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  • Writer's pictureDr. Harold Pierre

How to Improve Suboxone Treatment for Opioid Addiction Recovery

Updated: Apr 26

There is a way to Improve Suboxone Treatment for Opioid Addiction Recovery

The opioid addiction epidemic continues impacting numerous lives nationwide. Although medication-assisted treatments (MAT) using buprenorphine and methadone can aid recovery, relapse rates remain high.

New research reveals ways to improve Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) treatment for addiction recovery by adding other FDA-approved medications. Controlled trials are still needed, but these findings offer hope for more effective, personalized care.

I want to share the results of the research article with you all today. I'm really excited about the findings and I think you will be too.

Man with both hands up showing the feeling of success.

Using Buprenorphine Alone Shows Limited Success

After decades prescribing buprenorphine and methadone, I've learned that providing the medications alone often wasn't enough. Sobriety rates at 1 year can be as low as 35% when taking Suboxone (Buprenorphine/naloxone). But there are plenty of case reports and studies proving that better outcomes are possible by providing additional therapies beyond the buprenorphine or methadone alone.

That's why I developed a Functional Addiction Medicine approach - optimizing medication-assisted treatment through individualized combinations of meds, hormones, counseling and nutrition.

The recent removal of the x-waiver in January 2023 expanded access to buprenorphine. However, this won't fix the opioid addiction epidemic. Prescribing more buprenorphine won’t be enough. The success rate of treatment needs to be improved.

Adding Medications to Addiction Treatment Can Boost Treatment Efficacy

Clinical data analysis identified FDA approved medications for other uses that may improve buprenorphine treatment:

These Medications Show Benefits Alone without Buprenorphine or Methadone

  • Anti-hypertensives: prazosin, propranolol

  • Anti-psychotics: Olanzapine

  • Antidepressants: Bupropion, citalopram, escitalopram

These drugs likely benefit recovery by interacting with stress, dopamine, and opioid receptors, while addressing co-occurring mood disorders. They are especially helpful when tapering off buprenorphine while maintaining sobriety.

Medications That Improve Buprenorphine Treatment

Adding the following medications also improved outcomes for those using Suboxone treatment for opioid addiction:

  • Anti-hypertensives: Clonidine, prazosin, guanfacine, doxazosin, propranolol

  • Antipsychotics: Chlorpromazine, risperidone, haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine, lithium, perphenazine

  • Antidepressants: Venlafaxine, sertraline, doxepin, fluoxetine, paroxetine, trazodone, mirtazapine, escitalopram, citalopram

These synergistically treat both addiction and co-occurring mental illness through combined mechanisms. Even unexpected therapies like the asthma drug terbutaline powerfully improved recovery with buprenorphine.

What Does This Mean for Your Recovery?

If you are struggling with your recovery, you need to speak with your doctor about changes that can potentially optimize your treatment. Everyone is different and every situation requires a thorough evaluation and a plan to optimize all aspects of your recovery.

In summary, data reveals medications for hypertension, asthma, depression and other conditions may enhance buprenorphine treatment for opioid addiction when prescribed together.

A Functional Addiction Medicine approach can optimize outcomes through personalized combinations tailored to each patient's needs. Additional research is still required to confirm safety and efficacy. But these findings offer hope that optimizing buprenorphine with supplemental medications may boost treatment success.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician before making any treatment decisions.

Patel, K., Waldron, D., & Graziane, N. (2023). Re-purposing FDA-approved drugs for opioid use disorder. Substance Use & Misuse, 1–14.

About the author:

Dr. Harold Pierre is a board-certified anesthesiologist and addiction medicine specialist with over 20 years of experience. He is board-certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and the American Board of Preventive Medicine.

This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician or another qualified medical professional. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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