Methadone and Suboxone: Treatment for Opioid Addictions

Suboxone and methadone are medications prescribed to help minimize painful withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with addiction to heroin, morphine, hydrocodone and other opioids. The medications, which are thought to be safer than heroin, aren’t intended to be long-term solutions. Ideally, the purpose is for users to gradually reduce use of suboxone or methadone until medically assisted recovery is no longer needed.

Although medically assisted recovery using suboxone, methadone and other medications can be helpful, some addiction professionals are adamantly opposed to their use. Because methadone and suboxone are narcotics, there is concern that addicts are simply trading one addictive substance for another. However, others say that risk of overdose is greatly reduced because unlike heroin, user of suboxone and methadone are carefully monitored.

Is Medically Assisted Recovery really True Recovery?

TheFix.com recently posted an article submitted by written by a physician who specializes in addiction medicine. Medically assisted therapy, he writes, may not foster true, stable recovery because addicts aren’t compelled to face the issues that contributed to addiction in the first place. Because feelings and emotions are suppressed, individuals are unable to face the real consequences of their addiction, thus preventing necessary emotional and behavioral changes required for true recovery.

He writes that at some point, users of suboxone and methadone will be required to face reality, possibly resulting in “a flood of people coming off the drugs” that the medical community isn’t equipped to treat. Health care providers haven’t addressed the difficulty involved in weaning users off suboxone and methadone, he says, suggesting that pharmaceutical companies, which profit greatly from medically assisted recovery, have played a role in the over-reliance of the medications.

The Argument in Favor

Many addiction professionals agree that drug and alcohol treatment and rehab are better tools to deal with stress and trauma, empowering people to cope with problems without using heroin to self-medicate. The problem, however, is that inpatient treatment isn’t always available or affordable for many people. Outpatient or short-term treatment is inadequate for addicts who need help with a range of problems.

Proponents of medically assisted therapy argue that suboxone and methadone have decreased the rate of deadly overdoses, and that addicts have been able to stop using opiates without the horrible cravings that have prevented many from stopping. Those in favor also say that the drugs have helped addicts become employable and lead more normal lives. Additionally, studies indicate that medically assisted therapy has decreased the incidents of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Some argue that chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity can be controlled by lifestyle changes, yet physicians rarely hesitate to prescribe medications that help people manage their illness. Medically assisted therapy for addiction, they argue, is no different.

A Personal Decision

The decision to use medically assisted therapy is a personal decision that should be made with the advice of a health care provider, but most addiction professionals agree that suboxone and methodone should not be used as a substitute for quality drug treatment or rehab. Usually, the best solution is a combination of medications and treatment.

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