What If I Never Stopped Suboxone?

Former Pain Patient Asks: What If I’d Never Stopped?

Pat, a former patient at The Coleman Network, was prescribed opioids for nearly 14 years. When a specialist treated him with Suboxone, he found himself needing treatment to detox off of Buprenorphine. Find out how The Coleman Network helped Pat detox both comfortably and quickly.

Former Pain Patient Asks: What If I’d Never Stopped?

Pat is a financial advisor in a neighboring state who had a follow up appointment with us to refill his oral naltrexone.

Many years ago, in the midst of the US Opioid Crisis, but before anyone was truly seeing the signs and recognizing the alarming patterns of physical dependence and Substance Use Disorder that were emerging — Pat was being treated by his primary care provider (PCP) for different pains in his body, especially the shoulders and lower back

He had been active throughout his life, and tied some of his back issues to football injuries sustained when he played in high school and college. As an adult he fell in love with golf, and took private lessons to improve his skill, while reducing back and shoulder problems. He had used a variety of different non-steroidal anti-inflammatories over the years, and there was moderate concern about the side effects of these medications. Eventually, at a routine physical his PCP treated his pain Oxycontin, assuring him that as long as the pain was real, he would not get “addicted.”

Doctor Stops Prescribing Pain Medication

For nearly 14 years, Pat’s doctor prescribed oxycodone. As he built a tolerance to the medication, the dose also increased. At some point, additional short-acting ‘breakthrough’ pain medications were added to the mix. At his highest dosage, Pat was taking about 400mg daily of combined long and short-acting oxycodone medications. 

One day Pat received a pre-recorded statement from his doctor’s office stating that all appointments moving forward would have to be canceled, and that patients will need to seek alternative providers for medication. Pat was both outraged and understandably, terrified. Although he had never lost or run out of his prescribed medications (he kept a very close eye on them at all times), he knew how awful he physically felt when he experimented with longer time periods between dosing, or cutting down on the amount of medication taken. Not good.

His frantic search for another prescriber ultimately led him to see an addiction psychiatrist close to his home. This doctor introduced Pat to Suboxone; a medication that would allow Pat to take medication less often, while also helping with Pat’s back pain.

Pat transitioned to Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) and was very pleased with how well it worked. He wasn’t as sleepy as the other medication made him. He felt confident about this decision.

Treatment Can Become A New Dependence

Like many individuals who have transitioned to Suboxone or other buprenorphine products, he didn’t fully understand that it could be hard to stop taking it. As time went on, Pat started to recognize the complications that accompany this medication. 

Although he could take the medication less often, he still suffered withdrawal symptoms if he missed a dose. This caused Pat to feel trapped. Even though he still had pain issues, he wanted freedom from dependence on this medication. His wife was also very concerned about his increasing obsession with his medications.

Pat found The Coleman Network and signed up for a detox off of buprenorphine. He was only led to this point after multiple attempts at stopping the medication and being unable to tolerate the withdrawal symptoms: stomach cramps, aching muscles, sleepless nights, and other terrible flu-like symptoms.

Safe, Comfortable Detox with Naltrexone Therapy

The procedure to detox off Suboxone at The Coleman Network is very simple to understand. On Day One the patient and his dedicated support person visit the office together and receive instructions for the next several days. This includes: when and how much comfort medication to take. The comfort medications are provided as part of the treatment. The patient will meet with their assigned case manager to decide what other services will be most effective in their continued recovery after the medical detox is completed. In terms of aftercare, every person has their own needs, and our skilled staff will collaborate with each patient to meet their unique needs.

Before leaving the office, a micro-dose of naltrexone will be given to our patient. This begins the process of removing buprenorphine from the opioid receptors.

Buprenorphine clings to opioid receptors more than other medications. Rather than a several weeks cold-turkey detox, the Accelerated Opioid Detox process reduces the detoxification period to about 8-10 days.

The micro-dosing of naltrexone continues on each of the following days until the last day, when some form of long- acting naltrexone is administered. A naltrexone implant will typically last about eight weeks. Some of our offices utilize an injectable form of naltrexone, which lasts for about a month.

Because naltrexone targets the same receptors that buprenorphine and other opioids (such as heroin, fentanyl, Percocet, morphine, hydrocodone, tramadol, Dilaudid, etc.) occupy, patients will not experience cravings for the opioid they had previously been taking.

Increased Quality of Life and Ongoing Treatment

Pat completed his detox roughly two years ago. The period after a detox can cause an individual to experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (or PAWS), and for Pat, the worst of it was getting his energy levels and sleep schedule back to normal.

By about two months, he was pleasantly surprised at how much better he felt. He returned to our clinic for continued naltrexone implants every two months for a year. From there, Pat switched to monthly Vivitrol injections for about six months before — after multiple discussions — we began to prescribe oral naltrexone, which he is now taking daily. (This is not recommended for people early on in their recovery; long-acting forms of naltrexone have often been seen to have higher levels of success.

As Pat and I talked, he let us know how much of a positive impact the decision to get off pain medication has been in all aspects of his life. Not everyone is as articulate as Pat, so I grabbed a pen and asked if I could quote him in our blog. 

He said, “Time is precious; we don’t own it, but we can spend it…and I often wonder, what if I had never chosen to do this? My job, my marriage, and even my relationship with my children….would all look so different now. I don’t want to have regrets in life; I want to be awake to experience everything that life has to give me.”

I couldn’t say it better.

If you or a loved one is considering or looking into getting off pain medication or illicit opioids, you are not alone. It is not exactly an easy process, but it is simple, and you can do it. The mentality and true desire to change is the most important attribute you need. It’s a better time to seek treatment than ever because many insurance companies are recognizing the importance of helping individuals suffering from opioid dependence to pay for an opioid detox.

If you have further questions, our experienced and kind staff are available to talk. Schedule a callback below. 

Joan Shepherd, FNP

Recovery Starts With Finding The Right Detox Option For You.

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