Suboxone and Subutex Information: Drug Dependence & Addiction

Suboxone and Subutex Information: Drug Dependence & Addiction

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Dependence and Addiction

There is a great deal of confusion about the difference between dependence and addiction, and we believe that it is incredibly important to help people learn what those differences are.


You considered dependent on a substance when you stop taking the substance and begin to feel uncomfortable symptoms. Opioids like OxyContin or methadone aren’t the only substances that can create dependence. Many people are dependent on sugar or caffeine – when someone dependent on these substances try to stop eating sugar or caffeinated beverages, they can experience uncomfortable symptoms like headaches, cramps, and more. However, when someone becomes dependent on opioids, the withdrawal symptoms can be much more severe and can continue for longer periods of time. In fact, many people who have become dependent on these drugs don’t continue to take them because they need them to block pain signals, but because they don't want to go through the painful withdrawal that will occur when they stop taking the drug.


Addiction is the condition where a person will modify their behavior and even do destructive things to satisfy the craving created by a drug. They may have originally taken the drug to block pain signals but they continued taking the drug because it allowed them to "feel" a certain way or avoid feeling a certain way. People who become addicted to these drugs are also dependent on the drugs and will experience not only the pain of withdrawal but also the emotional pain of no longer having the drug modify the way they feel.

How Do These Drugs Create Dependency and Addiction?

Our bodies are incredibly sophisticated, and when it senses that a particular chemical is needed, unless there is some structural problem, it will try to produce the chemical. If someone is administering a chemical like OxyContin that downloads endorphins by stimulating endorphin activity, the brain senses that it doesn't need to produce the chemicals that naturally create endorphins. The brain decreases its own endorphin production and relies on the drugs instead. If the brain relies on these drugs to produce endorphins, then when those drugs stop then that person can become sick – what’s most commonly known as going through withdrawal.

Pain Has a Purpose

Like all sensations in our body, pain serves a useful purpose. Our bodies use pain to indicate that there is a problem that needs to be handled. We have had a number of patients come to Novus to detox from opioids who began to experience a toothache as they were withdrawing. The toothache got worse, and when they went to go see a dentist, it turned out that there was so much decay that a root canal or even an extraction was required.

The opioids had flooded the brain with endorphins and prevented the early signs of tooth decay, pain, from reaching the brain. Had they not been on the opioids, they would have felt the pain, known to go see a dentist, and had the cavity filled. Other patients on opioids share stories about how, while taking these drugs, they permanently damaged their backs. Because the opioids prevented them from feeling the discomfort in their backs, the pain warnings never reached the brain so they just kept performing the damaging task, in many cases working in construction and lifting heavy objects, until the damage was irreversible.

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