Can Suboxone Be Used to Treat Chronic Pain?

Recent studies show that about one-third of people with chronic pain also have an addiction issue. This can partially be because long-term use or misuse of opioids can lead to chronic pain issues. This, in turn, is from HPA axis activation or hippocampus-pituitary-adrenal axis activation, which causes chronic pain symptoms due to sympathetic arousal, sleep disorders, and increased risk for trauma, tolerance, and stress.

With the United States being in the midst of an addiction epidemic with opioids right at the top, this creates a dilemma for both practitioners and patients in recovery. Since addiction commonly co-occurs with mental health disorders and chronic pain conditions, prescribing anything controlled or potentially addictive puts both the patient and doctor at risk.

People with chronic pain and addiction issues normally don’t respond well to opioid analgesics because their tolerance is typically high. That puts the patient at high risk of diversion and overdose. In addition, if their pain isn’t being effectively treated, many individuals will sell their medication to buy something a lot stronger on the streets, like heroin or fentanyl. This then puts them at risk of a potential overdose or overdose death.

Can Suboxone Be Used to Treat Chronic Pain?

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a partial opiate agonist used to treat opioid use disorder and opioid withdrawal. It contains both an opiate (Buprenorphine) and an opiate blocker (Naloxone). The opiate is the active ingredient and helps prevent withdrawal/reduce opiate cravings, while the inactive ingredient, the opiate blocker, helps to cut down on potential abuse.

Using Suboxone to Treat Chronic Pain With Opioid Use Disorder

Suboxone was approved to treat addiction back in 2002. It has effectively saved many people’s lives and helped them recover. Suboxone, however, has not been approved to treat chronic pain.

When treating chronic pain and addiction simultaneously, suboxone is very effective. It has a ceiling effect preventing an individual from getting higher by abusing the medication while also having powerful analgesic properties. This is especially important for someone in recovery, trying to get their life back on track. The normal dose in this situation is typically between 8 and 16 mg a day, taken once a day sublingually.

Using Suboxone to Treat Chronic Pain Only

However, using Suboxone to treat chronic pain only when addiction is not an issue can be tricky and hasn’t been approved. Again, the buprenorphine in Suboxone has very powerful analgesic effects, so the dosage must be drastically modified for someone who does not have a dependence or addiction to opioids. The normal dose for someone with both chronic pain and opioid use disorder would be way too much for a non-opioid-dependent person to be able to function.

If a doctor were to try buprenorphine for chronic pain only, they would most likely prescribe the transdermal form of the drug because it is available in a much lower dose. Butrans is available in a patch applied once weekly for moderate to severe pain. It comes in three doses (5  mcg, ten mcg, and 20 mcg).

Evoke Wellness is Here to Help You Get on The Road to Long-Term Recovery

Evoke Wellness offers a safe and comfortable environment for medical detoxification. Our patients are treated extensively so that minimal discomfort is experienced during the detox process. We provide residential treatment in a structured environment and then provide you with after-care support, which is very important when being treated for addiction.

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