Understand Suboxone: Uses, Controversies, and Legal Considerations

Suboxone has recently been a topic of discussion due to its use in treating opioid dependence. However, it faces scrutiny over its side effects, leading to legal actions and debates over its use.

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Suboxone Buprenorphine Naloxone

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a prescription medication designed to treat opioid addiction. It is a combination of two active ingredients: buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist that produces euphoric effects and/or respiratory depression at low to moderate doses, and naloxone, an opioid antagonist that attaches to opioid receptors and reverses and blocks the effects of other opioids. Together, this combination helps in reducing the cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid addiction, which would help facilitate a smoother recovery process.

This blog aims to demystify Suboxone, addressing its purposes, how it works, associated complications, and the ensuing legal landscape surrounding this opioid.

Suboxone Litigation Updates

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has now consolidated 15 Suboxone tooth decay claims into a single MDL in the Northern District of Ohio.

A lawsuit against Indivior, Reckitt Benckiser and other defendants who manufactured Suboxone was filed by an plaintiff named David Sorensen. He alleged he used the drug and developed permanent damage to his teeth and required substantial dental work.

What is Suboxone used for?

The primary use of Suboxone is in the treatment of opioid (narcotic) dependence in adults and children over the age of 15 years old. It is usually a part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and psychological support, aiding individuals in overcoming addiction to opioids such as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. 

It has also been used with other patients as a replacement for stronger pain killers.

How does Suboxone work?

Suboxone works by tightly binding to the same brain receptors that opioids target. Buprenorphine, being a partial agonist, activates these receptors but to a much lower extent than full agonists (like heroin or morphine). Because it’s a partial opioid agonist, it doesn’t fully activate the brain receptors which prevents the patient from experiencing a “high” from Suboxone. Naloxone, on the other hand, blocks the effects of opioids, which acts as a deterrent for misuse of the medication.

Is buprenorphine the same as methadone?

While both buprenorphine (a key component of Suboxone) and methadone are used in treating opioid addiction, they are not the same. Methadone is a full opioid agonist, whereas buprenorphine is a partial agonist. This difference makes buprenorphine less likely to cause euphoria and physical dependence.

Is Suboxone considered a narcotic?

Yes, Suboxone is classified as a narcotic due to the presence of buprenorphine, which, despite its therapeutic use, has potential for abuse similar to other opioids. Its narcotic classification is crucial for regulatory purposes and in understanding its potential for dependence.

Addiction occurs when something that once brought pleasure becomes something you feel you can’t live without. In the case of drug addiction, it’s an uncontrollable urge to keep using a drug despite knowing it’s causing harm.

Opioids in general are particularly addictive because they have a strong effect on the brain’s reward system. They release chemicals called endorphins, which make you feel really good and reduce pain. This creates a powerful sense of well-being, but it’s only temporary. When the effect of the opioid wears off, you might find yourself wanting to get back to that good feeling as quickly as possible. This cycle can lead to opioid addiction, where you keep using the drug to chase those brief moments of happiness.

That being said, it is much more difficult to overdose on Suboxone compared to other types of opiates. If a person overdoses on Suboxone, it is almost always because they are mixing it with sedatives like benzodiazepines, medicines that may slow down breathing.

What are the known complications of Suboxone?

Suboxone, like any medication, comes with a range of potential side effects. Common complications include nausea, vomiting, drug withdrawal syndrome, headache, sweating, numb mouth, constipation, painful tongue, disturbance in attention, irregular heartbeat, decrease in sleep, blurred vision, back pain, fainting, dizziness, and sleepiness.

Other Suboxone Side Effects

Other complications from Suboxone have also been reported, including respiratory issues, anxiety, depression, liver damage, and severe dental problems. Dental problems with buprenorphine medicines include tooth decay, cavities, oral infections, tooth loss, and tooth factures. These health risks were not added to Indivior’s Suboxone prescribing information until June 2022.

Has Suboxone been discontinued?

There have been reports and rumors about Suboxone being discontinued, often stemming from changes in its formulation, regulatory decisions, or market dynamics. However, according to ABC News Indivior, a company that manufactures a tablet form of Suboxone, announced it would discontinue its product based on supposed “concerns regarding pediatric exposure.” This explanation is up for debate.

In 2020, Indivior agreed to pay $600 million to resolve allegations of fraudulent promotion.

Why are people filing lawsuits against Suboxone?

Lawsuits against Suboxone often stem from claims of inadequate warning about potential risks, aggressive marketing practices, or complications arising from its use. Plaintiffs argue that they were not sufficiently informed about the dangers of dependency or adverse effects associated with the medication.

Severe Tooth Decay Suboxone

What are some of the damages cited in some of the lawsuits filed?

Damages cited in lawsuits include personal injury, wrongful death, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. These damages reflect the physical, emotional, and financial toll on individuals and their families due to complications or side effects associated with Suboxone.

What should be considered when filing a claim?

When considering a legal claim related to Suboxone, it’s essential to document medical history, treatments received, and how the medication has affected one’s life. Legal statutes of limitations and the specific grounds for the lawsuit, such as product liability or medical malpractice, should also be considered.

Working with attorneys experienced in pharmaceutical litigation can provide the necessary expertise in navigating complex legal and medical issues. An attorney can help in gathering evidence, understanding the legal framework, and ensuring that the claim is filed timely and appropriately, maximizing the chances of a favorable outcome.

Suboxone may play a role in the fight against opioid addiction, but its use is not without controversy and complications. It is crucial for individuals to be fully informed about its benefits and risks. For those adversely affected, legal recourse may be an option worth exploring. As with any medical treatment, consultation with healthcare professionals is paramount to making informed decisions.

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