It’s hard to believe how much division still exists today in the online recovery community, all over Suboxone and Methadone. Frankly, even mentioning both medicine assisted treatments typically prepares a multitude of recovering addicts to “fight or flight”. Why? Even if Suboxone and Methadone aren’t your personal choices for treating your opiate or heroin addiction, to this day, there are still so many people who spend their time criticizing and shaming recovering addicts on Suboxone and Methadone. And many of the anti-MAT rhetoric nonsense comes from 12 steppers in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Now I want to be clear upfront. Overall, I think AA and NA are great and the program has helped a number of addicts find and stay in long, lasting recovery. That said, someone, somewhere, or maybe a group of like-minded hateful individuals have caused many in the program to believe that AA or NA is the ONLY way and that anyone on medicine assisted treatment is not clean and sober. Moreover, somehow, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and NA literature has become an “authoritative” source of information, so much that anyone who disagrees is blasphemous. So one has to ask, is the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous the living and breathing word of God for recovering alcoholics and heroin addicts?
I’d like to know the history of this cult like attitude and why some people have adopted the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous as the ONLY source of information related to addiction and recovery and anything that contradicts it must be 100% wrong. Let’s put aside that this book was written back in the early to mid 1900’s and could use some serious updating – but even if it was current, there’s nothing authoritative about the information in that book.
There’s a lot to this article, but first, I want to get into medicine assisted treatment, what it is, and why it’s not “demonic” like some 12 steppers seem to proclaim it to be. We will then address the difference between personal choice, disagreeing with someone’s choice of addiction treatment and downright hateful, shaming comments.
What is Medicine Assisted Treatment?
Simply put, MAT or medicine assisted treatment is a way to treat opiate or heroin addiction medically. To date, there are three distinct medications that I feel legitimately fall into this category. This includes Methadone, Suboxone and Naltrexone. Naltrexone is newer than the other two and is not as heavily debated because it’s not a narcotic and you can’t become dependent on it. Naltrexone is the active ingredient in the Vivitrol injection and the ReVia pill. Vivitrol is administered by a medical professional at an actual doctor’s office once a month while ReVia is prescribed and taken daily.
All 3 medications work similarly by blocking opiate receptors, reducing cravings, minimizing opiate and/or heroin withdrawal symptoms and blocking the effects of opiates (at the right dose) making trying to “get high” pointless since you won’t feel it. Men and women who undergo medical treatment are highly encouraged to couple their dose with counseling, group therapy or other support based tools that help recovering addicts acquire the strategies and tools to live a normal life and cope with trauma and the stress of every day life.
Why Do People Hate on Suboxone and Methadone?
Most people who stand strongly against Suboxone and Methadone have either had a bad experience with it, know somebody who did or have jumped n the anti-MAT bandwagon to fit-in and/or to acquire a sense of belonging. But belonging to a hate group where people continuously attempt to shame and discredit others for their choice of therapy and treatment is not the way to go. There are plenty of actual support based groups (including ours) that will encourage and support recovering addicts regardless of their choice of heroin and/or drug treatment.
Replacing One Drug With Another Nonsense
Those against Suboxone and Methadone typically use the common expression or phrase “you’re just replacing one drug with another”. A derivative of that is “you’re just replacing one addiction with another”. I’m personally convinced that most people who use this catchphrase don’t even understand it. But regardless, let me explain how this phrase started and why it’s not technically accurate.
Drug Classifications and FDA Schedules (h3)
Suboxone and Methadone are classified as “drugs” but then again, so is Zoloft for depression and Insulin for diabetes. However, we do have to recognize that Suboxone and Methadone have a much greater chance of being abused than the other two. The FDA categorizes drugs into what they call “schedules”. Each drug receives a schedule of 1 to 5, 1 being the most dangerous with no medical value and 5 being the least potentially harmful. A schedule 1 drug has no medical value and is classified as highly dangerous. Heroin fits into this category. Methadone is a schedule 2 drug. Others in this category include Oxycodone, Morphine, Percocet, etc. Suboxone is a schedule 3 drug. It’s apparently considered less potentially dangerous than Methadone.
Potential for Abuse of Suboxone and Methadone (h3)
Now people do abuse Suboxone and Methadone. In fact, people who’ve never used heroin or stronger opiates can even experience a high and become addicted to them. So we do not deny there is a strong potential for abuse here. However, people who’ve become addicted to stronger opiates such as heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl, etc. will likely not feel anything if they try to recreationally use and abuse Suboxone or Methadone. Thus, most people who’ve become addicted to the stronger opiates will never go backwards. Addicts only move on to stronger and more potent drugs when they are trying to get high, not the other way around
Opioid Addicts Only Replace Weaker Opiates for Stronger Ones, Not the Other Way Around
As described above, an active opiate addict will only replace a weaker opioid with a stronger one. They will not go in reverse. For example, my addiction started with oxycodone. I tried a Suboxone recreationally and it didn’t do anything for me. So I “upgraded” to a stronger drug, heroin to continue my high. So if an addict actually does replace heroin with Suboxone, it’s because he/she is trying to get well.
Using Suboxone and Methadone as a Medical Treatment for Heroin Addiction (h3)
For those using Suboxone and Methadone as medical treatments for their opiate and/or heroin addiction, I want to be real clear as to why it’s not just “replacing one drug with another”. Here’s a simple list.
1. As we discussed above Suboxone and Methadone are less potent than other opiates
2. Active addicts always replace a weaker drug with a stronger one to continue chasing after their high
3. Suboxone and Methadone, if done right are regulated and either administered or prescribed by a medical professional
4. Suboxone and Methadone are not mixed with other toxic chemicals
5. Those serious about treatment aren’t chasing a high, nor will they get high from Suboxone or Methadone from being treated medically
6. Methadone and Suboxone patients change and take on the characteristics of people in recovery rather than people in addiction. See “Suboxone and Methadone: the Brutal Truth About Medicine Assisted Treatment“.
Yes, both Methadone and Suboxone have a potential for abuse, but most people who’ve already tried and/or have become addicted to stronger opiates will not abuse Methadone and Suboxone. Those who do abuse it in treatment are typically combining them with benzodiazepines (such as Xanax and Klonopin) or other drugs. But those abusing MAT aren’t really there for treatment the same way an active addict continues to use heroin and other drugs. But those serious about it can and do often do very well with MAT.
Replacing One Addiction With Another Nonsense (h3)
This catchphrase is completely ridiculous and so technically incorrect it’s not even funny. Addiction is a disease of the brain. There’s not another addiction, there’s only one addiction. The object of addiction may change, but the disease is the disease. So people who use this catchphrase are confusing addiction with drug use. See “Addiction Vs. Using Drugs: Why Addicts Can’t Just Stop Using Heroin“.
MAT (Suboxone, Methadone and Naltrexone) Are Not Cures for Addiction
MAT is not a cure for addiction. It is just one more tool in a recovering addict’s toolbox. They may or may not decide to use it, but it’s there if they need it. And it works very well for some people and not for others.
Finding a Middle Ground – Developing Realistic Expectations and Conclusions Based on the Scientific Method
Now there are some MAT enthusiasts who go off the deep end claiming it’s the ONLY way and/or a cure for addiction the same way anti-MAT predators go off the deep end shaming recovering addicts who’ve chosen MAT as a treatment option. But people too far to the right or too far the left are typically destructive and hurting people in their recovery. Instead of drawing conclusions based on personal experience alone, consider all the facts. MAT works for some people and it doesn’t work for others. Just spend time reading people opinions and experiences and this is an easy, scientific conclusion. NA and AA are the same way. It helps some people but not others. The bottom line is, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment option or recovery method
AA and NA: Authoritative Literature?
Some AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) enthusiasts can go off the deep end in their beliefs and have concluded that the NA or AA literature is some kind authoritative and conclusive document on addiction and recovery. To them, what I’m about to say is blasphemous. But I’m sorry to say, it’s not an authoritative document. NA and AA is just another tool in the toolbox. It works for some, it doesn’t work for others. If it’s working for you, by all means, stick with it. This community advocates anything that works, including AA and NA.
But any resource or tool that is attempting to dismiss another one is a dangerous tool as far as I’m concerned. NA and AA are great in a lot of ways, but I truly believe the literature needs to be brought up to date. The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was written in the early to mid 1900’s long before addiction was declared a disease by the AMA (American Medical Association), SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and others. Moreover, MAT was not widespread or readily available as an option for opioid and heroin addicts back then.
NA piggybacks off of AA’s literature and has become like a sister to it. Both advocate a spiritual solution, which is fine. But claiming “There is No Medical Solution to a Spiritual Problem” is outrageous when addiction is a brain problem. Brain diseases can and should be treated in a number of ways. Treating the mind’s pathology through prayer, support groups and discussion is great! But medicine can be a valuable tool as we.
Not Choosing a Treatment Vs. Hating on Suboxone and Methadone Patients
While I had to address the actual false dogma and misleading claims about medicine assisted treatment above, people may still disagree and that’s fine. But what really gets me are the people who feel they have to hate and shame other addicts. Just because you don’t personally choose to use a particular tool in your toolbox as a recovering addict, doesn’t mean you have the right to shame and ridicule someone else who does use that tool.
Because I haven’t chosen AA and NA as my personal choice of recovery, I suppose if I wanted to be hateful, I could go around telling all AA and NA members that they’ve joined a cult and that they’ve become brainwashed. They’ve replaced one sickness with another, right? I mean, I could easily build a case for this and if I was a hateful person, I could focus ONLY on the negative aspects of NA and AA and shame those who’ve chosen that particular tool. But given that AA and NA have helped a lot of people despite its flaws, I’m a proponent of their organization and method of recovery – as long as they don’t shame people for choosing MAT or other methods.
Not choosing a particular treatment option is your right. But shaming others who’ve chosen one you didn’t is unprofessional, inappropriate, unethical and anyone who does it should NOT be a leader in any online recovery group.
Clicking a Button on Facebook Doesn’t Make You a Leader
Today, everybody’s an expert, or at least they think they are. But just because you’ve clicked a button on Facebook to create a page or a group doesn’t make you an expert or a leader. The best leaders are those who aren’t biased towards a particular treatment and can see beyond their own experience. The best leaders protect their people from hateful individuals who post hateful memes or comments claiming a certain person or group of people aren’t clean and sober. The best leaders are followed by choice, not because you’re added into a group by a friend.
Do you know how many groups I’m added into regularly? I was recently added by a friend into “Say NO to Suboxone“, a tiny little hate group of individuals who do the very thing this article is against. In fact, it’s so infuriating to watch a little hate group publicly talk amongst themselves that I’ve created a forum topic “Toxic People in the Online Recovery Community” to call out certain individuals that are doing nothing but attempting to stigmatize, shame and hurt people in recovery. So feel free to reply to this topic with any information you have about people trying to publicly shame others in the online recovery community. But recently, as I tried to give someone encouragement in that group, someone tried to debate me but then referred to “The” literature. I asked them if they were referring to the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous but apparently they were referring to NA literature. Nonetheless, this cult like mentality of “the literature” only seems to exist in AA and NA. And it has to stop.
Choose whatever addiction treatment option works for you and celebrate with others in their recovery. Disagree privately with another’s choice of treatment if you wish, but don’t hate on or shame others just because you don’t understand it, disagree with it or have had a bad personal experience with it.
Written and Published By,
William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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