1. Suboxone maintenance is trading one addiction for another. I hear this one the most and it is almost the most ridiculous statement I have heard regarding Suboxone. It is also perhaps the most damaging misconception and generally held by people who are wanting to help.
Suboxone is a medication that is taken to treat a disease, it’s really that simple. Suboxone is taken the same way a person with high blood pressure takes Clonidine, or a person with diabetes takes insulin. I have a 9 year old son who is a type one diabetic. And not withstanding some huge advance in medical science, will have to take insulin for the rest of his life. He is not addicted to his insulin, and he didn’t choose to have diabetes anymore then the patients we treat chose to have the disease of addiction.
My son, and the people we treat however are “Dependent” on their medication. There is a huge difference. You can be dependent on many things that make your life manageable and in some cases allow you to live. I am pretty dependent on my job, but, as much as I love it, I am not addicted to it.
Addiction makes your life unmanageable. Addiction is what people are wrapped up in when they come to us. Stable and dependent on a medication is what they are when we get them and keep them for a bit.
The idea that addiction is due to a moral failing, poor choices, or lack of willpower is a dangerous, ignorant opinion that is the cause of far too many deaths of beautiful, intelligent people who might have otherwise been fully contributing members of society, where it not for the stigma placed on them by people who had no business casting a judgment in the first place.
If I sound a little heated it’s because I have seen people who have stopped taking their medication way too soon, under pressure from the family or friends who supposedly loved them and had their best interest in mind, go back to drug use and die.
Telling someone who is on medication assisted treatment to stop taking their medication, without the medical knowledge necessary to make the judgment is as dangerous as telling a person with heart issues to stop taking their medications and “Suck it up.” No one aside from the doctor and treatment team that is working with someone has any business deciding for another human being what medication they need and how much.
2. When you enter into medication assisted treatment, you are committing yourself to a lifelong dependence on Suboxone. This one is a little harder. The answer is yes and no, and entirely depends on the individual. It is true that there are some people who will need to be maintained on Suboxone for life. There are many medical reasons for this, which I will not go into here. That conversation is best had with your medical provider. What I will say is that I have seen plenty of people come into treatment, get stable, get their life back, and then titrate off the medication. Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone leave, and never come back, if they are able to do that. You won’t ever hurt my feelings if you leave treatment, get on with your life as a productive, happy human being and never give me a passing thought. But I also don’t judge people who need to be on medication longer. I’m not them, I have no idea why some people need longer treatment then others in terms of medications. I certainly work with people to allow them to develop the coping skills necessary for life post treatment, but as I said before, some people are different. Be pretty boring if we were all exactly the same.
3. People on Suboxone should not drive or operate machinery. People on Suboxone are capable of doing all the tasks that anyone not on the medication can do. At a stable medication level, there should be no sedation or disorienting effects. If you or a loved one is experiencing that while on the medication, please talk to your provider as a medication level adjustment will more than likely fix the issue.
4. Suboxone can cause people to become alcoholics or cocaine addicts. Where do people get this stuff? Suboxone is used to treat opiate dependence, and does not cause any co occurring addiction issues. If people continue to use any other illicit drugs, Suboxone will have no effect on those. One of the biggest misconception about treatment is that a person problem is one drug or another. I can tell you as a professional in the addiction field that addiction is addiction is addiction. Heroin is no more a person with addictions issue than a doughnut is the person with an eating disorders issue. Being able to live a meaningful life minus alcohol and drugs is the issue. Heroin, cocaine, pot, booze, or pain pills didn’t make you an addict. The disease of addiction made you an addict. We treat the disease as a whole, while prescribing a medication that helps with one particular class of drugs. Suboxone will not “cure” your disease, but if you are willing to do the work on the other issues, it can certainly make it easier to focus on what is important.
5. If you take Suboxone you’re still an addict. The only way to be clean is to kick or go cold turkey. I just want to take the people who say this somewhere and do evil things to them. This type of ignorance is not only dangerous, it kills people. It kills them because the people they spew this nonsense at actually buy into it, and then stop taking a medication that is helping them. AND THEN THEY DIE! And I know where the majority of this completely baseless viewpoint comes from. The people that attend groups that espouse that particular message are well meaning, but woefully uninformed. If you are taking a prescription medication in the manner that is prescribed by your doctor or medical provider and that provider is aware that you have an issue with addiction then you are clean and or sober. End of discussion.
6. The longer you are on Suboxone the harder it is to get off because the withdrawals are worse. Once a person develops a tolerance to, and maintains at a stable level of Suboxone, the amount of time you take the medication has no bearing in the withdrawal symptoms when they begin to titrate. You don’t gain more tolerance to the same level of medication over time. And unlike the opiates people come in for, you don’t need more Suboxone over time. In fact most times the opposite is true and people start to go down.
I hope after reading over some of those that if you or a loved one are on or considering using medication assisted treatment to help with an opiate problem, that you have a better understanding of the medication and treatment itself.
At Recovery Works NW we have a highly trained staff that specializes in helping people with opiate dependence get their disease under control and get their life back. We look forward to serving you and are happy to answer any questions you have regarding medication assisted treatment.