Can You Use Suboxone for Chronic Pain?

Suboxone for Chronic Pain

Suboxone is a new medication showing promise in chronic pain treatment.  Chronic pain is a serious health issue that costs the United States approximately $60 billion dollars annually in lost productivity.  People coping with chronic pain deal with emotional and financial ramifications plus the stigma that comes with being a “pain patient.”

Pain medication is an essential treatment option for chronic pain.  Prescription Opioids are at the center of a prescription drug abuse epidemic, so their use is shrouded in controversy.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a combination medication called an agonist-antagonist.  Buprenorphine is the main ingredient in Suboxone.  Reckitt Benckiser, the manufacturer, added Naloxone to minimize abuse by injection.  Suboxone was developed to treat people with an opiate addiction ( Buprenorphine-Medication Assisted Therapy (B-MAT)) in a doctor’s office rather than a clinic for methadone maintenance.  The Buprenorphine is the medication that treats pain and the Naloxone is an opiate blocker (also called an opiate antagonist).

Opiate dependent people can use Suboxone to quit pain pills, heroin, and other opiates.  Suboxone and Subutex are effective pain medicines for chronic pain.  These medications prove especially useful for chronic pain patients who become addicted or dependent on their opiate prescriptions.

Suboxone has limitations. No pain medicine works for everyone.  Candidates for Suboxone/Buprenorphine have chronic pain and/or opiate dependency, but it is not used for short-term pain relief.  Suboxone has not been FDA approved for pain management in the United States so its use for chronic pain is off-label.  The UK, New Zealand, and Australia have used it for pain for many years.

Getting Suboxone for Chronic Pain

One of the best ways to get Suboxone for chronic pain is to ask for it.  If you are currently treated at a pain management clinic, talk to your pain management doctor.  Pain clinics are one place to find Suboxone doctors.

Suboxone is an alternative to other long term pain medications like Oxycontin and Methadone.  Suboxone works well for a lot of people.   Using Suboxone for chronic pain gives patients steady relief, helps curb withdrawals, it fights cravings, and normalizes any bad effects the pain pills had.  There is no shame in admitting that you hurt your knee or neck, had surgery, took pain pills, got hooked, and liked the feeling.  Opioids are one of the most addicting, feel good substances.  Suboxone is an opiate, but it works a bit differently in the brain.   Suboxone has a ceiling effect that prevents people from, so regardless of how much you take, you wont get higher.  This is one of the appeals of using it for opiate addiction treatment.

There are FDA medical trials around the country to test Suboxone for its use as a pain pill.  When it is officially approved as a pain treatment then perhaps they’ll come out with some better ways for pain patients to utilize it, like a Suboxone pain patch.  Currently, the manufacturer just came out with the Suboxone sublingual film*, an improvement on the Suboxone tablets.  The Suboxone film is available for pain patients, too.  Even though you might see online that it is not used for pain, do not let that fool you.  Suboxone is being used for chronic pain.  When used as a pain medication Suboxone is often taken 3-4 times per day.  This prevents withdrawal from opiates.  Suboxone is a good alternative for people with opiate dependence and chronic pain.

Suboxone Doctors and Prescribing Suboxone for Chronic Pain

Suboxone is still quite new and most doctors do not know enough about it.  This is primarily because in order for it to become approved as an office based opiate treatment plan, the government limited the doctor to patient ratio.  Each Suboxone doctor has a limited number of patients, has to maintain a log (for numbers purposes, not names), and the ratio is too small.  But most doctors and definitely patients don’t know all of these things.  For doctors who have heard of Suboxone, it’s usually regarding addiction and they may think you’re an addict.  Unfortunately, because of this, patients who use Suboxone for chronic pain are stigmatized (further!).  The general lack of knowledge about Suboxone and the fear of prescribing it has created a huge shortage of Suboxone doctors.  As with most things, when the demand is larger than the supply, there are hypocritical doctors taking advantage.  To become certified to prescribe Suboxone a physician must go through a short amount of training.  Some doctors take the Suboxone training then charge outrageous prices of desperate patients.  Some of these bad Suboxone doctors even manipulate potential patients on the telephone calls.  For example, a very popular line the doctors are use is,

You will save so much money by coming in and seeing me because you will no longer spending it on drugs.

Some Suboxone doctors run cash schemes on patients who feel desperate to quit opiates.  Be cautious of these doctors.  Write down their phone number and what they said if you encounter one when you try to get a Suboxone doctor for chronic pain.

Cons of Using Suboxone to Treat Chronic Pain

The main problem people may have when they use Suboxone for chronic pain is the inability to use other opiates with it.  The good and bad thing about Suboxone is that it blocks the effects of other opiates because it has such a strong affinity for the opiate receptors.  If you want to take medication for the breakthrough pain then you will have to talk with your doctor about other options because taking short-term opiates doesn’t work.  Utilizing Ibuprofen, massage therapy, acupuncture, medical marijuana, and other types of pain reducers are the only option during Suboxone therapy.  One surprisingly good topical analgesic is Voltaren Gel.

If you are your doctor decide that Suboxone is right for you then make sure to discuss breakthrough pain and also tell your doctors in advance if you need to have surgery or procedures involving anesthesia.  You’ll have to stop your Suboxone for a couple of days.

Suboxone is expensive.  Methadone is cheap.  Find out if it is covered by your insurance plan.  There are Medicare Part D insurances that cover Suboxone and Buprenorphine.  It may be covered differently if it’s used for pain, but it’s not covered well at all when it’s used for opiate addiction.  More companies will offer Suboxone prescription coverage as time goes on.

Suboxone is a good alternative for people with chronic pain, especially those that do not have good pain relief with their current medications.

Common Suboxone misspellings:  Suboxon, Soboxone, Suboxen, Bupenorphine, Bupenofin, Suboxin

Comments

  1. Rhonda says

    I have fibromyalgia, ostoarthritis, and many back issues, have had it for years now, I have tried cymbalta, savella and lyrica, I also had the medtronic spinal cord stimulator put in, none of these even touched the pain! I am currently on MS Contin 30 mg. q 8 hrs and Mobic. I also have heart disease, high blood pressure, and high chlosterol so I am also on meds for all this. Sometimes I feel like if I didn’t take the pain meds I would not be able to stay active,or even get out of bed I still have lots of pain, however I am worried about the dependence aspect of it. I do not think my pain doctor would give me this med. for chronic pain but I am wrestling with myself and also praying hard to God for answers on wether or not I should see a Dr. that would give me this to get off the Ms. Contin and just try to deal with pain. If I could get some suggestions or advice it would be greatly appreciated! Thank You

  2. Terri Cally says

    I have been on suboxone for about a year now. My entire life I have suffered with an extremely low pain tolerance level. I have NO tolerance for pain at all. Years of treatment with pain meds combined with bi-polar disorder made me an excellent candidate for suboxone. I take Vibryd +Applenzin for the BiPolar Disorder and the suboxone handles my day to day pain. The suboxone also provides substantial relief from the racing thoughts and distractions that come with bi-polar disorder. The calming effects on the brain are significant and are achieved without the intoxication that comes from typical anti-psychotics. I believe that the indications for suboxone today are limited to drug dependency and pain, however the poitive effects of the drug on the brain are so significant, that the use suboxone in mood and anxiety disorders will eventually revolutionize the medical management of psychiatric disorders. Treatment outcomes for both of my disorders has been very positive with continuation of therapy. I am fearful of discontinuation of treatment with suboxone not only due to the return of pain and addiction but also because historically treatments provide relief only once my brain, my drive and my personality are lost in the stuper of deliberate intoxication from other tradional antipsychotics and seizure medications.

    • ok admin says

      Terri,

      The power is in the present moment. Fear and worry can only take you out of the calm that your brain has finally found.

      In no way am I minimizing that fear because I’ve been there and it can turn into a beast. It’s ironic that one of the “markers” for addiction/abuse is a preoccupation with the drug. There are times I feel preoccupied with the “what if” scenario of the doctor just stopping one of my most effective medications. Fear does me no good.

      What does help is to have an open dialogue with the doctor. As long as the Suboxone is working, you tolerate any side effects, you’re stable (physically and mentally), then my bet is the doc is far more likely to encourage you to stay on that medication than risk discontinuing it and jeopardizing the stability you’ve worked to gain.

      Suboxone is an individual medication. Some people only need to use it for a few days to taper off of other opiates while some people find huge benefit in taking it on an ongoing basis as a daily therapeutic medication.

      Always remember that we are ultimately in control of our health and health care. You always have a say and have the right to participate in your health care treatment.

      Take care of you!

  3. Brian Z says

    Funny I’ve not seen one person mention the fact you can’t speak openly sighs pain doctor or fear he’ll drop you as a patient. I have been taking 30mg morphine six times a day for six yrs. three 30 mg extended relief morphine also. they’re becoming less effective mothly. nurse mentioned suboxone twice but.the thought of going two days with NO pain meds scares me. the pain will be too much not to mention w/d’s! isn’t there a better way? More reliable? I’m afraid to speak to my doctor. and I can’t change doctors I pay my insirance. I can’t afford suboxone either. HELP! SUFFERING ALL ALONE IN FLORIDA CAPITAL OF DRUG ABUSERS!

  4. Josh Pike says

    My father has chronic back pain. deteriating disks bulging disks. has had a verebrate replacement in his neck. he is in need of a knee replacement and a shoulder replacement. needless to say he is in pain. he has taken percocets for numberous years (atleast 7-8) and has had to go to rehab several times due to his addiction. recently he was going thru withdrawals from percocet and attempted suicide. he spent some time in the hospital and then on to a rehab center. he was given suboxone while there and when he was release was given a months supply of it. it works great for him and really works. but now he is having trouble finding a doctor to prescribe it to him. he has been out of it for about a month now and dealing with pain with no medication and it is not easy for him at all because he truly does hurt. can someone please help me and give me some information on how he can go about finding a new pain management doctor who can prescribe this or some kind of doctor that can help him. we live in Georgia

  5. Dr. David says

    Karen,

    Trust me, the Suboxone will work for you. I know it’s easy to write it off because you aren’t getting the fuzzy feeling of OxyContin, but this will work. You probably need to increase your dose until you find your comfort zone and then you COULD ween down later.

    You will feel normal and healthy when you are at your proper dosage and will not crave, nor need all of the junk in the pain pills.

    Stick with it. It will work. I know from personal experience.

  6. says

    I went through 6 and half years of neck pain and finally found a surgeon that would do a surgery. Although I got maybe 75% better I still had pain. The docs just wanted to keep giving me vicodin and oxy. I was ready to kill mystelf and then I went to a suboxone doctor that wanted me to go NA and I said, I want to go on suboxone to get off the drugs. Well, surpise surpise, not only did I get off the narcotics, I have been pain free for 2 years by taking one half of a 8mg buprenoorphine pill per day, despite the fact he prescribed twice as much.

    The pain guy finally discharged me because he found a trace of alcohol in my blood. So now i am in pain again, and what am I supposed to do. Go back on oxy that made me a depressed zombie.

    Are there any doctors out there that will prescribe it for pain. I am not addicted and have been for 4 years, and have no desire to go back. The beauty of suboxone or buprenhine is you DON’T GET HIGH, YOU JUST GET RID OF THE PAIN.

  7. Harleyhoney says

    I was on suboxone. My family dr took me off said it kept me out of pain too much
    I have lupus sle. And fatty tourers on my liver. I still had pain while on the suboxone she took me off because I ask her to write me the suboxone I had been going to a clinic case my pain dr was shut down and I was having such a hard time gettin into a new pain dr . So now the treat me like a addict . The suboxone was not too much I still had pain. Now my family dr has me. On loratabs with no pain relif and I don’t know how to get her to realize the suboxone worker much better and did not make me have some of the side effects of some of the other pain meds I was on 30mg oxycodone 5 times a day at one time now I’m in constant pain.

  8. Jennifer says

    I am currently taking 15 mg of morphine 2 times a day and 1000mg of Vicodin for break through pain every 4-6 hours, tried the epidural shots through the pain clinic with hardly no relief. The pain clinic has sent me back to my neurologist. The neurologist is the one that drop the morphine from 30 mg to 15. which still wasn’t giving me total relief but I wasn’t having to use the Vicodin as much. Another doctor has recommended a doctor that prescribes this Suboxone, since the surgery last August that caused the nerve damage and chronic pain nothing has relieved my pain except for Deloitte (sp). Not sure if this will work for me either, not sure at this point if anything will, and wondering what a pain clinic is for. I also take 600 mg of Neurtin 4 times a day.

  9. CHET C. says

    I TAKE SUBOXONE 8Mg/2mg 4X’s A DAY FOR SERVER PAIN, I WAS 5 YRS CLEAN WHEN I WAS PUT ON THIS, WENT THRU A MEDICAIL TREATMENT THAT CAUSED THE PAIN TO GET WORSE, NOW I AM GETTIN A TOOTH PULLED THAT THE ROOT IS STUCK CURVED AT THE END LIKE A HOOK, SO I AM WONDER WHAT CAN I TAKE FOR THIS EXTRA PAIN , THE SUBOXONE DOES NOT WORK AS GOOD THAT MUCH ANYMORE AND MY TOLERNCE FOR PAIN USED TO BE HIGH BUT NOW AFTER 3-4yrs OF CONSTANT CRONIC PAIN I CAN’T TAKE TO MUCH MORE PLEASE IF ANYONE HAS ANY INFO ,,,,THANX IN ADVANCE LOVE n RESPECT CHET C. BOSTON MA

  10. Tom says

    I have been an addict for 20 years. Suboxone is a very effective drug for DETOXING off of painkillers or heroin. I have found out the hard way, that using sub for maintaince didnt work. As we grew a tollerance to regular pain pills we also grow a tollerence for suboxone. It is great to help with withdrawl symptoms, but we dont want to end up chasing this drug just to feel normal. My suggested use is 5-10 days on a taper.

  11. says

    I am currently on Oxycontin and have been on it for several years for chronic low back pain. I made the choice a few years back to go off of the Oxycontin with the help of Suboxone it was wonderful because I did not have any withdrawls from the Oxycontin. I recently decided to go off of the oxycontin once again, but I am facing two surgeries one on my arm and a 4th surgery on my bladder. Will the suboxone work for pain as I do not want the usual pain medication as it will reduce the effectivness of going off of oxycontin. I will await your reply.

  12. rick spiegel says

    I recently got a new PCP & he is urging me to go onto Saboxone as a alternative pain management medication to my current Morphine & Percocet which I have been on for several years. I never abused my meds yet due to epidemic abuse by others they have become increasingly difficult to get prescribed now that I’m in NY. I’ve become dependent needless to say but I have a few fears.
    A: I don’t want to be labeled as an drug addict because of the adverse view of Saboxone.
    B: Surgery is not a viable option so it remains pain management, is it helpful Tx for an average pain level of 5-6.
    C: I’m being told i have

    • rick spiegel says

      My apologies it cut off. I’m told I need to be w/o any meds for 2-3 days before I start Suboxone. I don’t know how I will manage but can you say how long it takes to provide relief (average) once I do get it?
      Thanks for any answers you can provide me to relieve my anxiety on this subject.

      • Russ says

        I started out treating pain with Vicodin and got hooked on it. I was taking 20, 5/100 pills per day. When I went in for treatment I had been withdrawing realy hard for three days. It took two films of 8/2 suboxone about twenty minutes to help me that first day. Over the past year I am now only taking a half film per day.

      • PapaJack says

        I’ve been on Suboxone Film Strips for several months now to stop the withdrawal feelings from dropping opiates. I’ve been on many brands of opiates for many years for many surgeries. You have to be off of opiates for two to three days because YOU MUST BE IN FULL WITHDRAWAL FROM THE OPIATES BEFORE STARTING SUBOXONE. The Doc took one look at my pupils and knew I was in full withdrawal. THE TOTAL OPIATE WITHDRAL SYMPTOMS WILL BE GONE WITHIN 15 TO 20 MINUTES AFTER YOUR FIRST LOW DOSE OF SUBOXONE. It is hard to believe but it is true. My withdrawal symptoms were gone while still in the doctors office. It is hell that I can’t describe while in full withdrawal but most people here can relate to it. The Suboxone is titrated over the next several weeks by gradually increasing the dosage. I now take 2.5 strips of the 8mg Suboxone a day. It is a God send to totally be rid of opiate withdrawal in a matter of minutes. If you take the Suboxone while still taking the opiates, you will get very sick. I was told it would be like withdrawal 4 times over. this amount does not really relieve pain for me, but my pain was gone when I started Suboxone and I take it to not regain the desire for opiates.. If I forget a dose of Suboxone, it is literally hours before I start felling any withdrawal. When I was on the opiates, I’d start feeling withdrawal symptoms before it was even time to take the next dose. I can’t say enough about Suboxone and an honest Pain Management/Medicine Doctor that cares for his patients.

  13. Navin says

    Also sorry for delay. You need to let your dr know the truth. I use it for pain control and have great succes but its not for everyone.

  14. Brian Herrity says

    I’m so happy to have found this site, I feel so alone with really no one to talk to about my suboxone use, which I take for both chronic pain and opiate withdrawal. My problem now is that I have a lower tooth that is giving me a terrible throbbing pain, but I’m afraid to go and see a dentist because I take 20mg of suboxone daily and I’m afraid of what he will give me to treat my tooth pain will not work. Any suggestions?

  15. ok admin says

    @Karen

    I apologize for the delay with your comment. So, it sounds like you take 16mg of Suboxone per day. I think the best thing you can do is talk openly to your pain doctor. I do have a few suggestions that may make it easier with the doctor. I would keep a daily record to take to the doctor. Write down the time you take the Suboxone and keep a diary using the 1-10 pain scale. Does the Suboxone work at all? Or does it not work enough? Do you have any unwanted side effects? Make sure you are organized when you go talk to the doctor about the Suboxone.

    Suboxone does not work for every person’s pain. I switched to Subutex (20-24mg) after taking Methadone and Percocet and it works great. If it hadn’t worked I would have tried something else.

  16. Karen Lewis says

    I recently went on Suboxone for chronic back pain (DDD,arthritis) after being on ozycontin and percocet for many years.I did NOT abuse my meds but was DEPENDENT on them. The Suboxone is not helping at all. I am taking 1 (6mg) tablet in the AM and 1/2 tablet at midday and in the evening. How can I convince my pain MD that this med is not working for me?

  17. Adam says

    Suboxone isn’t a cure-all pill, saying that it is better than any painkillers above is ignorant. It does not hurt to give it a try if others aren’t working, but in general Suboxone is not better than Methadone, Oxycodone is not better than Suboxone, Suboxone is not better than anything and anything is not better than Suboxone. It’s all how it works FOR YOU. One is not better than the other because what works for one may not work for another. I know MANY patients who are stabilized properly on Methadone for pain relief and wouldn’t ask for anything else, why? Because it works and for the first time in their life they can actually have a somewhat ‘normal’ day instead of being ridden with pain, having grogginess and many side effects from other opioids, etc. I also know patients who don’t get relief from Methadone and swear by Oxycodone, it’s all down to how it works for YOU.

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