Suboxone and Methadone: The Brutal Truth of Medicine Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Suboxone and methadone is it worth it?Nothing cultivates greater controversy in the online recovery community than medicine assisted treatment (MAT) – namely, Suboxone and MethadoneNaltrexone, which comes in the form of a monthly injection called Vivtrol and in the form of a daily oral tablet called ReVia isn’t as controversial because it’s not a narcotic and doesn’t contain the same kind of dependency that accompanies the other two.   But given the surrounding controversy and stigma associated with Suboxone and Methadone in particular, we have to ask – why?  Are Methadone and Suboxone legitimate treatments for heroin addiction or just another drug, replacing one addiction with another? What’s the brutal truth related to medicine assisted treatment?

To answer the above questions, we need to look at the advantages and disadvantages of both Methadone and Suboxone and whether or not following the program takes on characteristics of addiction or the traits of recovery.  Learn more about the “Characteristics of Addiction Vs. Recovery – Heroin Addiction“.

Characteristics of Addiction Vs. Recovery

addiction vs recoveryAddiction is a disease that changes the brain chemically and structurally.  See “Proof that Addiction is a Disease and How it Affects the Brain“.  Addiction can’t be cured but it can be treated.  In order for addiction to survive and thrive, it has to be fed.  We feed our addiction by indulging and/or engaging in the “object of our addiction”.  Thus, if we become addicted to heroin, using heroin regularly will feed our addiction and make it stronger.  For this article, we will use heroin as the “object of addiction”.

Those living in active addiction will take on certain characteristics.  These include actively chasing the “high”, the object of addiction creates; loss of interest in activities that don’t involve using heroin; doing just about anything to acquire or use heroin (including lying, cheating, manipulating, stealing, etc.); always asking for money; getting in trouble with the law; aren’t able to function to maximum capacity; making excuses; making promises and failing to deliver on them; changes in physical appearance such as weight loss, sunken in cheeks and eyes pale skin, sickly looking; etc..

Those in recovery experience the reverse of many of the above characteristics.  This includes truth telling; interest in and pursuing other activities non-related to heroin (including finding employment); developing an interest in bettering ones self, working on establishing a routine; making money rather than relying on handouts; self-awareness; taking responsibility for one’s actions; taking interest in rebuilding damaged relationships or starting new ones; a healthy looking appearance; etc.

Suboxone and Methadone: Characteristics of Recovery or Addiction?

Those who stop engaging in heroin use (the object of addiction) enter into one of two places 1) another addiction or 2) recovery.  Now, if medicine assisted treatment is replacing one addiction with another, those who use Suboxone and/or Methadone will exhibit characteristics of addiction rather than recovery.

Having interviewed over a dozen Suboxone and Methadone patients who have claimed they’ve followed the program and didn’t abuse either substance (nor did they combine it with other drugs) for at least 6 moths without relapse, this is what we learned.  Those on Suboxone and/or Methadone weren’t experiencing a high although those on higher doses of methadone admitted to feeling a little tired or relaxed later in the day.  Many had developed routines, engaged in hobbies, became healthier looking, were able to function normally, thought about heroin at times, but didn’t engage, didn’t feel any compulsion or urge to continually use Methadone or Suboxone beyond it’s prescribed dose, etc.

Why Are People Drawn to Medicine Assisted Treatment?

medication-assisted-treatment-banner

Methadone and Suboxone are appealing to heroin and opiate users, dependents and addicts for several reasons.  Those truly interested in recovery are drawn to them because they promise to reduce cravings and minimize or even eliminate the horrible withdrawal symptoms heroin dependency creates.  Moreover, at the right dose, they can block the effects of heroin and opiates which ultimately discourages relapse.  Those using Methadone and/or Suboxone feel physically comfortable and can then work with a counselor or another program like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) in order to develop the necessary coping and life skills necessary to deal with daily living, stress, trauma and hardship.

It’s true that some people abuse both Suboxone and Methadone and those that do are sometimes looking to use either drug on days they can’t afford heroin to avoid getting sick or use Methadone coupled with benzodiazepines in order to create a similar elated feeling that heroin provides.  But the ones abusing these drugs/medications are not the ones we are focusing on in this article.

Why Medicine Assisted Treatment Works and Isn’t Just Replacing One Drug (or Addiction) with Another?

MethadoneAbove we’ve shown that those using Methadone and Suboxone as intended exude the characteristics of recovery rather than addiction.  It is very rare that anyone becomes addicted to these two medications, though those who confuse the words “addiction” and “dependence” often argue that people become addicted to them.  But this isn’t true.

People who use Suboxone and Methadone do typically become dependent on them, which is the body’s physical reliance on the medication so that if they stop cold turkey, they will experience withdrawal, some say worse than heroin withdrawal.  That’s why tapering slowly off of these medications under the direct care and supervision of a licensed medical professional is key to success.

Going cold turkey off of Methadone or Suboxone is not recommended and defeats one of the primary reasons why people choose MAT as a treatment option.   Addiction is something entirely different….it’s the chemical and structural changes to the brain that take place upon its onset that create a ubiquitous connection and strong compulsion/urges to continue using heroin without stopping.  To learn more about addiction vs. dependency and the distinction visit the article “Addition Vs. Using Drugs: Why Addicts Can’t Just Stop Using Drugs

Now that we’ve explained that it’s dependency, not addiction to Suboxone and Methadone that’s the problem, let’s make another comparison.  While admittedly, it would be better if these medications didn’t contain dependency properties, a lot of other medications are similar in this respect.  Those who take Zoloft or even other medications for depression become physically dependent on them and have to slowly taper off if they ever decide they don’t want or need them anymore.  But this dependency doesn’t make depressed people Zoloft addicts nor do people criticize individuals who use Zoloft and call them “junkies”.

Handling Differences of Opinions

Despite all the evidence above, we expect that some will never agree with our view of medicine assisted treatment.  What we do know is that Suboxone and Methadone has worked for a large number of people and without it, many individuals claim they would be dead now.  So for all intensive purposes, MAT has saved many lives.  However, people may still disagree and that’s ok.  What we don’t understand however, is why people get so hostile and angry towards anyone who says medicine assisted treatment has worked for them.

Everyone has a unique experience and for some, Suboxone and Methadone may not have worked.  There could be several reasons for this, but regardless, we know that no heroin treatment solution is perfect and ideal for everyone.  The key is finding what works for you and celebrating your recovery.  But we should also celebrate other’s recovery even if their chosen method of treatment differs from our own.

We truly hope this article helps to educate and enlighten people about both Suboxone and Methadone and perhaps helps them see that MAT is indeed a legitimate heroin treatment option for some, even if you don’t feel that it’s right for you.

Written and Published By,

William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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36 thoughts on “Suboxone and Methadone: The Brutal Truth of Medicine Assisted Treatment (MAT)

  1. I feel that insurance companies need to realize addiction is a disease. Personally, I am an addict and put my family in financial ruin trying to pay for my methadone. Insurance companies only will cover it if doctor writes prescription.

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  3. Pingback: Why Suboxone Works for Me - by Crystal Oertle - Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide

  4. I’ve been on suboxone 4 years in April. I’ve been clean 4 years in april! I am paying 500$ a month with the manufacturer coupon used for it. It is Going it swallow me and there are no other options all the medications are close to this price. This has to change! Suboxone saved my life saved my daughters life. I don’t care if I have to take it the rest of my life if it helps me do what needs to be done my life is normal now and im so scared that I won’t be able to pay for it forever. We shouldn’t have to choose between the med and eating. If there is a chance suboxone can save 2 in 100 people from the life why not? It’s better odds than staying clean on our own, our govt has to come to the realization that sowmthing sowmthing has to be done. I’m praying hard!

    • This is just my opinion, nothing more, nothing less, but if you have been on suboxone for 4 years, I would suggest that you speak with your doctor about possibly starting to cut back your dosage slowly. It can be a terrifying thought I know, but as long as your doctor does it slowly enough you won’t really notice much of a change. In my own personal experience, I never felt any withdrawal that I couldn’t handle while tapering down my dosage. Infact I never really felt any withdrawal symptoms until I stopped suboxone all together, and even then (at least for me personally) it was no where near as bad as the heroin withdrawals were. The goal shouldn’t be a lifetime on suboxone. The end goal should always be to be clean on your own eventually. The length of effective suboxone treatment is different for everybody, but the end goal should always be to eventually taper down and get off of the drug. If nothing else, after 4 years of being on it, I would definitely suggest that you speak with your doctor about starting to taper your dosage down slowly. It can be scary I know, believe me I know, but in tapering you will begin to lower the dosage required to keep you stable and also decrease how much money you have to spend on your medication every month. But I do wholeheartedly agree with you. I think all insurance programs should recognize it and provide coverage for it. It saved my life and my children’s as well, so I know exactly where you are coming from. From one recovering addict to another I wish you all the luck in the world and wish you nothing but the best! Good luck!!

      • Heather,

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts and posting your comment on our heroin addiction and recovery blog and news feed. I agree with your point of view and feel strongly that the point and goal of medicine assisted treatment such as Methadone, Suboxone and even Naltrexone (Vivitrol and ReVia) should be to use it as a tool temporarily until you address the underlying issues that led to your drug use and/or acquire the coping skills necessary to handle life’s stressors without resorting to going back to living a life of drug use and addiction. For some, this process takes longer and for some, not as long. I do agree that after a couple of years, most people should be ready to begin tapering off of their medication. One problem I see however, is that a lot of people who use MAT use MAT as their only means of personal recovery. Even though Methadone clinics require counseling and groups, many people find ways to blow them off and/or if they attend, they blow it off so that the medicine becomes the only real tool they’ve used to help them in their recovery. Thus, they never really do acquire the life coping skills they need to proceed without MAT.

        That’s why we strongly encourage those who are going to undergo medicine assisted treatment as an option to treat their heroin addiction that they couple it with counseling, meetings or some other helpful modality that can help the address the psychological issues related to addiction.

        Peace and Love,

        William – Publisher and Founder

    • That’s crazy I’ve never in my life heard anyone say they paid 500$ a month for their subs that’s unbelievable in my eyes and think your lien. Most doctors only Charge 250 and theres discount cards for the pharmacy. So u need to go somewhere else. If your really paying that much cause its way way less expensive. I take. 2 8mg strips a day. And I pay not 1 cent so you need to figure it out

    • You should contact the manufacturer of suboxone beckeitt reckingheser they have a program that pays for your suboxone for up to 2 years

  5. Not that I agree with MAT, but I don’t disagree with it either. I understand the pros and cons. It does save lives. But it also reaps havoc and caos on people’s lives also. I’ve seen it first hand. Bottom line….it is a slap in the face to the ones that succeeded in abstinence. Not that I disagree or agree with MAT. You truly have to understand both arguments, and live both lifestyles to see the true value of suboxone. Some drugs are a good thing, and this one is on that list.

    • Sherridans Jack Browning,

      You say you’re on the fence and then you make the statement “Bottom line…it is a slap in the face to the ones that succeed in abstinence”. What are you talking about? First of all, please don’t pretend you’re on the fence if you’re going to make a statement very anti-MAT. Secondly, how exactly is one person’s success on MAT a slap in the face to someone who did it cold turkey? Would you rather a person who needs MAT not go on it and stay on heroin…possibly die? Would that be less of a slap in the face? I really don’t understand some people…

      William – Publisher of this Community

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  7. I have been on suboxen for 3 years now..for pain not heroin. I was prescribed vicodin and fentanl patches for 17 years. I chose not to take 8-12 vikes per day plus the fentanl patch. So i went to a pain management doctor and asked about the suboxen. I have been a new person the last 3 years. I am able to function..dont get sleepy. .it was heaven switching over. And yes, it does help my pain 85% of time. No drug will you get 100% relief.

    • Anjee,

      Welcome to our heroin addiction and recovery online community. I’m glad to hear that Suboxoxne is working for you. While there is no cure for addiction (or pain for that matter), Suboxone has saved the lives of many. It’s gotten heroin users off the street and helped them live and function normally without feeling the need to continue chasing a “high”. I’m glad that Suboxone is working for you. Keep up the great work!

      Peace and Love,

      William – Publisher of this community

      • I have been in a MAT program now for 2 months. Methadone has saved me life . I am able to function in daily routines. Have a honest relationship with my husband. Feeling better physically and mentally. Plus I participate in the counseling and group therapy. I believe people who don’t understand MAT program need to educate themselves.

        • Cathy,

          Welcome to our community and I’m so glad that methadone and medicine assisted treatment has helped get you back on your feet and the road to recovery. We are proponents of medicine assisted treatment for the right people and as long as someone isn’t abusing the program, we believe they are clean and sober. Keep up the great work!

          Peace and Love,

          William – Publisher of this Community

      • Kara,

        It doesn’t block any and all pain medication. It only blocks other opioids. For example, Motrin or Ibuprofen will help alleviate pain even if you’re on Suboxone. But because Suboxone is an opioid, it actually can minimize pain.

        Best wishes,

        William – Publisher of this community

  8. I am on the methadone maintenance program and I feel like nobody ever allows me to feel proud of being off dope merely because I take the methadone daily. I just tell myself if they’ve never been through it they don’t understand. My life has changed in so many ways by starting the methadone. I am able to enjoy life again and I am thankful maybe one day I can ween down off it but until then I’m content and proud of where I am.

    • Garrett,

      Welcome to our heroin addiction and recovery online community. I’m really sorry to hear that you’ve been getting grief from less than educated people about methadone. For what it’s worth, I’ve chosen methadone as my path to treatment as well and it literally saved my life. This organization and community supports people on MAT and believes as long as you are following the program as directed by your physician and not combining it with other drugs, that you are clean and sober. Our Associate Publisher Crystal Oertle is on Suboxone and she’s been doing great work for us and her organization Erase the Shame. People on MAT can live normal, healthy lives and people who say those on medicine assisted treatment are still sick, using or junkies are just plain wrong. Keep up the great work!

      Peace and Love,

      William – Publisher and Founder of this Community

  9. Hi guys, more great stuff. This time I can give you both sides of the coin on this subject.
    I’ve already shared that my 25 yr old son died from Heroin OD on Aug 28th. I know that if he couldn’t find or afford Heroin he would but Saboxene. So their is the downside. It was readily available.
    I have a ( step: hate that word) son who was heading down the same path he totaled 4 vehicles in a matter of mos. The last wreck, last October ’15, he was in a friends brand new 350 there were 4 of them in the truck, one of the girls was slightly injured. He was arrested & the judge gave him the BOOK. He immediately started classes ( we found out then he was addicted to opioids), he also went into a program w a great Dr. who treated him w saboxene. He’s been faithful w only one relapse. He finally finished his senior class & got his diploma, he’s working a steady job has his license back now. He is doing great & is almost off the suboxene. It can work too🙏🏻😇🌹

    • Erin,

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your story. I remember my active addiction days way too well. I had gotten in 4 accidents in a year’s time, totaling one car and severely damaging the others. For some reason, I wasn’t injured. I believe God or God’s angels were watching over me those days so I wasn’t hurt. but I’m glad that your son is doing such a great job now and is working his way off Suboxone.

      Peace and Love,

      William

  10. How on earth is MAT a “slap in the face” to those “suceedeing in abstinence”? Your degradtion of people who use medication for their recovery shows that while you may “be suceeding in abstinence”, as you say, you are not VERY SUCESSFUL IN RECOVERY (OR MATURITY FOR THAT MATTER!)

    Those who are truly living in recovery have way more positive attributes than just abstinence..like understanding, encouraging others and being non-judgemental. I have to say, that instead of judging those who’s recovery follows a different path than yours, you might want to look “beyond your abstinence” and re-evaluate if you are truly in recovery at all.

  11. Sheridan JB–your comment about MAT being a ‘slap in the face’ to those who use ‘abstinence’ implies that you need to be better educated on the subject.

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  14. I started Methadone maintenance on April 20th 2016. I smoke medical Marijuana. I believe it helps with my mental anxieties and stuff. The reason i started using opiates. It is now April 2017.i got up to 150mg of Methadone. I used the program to the best of my ability. I cannot ever phase or get more than one take home dose a week because i smoke Cannabis. I started my taper last month. I am down to 125mg. I intend to get off methadone asap. I believe we could solve the epidemic with the correct corresponding treatments of Medical Cannabis and Methadone or Suboxone. Lower the Methadone and increase Cannabis only if withdrawl symptoms occur. I am also a firm believer that Cannabis, other than all the physical health benefits, has profound mental health benefits aswell. Addiction is chemical imbalances in the brain. With the right strain and counseling and guidence.people can change their lives.. if the only thing that truely makes me want to get out of bed in the morning is smoking a joint. I think thats a pretty good life.. it just gives me the internal fire i need to want to face life on lifes terms.

    • Brian,

      Thanks for posting and sharing. As someone who went through the methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) program, I am a proponent of it for the right candidates. That said, I do have some issues with so called “medical marijuana”. Those who smoke it are not taking it for medical reasons. They are trying to get high. Getting high is a trait of active addiction, not active recovery.

      Now, marijuana is clearly safer than opioids and to my knowledge, nobody has died from marijuana overdose or withdrawal. However, remember that opioids like Oxycodone are also used for “medical” purposes too. For someone to say they “smoke” marijuana for medical purposes is like someone saying they “snort” opioids for pain management.

      I don’t mean to be rude, but so many people try to justify their marijuana addiction because their may be some medical value in some of the cannabinoids. I honestly believe that medical marijuana may have a place in medicine but in a limited capacity. But this is also true for opiates. Oxycodone may be prescribed for a couple days after surgery and thus, it possesses medical value. But that’s not an excuse to get high on it, and either is playing the medical marijuana card.

      Again, I don’t mean to sound harsh. But people who smoke marijuana are still chasing after and still getting high. Thus, they are not in “full” recovery although they are certainly safer than those who abuse opiates.

      William – Publisher of this Community

  15. I don’t believe that there is just one answer when you ask if it’s good or bad. I think it’s up to the individual and what they want to get out of it. I know that it saved my life, methadone. Fortunately I don’t have to pay for it because I get it from the VA Medical Center in Cleveland for free. As long as I stay within the requirements of the program. I started using after I went to Iraq in March 2003. My younger brother also went to Iraq shortly after. Long story short, I got put on methadone. I now have a new camaro ss, my own place, a good job, all that stuff. He DIDN’T go on it. And he is now dead. That’s all I have to say, if you’d like to know more here is what the New York Times wrote about me and a little of my life and brother with our dug use after the war, just copy and paste this:
    (promotional link removed)

  16. Pingback: Is an Opioid and Heroin Addiction a Symptom or a Disease? – Opiate Illusions

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