Greg: What is going on, everyone? It is Greg and Matt here from Project Unbroken. Today we’ve got a question in. It was more directed towards Matt. And it was, “How hard was it to get off suboxone?”
Suboxone is one of the more commonly used drugs to get off of heroin and opiates, probably usually the first step. People don’t usually go to methadone first. They use suboxone first. And someone asked, “How hard was it to get off?”
What’s your experience with suboxone? Did you take it? We might as well expand on it. Did you take it multiple times? How hard was it to get off once you eventually got off it?
Matt: Okay. I guess I used suboxone on and off for a while. I know that was when Greg and I were just trying to figure out how to get out of our heroin addiction. We had a couple bad experiences with sketchy doctors that were prescribing suboxone. But basically we call them predatory doctors just ripping off drug addicts. That wasn’t successful. And then I tried buying it on the streets for a while. And that’s just a recipe for disaster, because they’re like, “No, I don’t have any suboxone. But I have heroin.”
That didn’t work. And then, eventually later down the road, this is kind of after I had my experiences with rehab, and I was not using heroin, but I knew that I needed help.
Greg: Who did you ask? Did you go do the research yourself? Did you tell a loved one and they helped you?
Greg: How did that work?
Matt: This was again, after rehab. Everyone knew where I was at. I kind of talked before about how I laid some accountability on myself by being very transparent with, and I’m lucky to have, my parents, who were a huge support system for me. So I talked to them. I was like, “Look. This is where I’m at. I need to find a clinic, or a doctor, or somebody that can prescribe me with suboxone in a way that is going to get me away from heroin in a successful method.”
Because again, a lot of the doctors back then … Greg and I literally went to a doctor. He charged us $600 to get in the door for just Greg to go in, and gave him literally eight pills or something. Seven pills.
Greg: Maybe two at the most worked.
Matt: Yeah. And that was just responsible to say the least. We’ve talked about this guy before. He’s had his medical license revoked. And he got in a lot of trouble for that. Nobody will be successful if you’re coming from doing heroin every day for years to somebody giving you seven suboxone pills. It just doesn’t … But, my family helped me research. We found a doctor. It was not easy to get into the clinic. They had limited spaces available. They could only work with so many people, because suboxone was a newer maintenance drug back then.
Greg: I really like how you talk about the accountability. We talked about that. I believe the video was like, “The Number One Way That We Prevent Relapse.”
Greg: If you haven’t seen that, make sure you check it out, because it’s really important that you know about that accountability. I think it’s a big thing.
Matt: Yeah. We can put a link to that video somewhere here. Check that out though. That was huge for me.
Greg: Anyways, you went in. What did they start you on? What does were you taking when you first started? Do you remember?
Matt: It was 8 milligrams a day, which was fine for me. Going back, I think it was actually two 8 milligram pills a day. The clinic that I started with was basically like, “We’re going to take a good solid year on this. Take the year. We’re not going to rush this.”
And they encouraged me to use as much suboxone as I needed to start off. And I guess that the thinking behind that was, “We don’t ever want you to … ”
Especially at first, when they start this process, they didn’t ever want me to feel like, “I don’t know. This might not be enough.”
So they were very liberal with how much I could start with. Let me back up a little bit. To use this program, you had to meet with the physician who actually subscribed the prescription for the suboxone pills. And then, you also had to meet with a psychiatrist. And they worked together. That was the deal. If you didn’t meet with both of them every week, the deal is off. But that’s the accountability I was looking for. It was a perfect program for what I needed to do.
Greg: You started on maybe two 8 milligrams, 8 milligrams a day, something like that. How slow did you go down? Do you remember?
Matt: Pretty slowly. At the time, I was in a relationship with somebody who was not from the world of heroin at all, and I was with her for that reason. And just in general, I was motivated to be done with heroin. I realized pretty quickly, the 16 milligrams a day was way more than I needed. I kind of took a big chunk off the top. I think I went from 16 down to 8 milligrams fairly quickly. We stayed there for maybe four or five months. And then I would just start breaking it down slowly. I’d say the last month I was taking maybe two milligrams a day.
Greg: Now did they tell you like, “Alright. We’re going to go down to this amount.”?
Matt: This is a conversation that we had every week. So they would be like, “What have you been taking?”
And they would just prescribe again, whatever I asked for. If I told them, “You know what? I think I need another year on this.”
I’m pretty confident they would have gone along with that, and just taken our time with it. Again, I was pretty motivated. I had a strong desire to not have any crutches in my life. I just wanted to not worry about needing a pill. Because I did. I needed the suboxone. I remember a few times, if we were away for the weekend, one time in particular, I left the bottle of suboxone in the drawer. And we were like three hours away. And I was like, “Turn around! Turn around.”
Greg: I know that feeling.
Matt: “I don’t care. Whatever.”
At that point, I was still taking a decent amount of suboxone. But yeah, I definitely needed it.
Greg: Okay. At what point do you remember that you started maybe not feeling as good? You’re on a dose, you’re probably feeling pretty good. Not high, but you’re feeling level. When did you start maybe feeling a little bit of withdrawal?
Matt: You know, honestly I’m not sure. I think it was mostly kind of a placebo effect sort of thing. I really felt great all the way up until it was gone.
Matt: I did.
Greg: Okay, the last dose as you were taking it, how much do think it was? Half a milligram? Milligram?
Matt: A milligram.
Greg: I know you were breaking them down really small.
Matt: They were small. I’d say sometimes it was maybe … Actually absolutely half a milligram. And again, looking back, I don’t know the exact science. I know a little bit about it. I don’t know how effective a half a milligram could be. Maybe we just took that year, we weaned it off right, and it was okay. I will say if I had two milligrams on week 50, and then I had one milligram on week 51, and then the last week of suboxone I had half a milligram, there was not a big difference between those three weeks. But, I remember specifically waking up the day that it was gone and being like, “I don’t feel the same about anything.”
And it sucked. It was not easy, but it was what I was preparing myself for.
Greg: So can you explain that first day where you had none, what were your quote unquote ‘withdrawal symptoms’ like, if you want to call them withdrawal symptoms? What were you feeling?
Matt: Anxious. I can’t say that there was a lot of the physical symptoms that I was used to with heroin withdrawal.
Greg: Like you weren’t in a cold sweat and that type of stuff?
Matt: No. Nothing like that. Maybe some restless legs. And again, I don’t know if that was just driven from the anxiety or what that was. I can’t say that it was terrible. It was just that time when you’re like, “This is the hard part. This is where you need to make sure you have your shit together.”
Greg: But it was manageable.
Matt: It was manageable. Absolutely. You have to understand, and talk to people who are going through addiction or have been through addiction and people who have been through it completely get it. You have to understand that living through addiction, and you know this, you’re high for so long. You don’t just get out of that without paying. You’re paying. If you’re getting ready to approach recovery, or you want to get out of this addiction, Greg and I have talked about this in videos before, you’re going to go through the fire. It’s going to suck a little bit. You can mitigate how bad it sucks by getting on a good maintenance program, maybe working with a therapist, working with a physician who is actually working in your best interests. But just embrace it. Embrace the challenge. Go through it. You’re going to be stronger on the other side. You’re going to learn things about yourself that you would have never found out any other way about how strong you really are. It’s going to be a little painful, but it doesn’t get that bad. Every day, it gets better.
You’ve got to dig down for a couple weeks, I’d say. And then the bright spots start coming. It can turn around pretty quick.
Greg: I think that was really good information you gave, because I think it tells that long maintenance is really a solid way to go. Because I think I went through a long maintenance program with methadone, which we can talk about in another video. But I think you went through the whole thing. You went that far. You remember what regular withdrawal feels like, and you’re expecting to be uncomfortable. For you, you’re like, “I went through a year of doing this. I know I’m going to be a little uncomfortable. I can compare it to regular withdrawal, which is actually horrible, so I can deal with this. And I’m already committed. So I really like what you laid out there for people on your progress, because really didn’t start feel it until the day you stopped taking it. And you were prepared for that day to get a little of the battle going on.
Matt: Yeah. And everybody was aware of what was going on. To your point, I went through the entire year of it. I was done. I wasn’t worried about myself going back and using heroin at that point. But after a year, those contacts, those people, I was out of that …
Greg: Out of the world.
Matt: I was out of that world, so it wasn’t even an option either way. Absolutely. I think a long maintenance program can be hugely beneficial.
Greg: I think that was really helpful, Matt. Really good information there. For anyone who’s interested in how hard is it to come off of suboxone, I think I agree with you that the long route is a really good way to go. And if you’re prepared for it, it’s really not that bad at the end. If you’re worried about regular withdrawal, you’re not going to go through withdrawal like you normally would. Awesome. Good stuff, Matt. Appreciate it. If you guys have any more questions on this topic, let us know, and we’ll cover whatever you need.
Matt: Thanks for watching, guys. Talk to you soon.