A lot of people feel that taking suboxone in recovery is just replacing one drug for another. The definition of RECOVERY from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. Where in this definition does it say that taking a medication precludes one from being in recovery? Suboxone is a legal prescription medication indicated for opioid addiction which for many people can help them achieve recovery and is an option for medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Addiction is a medical condition and just as cancer patients deserve the most advanced chemotherapy the individuals with substance addiction deserve the most up to date care. Addiction is also a chronic condition in which a person is always in recovery and is still prone to relapse just as a cancer patient is prone to a relapse after they obtained remission. Suboxone is a partial agonist on the opioid receptors in the brain and helps to stabilize the abnormally “hungry” receptors in the highly opioid tolerant addicted brain. It takes away withdrawal symptoms without giving the highly euphoric effect of a regular opiate. As a bonus, it also takes away opioid cravings making relapse much less likely. It also allows the brain to recover back to its previous nonaddicted state which can take 1-2 years. Medical studies have shown the utility of suboxone to reduce relapse by as much as 50% and keeps more people engaged in treatment.
Ideal treatment for substance use disorders includes therapy, support groups, and social services for possible housing and job needs along with MAT. However, not all these services may be accessible or affordable. Utilizing what is available can lead to recovery and is completely individualized for each patient circumstance. Certainly, some may be able to attain recovery with meetings and a sponsor, but others may need the addition of medications or intensive counseling. This is the same as a diabetic who may able to control their blood sugar levels with careful diet and exercise, but others may need additional medications. Just because a diabetic is taking medications doesn’t mean their diabetes isn’t controlled. Please remember the goal of overcoming addiction is to become an individual with improvement in health and wellness with a self-directed life and reaching one’s full potential. Fortunately, this can be obtained with MAT and support from family, friends, councilors, AA, NA, physicians and the higher power. If an individual needs MAT for sobriety it is not a weakness of character but a strong realization from the individual that modern medicine has been developed in their recovery.
Dr. Kelly Schibler, Medical Director Of Magnolia Recovery