Buphrenorphine (Suboxone’s just a stage name) doesn’t quite act like other drugs. It stimulates one place in the brain the same as heroin, methadone, oxycodone and the other opoid (opium-like) drugs, but it has the opposite effect on most of the other receptor sites that opiates use where, instead, it neutralizes the opiates’ effects.
In addition to buphrenorphine, Suboxone contains a drug called naloxone. It is also an opiate antagonist, and it enhances the neutralizing effect of the buphrenorphine.
What this all boils down to is pretty simple, once you get past the neurology and chemistry: Suboxone’s neutralizing effects get the drugs out of the system, while its stimulating effect eliminates withdrawal symptoms. If you give someone a dose of naloxone alone, it throws them into immediate and severe withdrawal. However, the two drugs working together allow us to detox from our opiate of choice, and allow it to happen in relative comfort.
Completely changing our brain chemistry around can never be symptom-free, and if you’ve ever done an opiate detox “cold turkey,” you know that it’s one of the most miserable experiences imaginable. No one wants to go through that again. With Suboxone, you don’t have to. Along with the medical and emotional support of a first-class detox facility, Suboxone treatment makes the early stages of recovery from opiate addiction physically and emotionally more comfortable, removing one of the biggest obstacles to getting clean and sober.