particularly for those seeking to overcome dependence opioid-based on pain medications, it's important to acknowledge that its efficacy and suitability can vary significantly among individuals. With the complexities of opiate dependency and addiction and the varied responses of individuals to treatment, exploring alternatives to Suboxone for pain medication detox is becoming increasingly important. These alternatives range from other pharmacological treatments to holistic and natural approaches, each offering unique advantages and considerations.

Are you considering alternatives to Suboxone® to detox off of opiate-based pain medication? Learn how to detox safely off of Suboxone® at the Coleman Institute with the Coleman Method in Richmond, VA, or at one of our nationwide rapid detox clinics near you.

Prescription Opioid Painkillers for Pain Management

COVID-19 aside, the landscape of family practice has changed dramatically in the last few years, especially regarding prescribing opioid-based pain medication for patients with chronic pain.

The CDC reports that starting in 2006, the total number of opioid prescriptions dispensed continued to rise until it peaked in 2012 at “more than 255 million and a prescribing rate of 81.3 prescriptions per 100 persons.”

Since then, the opioid painkiller prescribing rate has declined, falling to the lowest in 13 years by 2018. However, that was still a large number of patients on opiate painkillers by any measure, coming in at more than 168 million total opioid prescriptions.

The research consistently proved that the cons of prescribing potent and addictive pain medications containing opioids were much higher than the pros.

As the reality and fallout from prescription opioid pain medications continue to be revealed, many family practices opt to cut down or completely stop treating chronic pain with opioid pain medication.

More like this: When Pain Medication Becomes a Dependency


Alternatives to Opioid Medications for Chronic Pain

This has been tough for patients who relied on these types of opiate-based pain medications for years. In most cases, they have taken their medications precisely as prescribed. It is often equally difficult for many practitioners who believe this to be a good and helpful component of a comprehensive family or internal medicine practice.

Some doctors will help their patients with a slow taper where the provider prescribes lower and lower doses of the opioids at each visit. Depending on the amount of opioid-based pain medication a patient is on, this may be a very protracted but safe solution for how long they've been on it.

Some people have access to switching to a pain management practice. This, of course, depends on insurance, out-of-pocket costs, and the availability of this specialty in the patient's area.

Often people are being switched from short-acting opiate pain medication to long-acting opioids such as Suboxone®.

More like this: What If I'd Never Stopped Using Suboxone

Long-Term Use of Suboxone® and Buprenorphine Products

Other patients who are being transitioned off opiate-based pain medications are prescribed one of the several available buprenorphine products. Suboxone®, Subutex, and Zubsolv are just a few. These products are actually partial opioid agonists; they may cause some mild euphoria but much less than short-acting pain medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone and their "family," heroin, fentanyl, tramadol, etc. Buprenorphine products such as Suboxone® can also last at least 24 hours, again eliminating the need for dosing with a short-acting medication.

Switching from short-acting opiate pain medication to a buprenorphine product is relatively simple. First, however, you must find a doctor who has acquired the prescribing credentials, as this is a highly controlled medication.

Patients will often ask, "Well, isn't it substituting one addictive drug for another when you go from Percocet to Suboxone®?"

More like this: Why is it So Hard to Detox Off of Suboxone and Other Forms of Buprenorphine?


Detoxing from Opioids: Suboxone® Withdrawal Symptoms

Medications containing buprenorphine can result in physical dependence when used regularly for some time. In addition, if a person stops taking Suboxone®, they can experience opioid withdrawal symptoms, which may last for an extended period of time. These symptoms may vary in intensity and duration based on factors like the length of Suboxone use, dosage, and individual physiology. Symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal can include:

  • Flu-like Symptoms: Many people experience symptoms similar to a severe flu. This includes fever, chills, sweating, and runny nose.
  • Mood Changes: Mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and depression are common during Suboxone withdrawal. These can be particularly challenging as they affect mental and emotional well-being.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia or disturbed sleep patterns are frequently reported. Some individuals may experience intense and vivid dreams.
  • Body Aches and Pains: Muscle aches, joint pain, and general discomfort are typical. This can sometimes be accompanied by tremors or shakiness.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps are common symptoms when withdrawing from Suboxone, reflecting the body's readjustment to the absence of opioids.
  • Fatigue and Lethargy: A general feeling of tiredness or exhaustion is often experienced, even if one is getting enough sleep.
  • Headaches: Suboxone withdrawal can trigger persistent or severe headaches.
  • Cravings: The desire to use opioids or Suboxone itself can increase during the withdrawal process, as the body adjusts to the lack of the drug.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Cognitive effects like lack of concentration or focus, and memory issues can occur during withdrawal.
  • Increased Sensitivity to Pain: Individuals may find they have a lower pain tolerance or heightened sensitivity to physical discomfort.

What About Stopping Opioid-Based Pain Medications Altogether?

Other people consider this an opportunity to see what life might be like without being on pain medication at all:

  • The freedom of never worrying about losing a prescription or the medicine itself
  • Of not having to plan vacations or travel (remember when we could travel?) around a doctor’s appointment for prescription opioids
  • Enduring the judgmental looks from the new or substitute pharmacist
  • Risking one more visit to the doctor and another potential exposure to COVID-19
  • Trying to get a shy bladder going in the clinic
  • Finding out if one’s chronic pain is that much better being on these alternatives to opioid pain medication

Suboxone® Alternatives to Detox Off Opiate-Based Pain Medication

This growing recognition of the overuse and relative ineffectiveness of using opioid pain medications for chronic pain management has brought people from around the country to our clinic. At the Coleman Institute, we offer an Accelerated Opiate Detox (AOD), a safe and comfortable form of rapid detox. Our outpatient detox program helps people get off their pain meds by compressing and addressing their withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the amount of pain medication a person uses, our outpatient detox program will generally last from 3 to 5 days.

A cornerstone of the Coleman Method is our use of long-acting naltrexone in the form of a two-month implant after the detox. Naltrexone occupies the opioid receptors, eliminating physical cravings for opioids and eliminating withdrawal symptoms. In addition, as naltrexone is a pure blocker or antagonist, it is non-addictive and does not produce dependence or tolerance. Therefore, there is no withdrawal when stopped or when the implant completely dissolves.

You can find more information on our Naltrexone Therapy FAQ page.

More like this: How to Detox off Suboxone® With Naltrexone

Life Without Suboxone is Possible at the Coleman Institute

Over the past 12 years working at the Coleman Institute, I’ve treated thousands of patients dependent on opioid pain medication. They are often quite nervous about how they will feel when they have no more prescription opioid medication—after all, their doctors put them on it for pain in the first place.

Remarkably, when queried in the months following our rapid detox procedure using the Coleman Method, our patients almost invariably describe manageable pain levels by simply using over-the-counter (OTC) medications or mind-body techniques such as yoga and mindfulness-based programs.

It is frightening for a person to consider stopping a prescription pain medication they've depended on for years. If you would like to learn more about the Coleman method, please call our office at 877-77-3389 or schedule a callback.

Until then, stay safe!

Joan Shepherd, FNP