10 Tips To Help Patients Through Suboxone Withdrawal


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“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is never more true than with drug addiction. Yes, addiction is treatable. Yes, there are dozens of options for professional rehab in Los Angeles alone. Nonetheless, if you aren’t currently addicted to anything—keep it that way. Detox is unpleasant, often dangerous, and even after you’re “clean” the addiction specter may haunt you for life.

Sometimes, even the cure proves nearly as bad as the disease—and not just in the dangers of so-called rapid drug detox or exploitative detox providers. For a long time, heroin detox centers used the alternate opiate methadone to help patients through withdrawal: eventually, it became clear that methadone’s own addictive properties could cause almost as much trouble as the original heroin. More recently, heroin treatment centers turned to another substitute opiate, suboxone—only to learn that that option wasn’t free of addiction dangers either.

Now, medical detox centers for suboxone treatment are becoming common enough to rival methadone and heroin treatment centers. (Go ahead and Google “suboxone rehab Los Angeles”—but be prepared to sort out the heroin detox centers and alcohol detox treatment programs that still use suboxone as medicine.)

The rest of this post will focus on helping patients through suboxone treatment. Even if you’re no medical professional, these tips will help you understand what detox involves and how you can help a loved one (or yourself) during long-term rehab. (Please do not take the following advice as license to try home detox: it’s too dangerous.)

  1. Keep the patient as comfortable as possible.

Arrange for a room with a well-padded bed and minimal noise, and make sure that lighting and temperature are adjustable. Also check that clothing and bedding are comfortable. During the first three days especially, the patient will experience sweating, fever and chills, and may also be highly sensitive to stimulation.

  1. Make sure the patient stays well hydrated and nourished.

He or she may have difficulty keeping solids down, so make sure healthy liquid foods as well as water stay within reach. If a patient becomes really ill, intravenous feeding may be necessary.

  1. Encourage the patient to stay in bed and rest until physical symptoms abate.

Around the second half of the first week, insomnia and restlessness often kick in. Ask what you can provide to make staying in bed more bearable: soft music, inspirational recordings, someone to talk to.

  1. Reassure the patient that “this too will pass.”

During acute-detox illness, patients often feel that the agony will last forever and they couldn’t lose anything by returning to the old crutch. This danger doesn’t pass with the initial physical symptoms: less visible pains such as depression often fill the vacuum. Make sure the patient gets daily positive encouragement to wait it out. If you’re the loved one on the outside, write and visit whenever you can, assuring the patient you’re looking forward to sharing a better, sober future.

  1. Make sure the patient gets qualified therapy.

The best drug rehab in Los Angeles, or the whole United States, would have limited value if patients went right back to their old world and its stresses. To ensure long-term sobriety, it’s necessary to deal with the psychological roots of addiction. If your loved one is recovering from suboxone addiction, join him or her in therapy as soon as you can: chances are you need to make some changes as well.

  1. Be a good listener.

And encourage the patient to be honest about his or her feelings. Emotional sobriety is as important as physical sobriety in life after addiction.

  1. Encourage the patient to develop new interests and make new friends.

Addiction often grows from feeling trapped in a “daily grind.” Everyone needs at least a hobby that lets him or her be productive and that meshes with personal passions.

  1. Encourage the patient to know and appreciate his or her best self.

Most people who develop addictions struggle with not feeling “good enough.” Usually, they’ve rejected the person they were made to be and tried to live up to what “others” thought they “should” be. If your loved one is in recovery, put aside your own preconceptions and assure the patient you love him or her just for “being you.” If he or she wants to develop a new life focus, be supportive even if it sounds like a wild dream to you.

  1. Be prepared for the long haul during withdrawal and rehab.

Suboxone has a long withdrawal period compared to many other drugs: depression and cravings may linger for a month or more. Inpatient care is highly recommended to minimize relapse risk. If your loved one is in inpatient treatment, stay in regular touch and don’t be impatient to “get this over with”: be grateful that he or she has the opportunity to fully prepare for facing “real life” again.

  1. Be prepared for the long haul after withdrawal and rehab.

Contrary to what some “rapid drug detox” advocates would have us believe, recovery from addiction isn’t a matter of “get the drugs out of your system and everything will be fine.” The temptation to return to suboxone may never go away completely, and many former detox patients have relapses requiring additional treatment. It’s best that the patient—and his or her loved ones—remain active in support groups and in touch with the detox center, to help everyone focus on what really matters: forgiving the mistakes of the past and building a successful future.

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