It is very important that while in Suboxone treatment you refrain from abusing your medication. The meaning of “abusing your medication” should be self-explanatory; however, there are even some small examples of abuse that are often overlooked. Obviously, you should not take an abnormally large dose to feel a euphoric effect. If you are taking Suboxone to get high then I’m sure that you’ve noticed that it’s not worth the money or the doctor’s visits because Suboxone, as only a partial opioid agonist, really does not get you real high. But, I am sure that those of you who don’t abuse Suboxone in that way have had times in your treatment when you are feeling less than peachy and deemed it reasonable that taking an extra two milligrams couldn’t possibly hurt. Why would it? Taking those two additional milligrams would be that little extra kick that you need to be in a good and lively mood and it’s just two milligrams. I’ve thought those thoughts, and I’ve even taken those two extra milligrams. But I am about to tell you why that could be detrimental to your recovery.
There are two main reasons why such a seemingly innocent abuse of your medication could hinder your recovery. The first reason has to do with the way your body reacts to opiates (among other chemicals) in your bloodstream. The second reason revolves around the psychological aspects of recovery from opiate addiction. I’ll start with the first reason and take you through an abridged tour of the science that supports my belief that you must faithfully take your prescribed dosage at all times.
Imagine, if you will, a cell in your brain and lets say it has three receptors on it. Now imagine you introduce heroin to your bloodstream and all three receptors become filled. These three receptors cannot allow all of the opiates in your bloodstream to attach so, there will be extra molecules floating around in your bloodstream. Constant use will create a plethora of opiates in your bloodstream, so to meet the supply, the cell will create more receptors. The brain has a fantastic ability to “normalize” itself. Now, in a cell normally functioned with only three receptors now has, lets say, six receptors. Since heroin has a cumulative effect, the numbers of available molecules in your bloodstream will continue to increase; thus, the number of receptors on this cell will continue to increase. So, after years of heroin abuse you’re ready to quit so you start Suboxone treatment. Your doctor starts you at 16 mg and this fills all of your receptors so you feel neither withdrawal nor high. After a month or so, you’re ready to step down to 14 mg. After this step down you may feel drowsy or some slight discomfort. This is because there is now less Suboxone in your system leaving some receptors open. Eventually though, if a receptor isn’t filled again it will go dormant and close. After this happens and your body becomes used to 14 mg you’ll be ready to drop to 12 mg and once again, a few more receptors are left open. Now, lets say you faithfully follow the program without incident and you’ve gotten down to 4 mg. You’ve been doing everything by the book and things are going great until one day you have a horrible day at work, and nothing seems to be working out for you and your just simply unhappy. So, even though you already took your dosage for the day, you know that taking some more will make you feel a little better so you add another 4 mg to your system. Now, there is a surplus of opioid molecules in your bloodstream again and you’ve confused the cell and the dormant receptors. To put it simply, you’ve increased your tolerance again.
Like I said, there are two main reasons why you should stick with your suboxone regiment. The second reason is more psychological. One of the reasons why the people that successfully complete the suboxone program is because those people developed coping skills. Coping skills are simply defined as: the skills you need to cope with cravings. One of the big triggers that lead to you doing your drug of choice is times of depression or unhappiness. A bad habit we often learn while abusing drugs is medicating ourselves when we’re unhappy. It seems like, as addicts, we tend to think that we should always be happy and when we’re not that means we need to do some drugs. That habit is one that must be broken before you can recover so, if you take a little extra suboxone when you feel down you’re not implementing an important coping skill. So wether your medicating a bad mood with suboxone or heroin, there really isn’t a difference.
Opiate addiction recovery is a very long process, and some say it’s a process that never completely ends. Suboxone is not designed to do the recovering and overcoming for you. Suboxone merely provides a less steep ladder down the climb of withdrawal. When used properly, Suboxone allows you to slowly transition from opiate addiction to non-use while still allowing you to function in society and life in general. Statistics show that Suboxone is most effective when used over a period of one year, so for all you addicts out there that just started Suboxone; be patient and use the coping skills in any situation, don’t wait for the catostrophe to occur in your life before you start using coping skills. Skills only become second nature through continuous use, so give it a go! So in conclusion, stick to your prescribed dosage and use skills to help you cope with cravings, and you should be fine. Good luck my friends.