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Substituting One Drug for Another?

The Methadone and Suboxone Debate

By Rebecca Morris-MillerPublished 7 years ago 5 min read

There is a lot of controversy and anger from recovering addicts and the community at large about the use of Suboxone and methadone with persons in active addiction. There is a real stigma in the recovery world, drug world, and in our communities attached to using methadone or Suboxone—social media has become a huge perpetrator in this regard. I looked on recovery Facebook pages, and here are some of the comments I came across.

Internet Comments Regarding Methadone/Suboxone Use:

Note: These are direct comments taken from various locations on the internet. These are not my own thoughts or writing, I have not edited or corrected these in any way. In other words, I claim no responsibility for the spelling or sentence structure that follows.

“Bill w experimented, he did NOT get sober on other stuff, he went through withdrawal the old- fashioned way...and I went to rehab to get off of Suboxone was the worst thing I've ever felt, and it lasted over a month. Ur replacing a drug with a drug, there's nothing clean or sober about’s in the big book and the basic text”

“If Suboxone is the solution to your drug problem, then I guess beer is the solution to my alcohol problem”

“It’s not controversial. Suboxone maintenance isn’t being sober. You want to do maintenance? Awesome. Are you actually sober? Nope.”

“It would sound absolutely ridiculous if someone would say, I'm clean from crack because cocaine saved my life! I'm only doing 5 lines a day now and should be off sometime next year. That's how ridiculous it sounds when people who are actually clean, not clean from, hear someone say how Suboxone/methadone has saved their life! Smh. It has not saved your life, just your lifestyle. You are still dependant on a drug and cannot live without or function without taking it. So not to mention that both are up to 48% more addictive and takes 75% longer to withdrawal from. National institute for chemical dependency has proved this in dozens of studies. I could really careless if you think your clean, sober, high, "maintaining", or successfully using. More power to you and good luck with that. Hope your experience treats you well. When your ready to get clean I will be the first one to welcome you and save you a seat. Best wishes to everyone on their journey in recovery.”

“Members on drug replacement programs such as methadone are encouraged to attend NA meetings. But, this raises the question: "Does NA have the right to limit members participation in meetings?" We believe so. While some groups choose to allow such members to share, it is also a common practice for NA groups to encourage these members (or any other addict who is still using), to participate only by listening and by talking with members after the meeting or during the break. This is not meant to alienate or embarrass; this is meant only to preserve an atmosphere of recovery in our meetings. "

The resounding thoughts seem to be that if you are using methadone or Suboxone, you are not strong enough, not clean, not in recovery, and just getting your drugs legally. With this comes great shame and a negativity towards attending NA meetings, seeking help, or attending counseling which are all helpful parts of any recovery. I decided to seek the wisdom of the streets and spoke to people at clinics, people in active addiction, and people currently incarcerated; from this I decided to outline some of the benefits found in the use of Suboxone and methadone; for addicts and for the communities in which they live.

For the addict, the benefits start simply with the immediate withdrawal; for those of you who have never experienced withdrawal from heroin or fentanyl it is an intense pain (and I have given birth so…just keep that as a scale of pain tolerance); if you can access what will make the pain go away, I can’t imagine how hard it is to not take that option. I am amazed at those who have managed to get clean without assistance of any kind. If your loved one is an addict, watching them go through that pain, you might even just go get them what they need yourself. It is that bad; we are not kidding. Suboxone and methadone allow you to legally and slowly withdraw from drugs. The purpose of the program is to eventually get off pain medication all together, but it helps you to do it in a controlled way. Some who utilize these clinics are on chronic pain medications for the rest of their life and have come to abuse them, having the clinic hold their prescription monitors their pain management, but stifle their ability to abuse it.

The next biggest benefit to the addict is financial. No longer are you spending all your money on your drug of choice, you are no longer trying to beg, borrow, and steal to feed your habit, so it allows your brain a chance to stop thinking about the chase, stop creating a vicious cycle of criminal activity to support what you cannot sustain, and take a minute to breathe. Once you are no longer paying for street drugs, you might begin spending your money on things like rent, bills, or food. You might even have toilet paper again—the toilet paper struggle is real, I promise you that.

The real long-term benefit to methadone and Suboxone is that a doctor is seeing you regularly, you are going to a clinic daily, and interacting in an environment where advice about rehab and getting clean is readily available, you are able to stop chasing your drug of choice and therefore be able to step out of the drug world and gain some perspective.

Methadone maintenance has a 60 to 90 percent success rate, and if it was able to be offered in jail (which it is, but only if you already are on it. To get on it when you never have been is next to impossible), it could reduce the chance of overdose once you are released as well as encourage inmates to stay away from criminal activity.

For the community, the clinics offer a benefit as well. Not only does it cut down on crime and theft, it has the potential to make your community a safer environment for you and your children. When using on the street, safe disposal of equipment, left behind residue in public places, and criminal activity can be a part of your everyday life. Methadone and Suboxone provide a safer and legal alternative. There are many recovery options and each person’s story varies. Perhaps we should learn about the different methods and support people no matter what it is they are doing that is keeping them from harming themselves and those around them. I believe that recovery should have no judgment, a step in the right direction, a step that means you are thinking about change. A step that takes you closer to that change is a step worth taking.


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    Rebecca Morris-MillerWritten by Rebecca Morris-Miller

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