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Suboxone to help get off of Norco

RosevilleTJRRosevilleTJ Posts: 21
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:34 AM in Pain Medications
First of all, love the Spine-Health Website and all the member contributions - Thank you to all. I wanted to share what I thought might be encouraging news to some. Summary of my story is "life happened" which led to herniated L5-S1. I am a happy dad, two kids and a wife, very busy all the time. Treated with Norco 10/325 4x/day. After 2 epidurals, had diskectomy/laminectomy in 3/08. That day, switched to 8 Norco/day. Pain never really went away, stayed on 8 Norco/day as well as 6 ~ 9 Neurontin. On ice 3 or 4 times / day. Joined Gym and did cardio (Eliptical) most days. Met with two different surgeons, both said surgery would be through front and back, that it would be a three day surgery, 10 days in hospital, and off work 8 months to a year. They both basically strongly discouraged surgery. The fact that I was relatively happy, and still functioning, (with meds help), made them decide not to risk surgery.
L5-S1 Disk herniated again in July '09. I saw another new surgeon (with Kaiser), he looked at MRI and said, yep, let's fix this. So, I had surgery on 6/24. It was PLIF - through the back, fused L5-S1. While in hospital I was absolutely miserable - do doubt about it - it was horrible. BUT, now 5 weeks post-op, I feel pretty darn good. I've been wanting to get off the meds but couldn't (or chose not to) deal with the withdrawls. So, finally, to get to the point of my story (|: . I met with Dr. last week and he explained Suboxone's roll in helping me. Today, I went in there with moderate withdrawals and he gave me my first dose of Suboxone. Within 20 minutes I was back to feeling okay, he gave me two more, he monitored me for an hour, and I was good to go. So now, after 18 months of 8/Norco / day, I have gone 24 hrs with zero. I will be weening off the Suboxone for the next three weeks, at which point, I'll be med free. Obviously it's not going to be completely easy, but I wanted to share this story with others as I am very excited and optimistic about the future. Take care and feel free to ask if you have any questions. =D>


  • That is excellent and very encouraging news not only for you but for the rest of us as well, that could very well be in your shoes one day...sooner or later!

    I've heard great things about the role of Suboxone in helping folks get off of Narcotics...and if you're doing well without narcs then you're certainly making the right choice.

    Best wishes to you and oh yeah I can certainly relate...had the L5/S1 fusion 18 years ago and a C6/C7 fusion just this past June 1st. You'll do very well, just rehab it hard and the fusion should last you a LONG time!

    Bye for now -

  • I am happy for you that you are comfortable enough to start doing without the pain meds, but I do want to caution you about suboxone.
    You were actually on a rather light weight pain reliever, and not on an awfully high dose of it either. Your doctor could have simply put you on a tapering plan that would have had you reducing your pain medication intake over every few days and you could have achieved the same result of not being on pain medications.
    I am seeing more and more posts from people who are being given sub when there is no medical reason for it. Sub is supposed to be used to help opiate addicts stay off opiates, not to help the ordinary pain patient get off them. The taper off suboxone is just as difficult as methadone so I have read. And it is that much longer that you will have to be on another opiate ( sub), and then taper off it as well.
    If sub is going to be used to taper someone with no history of addiction, then it should be used for a few days , maybe a week and then stopped. There is no medical reason to keep you on it for three weeks.
    Best of luck to you, I truly hope that this goes smoothly for you.
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  • I have to agree with Sandi; while I am happy for you and wish you the best, I question your doctors use of suboxone for 'getting off' of 8 norcos a day for 18 months. My only advice would be, take the least amount of the suboxone possible, and taper early and fast. 10 days and you should be done. Suboxone is much more appropriate for something such as oxycontin addiction, to the point of say, snorting 500mg per day, or something similar.

    Regardless, wish you the best.

  • Hi Sandi, I want to take a moment to respond.
    My first thought is that everyone here is different, that's what I love about the forum, we can all take little bits of information from so many people who are living with similar situations. My intent was to share a bit of my story, and then share my experience so others may be able to at least see the road that I am on, and decide whether or not they want to learn more. I am new to Spine-Health, and I came here with eyes wide open, searching all the nooks and crannies of the site, looking for people with similar stories, it has been a great place for me. Now I wanted to give a bit back, based on my experience.
    So now, on to my response. As I said, we're all different, but for me, 8 Norco (Equivalent to 16 Vicodin/day) is not light weight / light dose. I understand to others that may be light, but to me, it was a bucketload. As far as tapering goes, yep, tried that, just going from 8 to 7 / day and I was sick, nauseated, cold sweats, blah, blah, blah - just felt like crud. So, I talked to my GP (who I greatly respect) and he suggested that I talk with this chem dependency doctor. I absolutely trust this Doctor, and his years of experience, to help me get off of my pain meds. He mentioned today that the success rate of Norco -> Suboxone -> taper is much higher than just tapering off Norco - so that's my plan. You also mentioned that you have read that the taper off Sub is just as difficult as Methadone, again, maybe for some, but my Doctor said, no way. And, he said they've used it for a few years, not just for "Opiate addicts" but for "ordinary pain patients", and it has been very helpful with the process.
    So, I think that there are so many different situations out there, this is a great place to read about many of them, but it's important to not assume too much.
    I didn't read your bio, but you say you are seeing more and more posts where people are, "for no medical reason", being prescribed Suboxone. That seems like such a broad stroke of the brush. W/out all the facts, or a degree in pharmacology, it's a tough statement to make.

    Looking forward, I hope to be done and back to my normal, no meds life, very soon. I appreciate your taking the time to offer your thoughts, and am in no way trying to be disrespectful, I just wanted to make sure I was clear on my intent of my initial post.
    Take care and I hope everyone continues on their journey towards a pain free, enjoyable, and rewarding life!
  • Hi Roseville,
    Thank you for your response. I do appreciate that you took the time to explain your thoughts and experiences.
    I don't doubt that you felt sick from tapering down from 8 norco to 7, after 18 months on them. While there is really no way to avoid altogether some of the symptoms of tapering/withdrawal, they certainly can be minimized by slowing down the taper. If you had that much difficulty going from 8 to 7 norco, then the doctor could have easily had you go down to 7 and 1/2 for three days or more before reducing you again. Some people have to go slower than others, that much is an individual experience.
    Your doctor could also have given you a catapress patch to help with the remaining withdrawal symptoms if you were still experiencing them after slowing down the speed of the taper.
    My concern is the frequency of some doctors using things like suboxone in patients who really have no history that would justify it. Don't get me wrong, I know from experience that tapering off a medication is not fun, and none of us like feeling ill, however, if there were no suboxone, you would have had to deal with the withdrawal symptoms and eventually gotten off the norco. Suboxone is being billed in the chronic pain world in some places as a way to avoid having to deal with withdrawal and that's what it is. It is easier for the doctor not to have to follow a patient who is tapering. They siimply put you on suboxone for weeks and in too many cases, patients are finding it is far more difficult to deal with the withdrawal from the suboxone, so they wind up staying on that. Kind of defeats the purpose of going on it in the first place, doesn't it ? In my opinion, sub should not be used as a way for not having to deal with withdrawal. Not wanting to deal with withdrawal is not a medically justifiable reason to me for giving suboxone to anyone. That's just my opinion, and you don't have to agree with me.
    Can I ask how much suboxone you are taking? My understanding of the use of sub in tapering a patient off pain medications without a history of abuse/addiction is that the minimal dose should be used, which is around 2 mg /24 hours. It sounded from your post yesterday, that you were given more after your withdrawal symptoms subsided.
    The Norco would be out of your system within three days to a week once you were done with a taper, but with sub, you have to go through at least a few weeks of withdrawal, so you really didn't avoid anything , just changed the medication that you need to taper from, and maybe successfully avoided dealing with it for a few more weeks.
    Please don't take offense to what I have said. I am not personally attacking you or wanting to offend you, it is just my opinion and feelings on the use of suboxone in situations like yours and some others that I have read.
    I have talked to several people who have gone the sub route to stop taking pain meds with no history of addiction and just about all of them have said that the withdrawal from sub was worse than the original withdrawal they were dealing with.
    Anyway, I do wish you the best and hope that you don't have any difficulties with your plan.
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  • I'm feeling like I'm doing the right thing, using the right tool for the job, and I am surrounded by the right people, with the right experiences, to help me get to the goal. I'll periodically update this post with progress made and new experiences, as I'm sure there will be plenty.
    Take care,
  • sandi, you're not the least bit alone in your thinking. I've been noticing the same thing and I also qualify norco -> suboxone as killing a fly with a flamethrower.

    I recently completed some professional education on Suboxone and I was really disappointed to see that there's a serious marketing bias involved as well. Unfortunately, I think we're going to see more and more of this approach, until the negative consequences build up enough to draw some attention to the problems with using this drug as an "easy out." :-(

  • Hi Bionic Woman,
    I also think that it is going to be an ever increasing trend, until, as you said, something happens in a big way to draw the attention of the media to the use of sub in this manner.
    We'd all like an easy out, but as far as I am aware, most PM doctors have the talk with their patients about going on narcotics and how they will need to be tapered off if they are on them for any length of time. Do patients just not listen or are they just so eager to start with the pain medications that they completely dismiss that speech?
    What if there were no suboxone? A patient would have to go through some amount of withdrawal, which can be minimal if the taper is done correctly. And in the end, they aren't avoiding dealing with the withdrawal symptoms anyway, they are going to have to deal with them once they stop the sub. What are they going to do if they find that the sub is worse to withdraw from than the original opiate?
    There isn't anything that I am aware of, other than the standard over the counter remedies and catapress or something similar to help with the symptoms.
    I just don't see the "reasoning" behind trading one drug for another to try to avoid something that we all should know is coming eventually.
  • sandi, I think you're absolutely right about patients dismissing the speech about dependence/withdrawal, because they're eager to get relief from the pain. Ironically, it seems people are dismissing the larger issues with suboxone out of eagerness to get rid of the withdrawal symptoms. In the end, it's actually the exact same cycle of behavior. :?
  • BionicWoman said:
    sandi, I think you're absolutely right about patients dismissing the speech about dependence/withdrawal, because they're eager to get relief from the pain. Ironically, it seems people are dismissing the larger issues with suboxone out of eagerness to get rid of the withdrawal symptoms. In the end, it's actually the exact same cycle of behavior. :?
    I find that incredibly sad. :( I know that I wanted some relief from the pain that I live with too, but I certainly knew of and listened carefully when my PM doctor told me that withdrawal was going to be something we had to contend with at some point.
    I may be on some form of pain medication for the rest of my life, but I have withdrawn from oxycontin with no issues, and didn't have to use anything other than a planned taper to do it.
    I know that some find tapering tougher than others , but the fact is, using suboxone or some other means isn't going to help someone avoid withdrawal at all, it will make it that much more complicated and difficult though, not to mention, in some cases downright dangerous. :S
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