Opioid addiction in the United States has reached epidemic levels. From his practice, Smart Medicine SF, Dr. Vinh Ngo is helping patients from throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area to recover from heroin and opioid addiction. If you are addicted to opioids or heroin, call or book an appointment online with Dr. Ngo today. He offers a variety of treatments including Suboxone® and Buprenorphine to help you fight your addiction and get your life back.


Addiction Medicine Q&A

Why are opioid drugs so addictive?

For many Americans, opioid addiction begins with legitimate, prescribed medication to treat chronic pain. However, with regular use over time, pain medications change the function of the nerve cells in the brain. Eventually, this leads to the body developing a tolerance and needing an increasing amount of the drug to maintain the same results or to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms occur when the body is deprived of a substance it has come to rely on. Withdrawal symptoms typically include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Joint pain
  • Tremors
  • Chills and sweats
  • Anxiety, depression, and insomnia

In some cases, patients not able secure sufficient prescription drugs to manage their pain and avoid withdrawal symptoms subsequently turn to heroin use.

How is addiction treated?

Dr. Ngo offers Suboxone® and Buprenorphine treatments to help patients with addiction. These medications help mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal, curbing the physical addiction while learning to manage and control the psychological aspects of addiction.

What happens during Suboxone or Buprenorphine treatment?

There are three phases to Suboxone or Buprenorphine treatment.

Stabilization phase

The first part of this process is patient intake and stabilization. During your first appointment, you spend at least two hours at the office. You also need to be in initial stages of withdrawal for the first dose to have the desired effect.

Suboxone and Buprenorphine work by pushing the other chemicals out of the receptors in your brain and taking their places. If there is still opioid in your system, the initial dose may not be enough to clear out your receptors and fill them. If this happens, you experience severe withdrawal symptoms, which may make you feel like the treatment isn’t working. However, if you are already in the beginning of withdrawal, your receptors are already empty and the Suboxone or Buprenorphine can just slide into place, preventing your symptoms.

You are closely monitored during your first visit and have follow-up appointments at least every week until you have stabilized and are ready to enter the maintenance phase of treatment. These appointments allow Dr. Ngo to monitor your well-being and adjust your dose if necessary.

General maintenance

The general maintenance phase is the longest part of your physician-supervised recovery program. This phase begins when your medication dosage is stabilized. During the maintenance phase, you begin to feel normal, both physically and emotionally. Your visits with Dr. Ngo become less frequent during this phase and you spend more time dealing with the psychological aspects of your addiction. Then as you recover from all aspects of your addiction, you finally enter the tapering phase.

Tapering phase

During this phase, you slowly reduce your dose of Suboxone or Buprenorphine with an end goal of being free from reliance on all drugs. This part of the process can take anywhere from 18-24 months and the tapering of your prescription is tailored to meet your needs. Once you have reduced your prescription to nothing, you are officially discharged.