Dear reader, please keep in mind that I’m only one recovery advocate. Being a part of the recovery community makes me feel out of place at times, fearing that those who have suffered first-hand in battling addiction may see me as a non-understanding person. However, I try to be as open-minded as possible; I am this by very nature, not by choice.
I have educated myself on the disease of addiction by reading, as well as by listening to others. I have watched countless videos, and documentaries; I have asked questions and I have sought answers. While I may not be a recovering addict, I have many friends who’ve wrestled and struggled with heroin and drug addiction for years. I have my own motivations for choosing my advocacy. I am a passionate person and I have compassion for others. I have argued and discussed, debated, and ingested many views and conversations.
The role of a recovery advocate is one that assists in bringing facts to light. With all of the information I have digested, I have no problems questioning the shaming and the reinforcement of century old beliefs concerning addicts and addiction, placed here by society. I am also a person living in the present moment, the here and now, which thankfully is during a time when many are coming together as a voice for recovery.
Ignorant to the Realities of Addiction
Addiction is a disease that many remain ignorant to understanding; mostly because they themselves have not (yet) been affected by this disease either directly or indirectly. In an age of information and communication, ignorance is as much a choice as it is for someone choosing to do the drug that ultimately leads to an addiction.
Drug Use, Overdose Statistics and Treatment Options
Today, one in ten people suffer from the disease of addiction – that’s a lot of people. This year the number of deaths from overdoses have surpassed any other death toll and it is a number that is still climbing. It also cannot continue to be ignored, by anyone.
This brings me to a topic of discussion being had by many, in which there is also variances of opinions. Some in recovery use religion, group therapy and individual counseling to mend those aspects needing mended. There is also the availability of 12 Step programs and the newer 4 Step programs (SMART Recovery). Medicine Assisted Treatment (MAT) which includes Suboxone, Methadone and Naltrexone (Vivitrol and ReVia) is another option that can be used in sobriety from heroin addiction.
Standing For or Against Medicine Assisted Treatment, Methadone and Suboxone?
However, using MAT has been shunned by some within the recovery community. There is the belief (by some) that using Suboxone or Methadone should not be accounted for as one’s clean time, or time that a person has abstained from their drug of choice (DOC). While some share horror stories of using Suboxone and Methadone, others share stories of survival because of them.
So, with so many opinions circulating about Suboxone, how can you be sure whether this is an appropriate route in recovery?
Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide View on Suboxone and Methadone
The reality is, multiple treatment options have been proven affective in producing and maintaining long-term, lasting sobriety and recovery. Not every option is appropriate for each person. What works for some doesn’t work for others. But those who use Suboxone, Methadone or Naltrexone to treat heroin addiction are using legitimate treatments that operate under the principle of harm reduction. Yes, two of the three (Suboxone and Methadone) are narcotics and synthetic opiates. Some also abuse them. But when used under medical supervision and/or direction, they have proven to be successful treatments and Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide, Heroin News and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC) stands steadfast that those who use MAT as directed are “clean and sober”.
Misuse of Suboxone and Methadone Can Lead to Addiction and Bad Withdrawal
Addiction doesn’t discriminate and can happen to any person at anytime. It is also true that a lot of addicts have been misguided and mistreated by their prescribing doctors. While Suboxone and Methadone can be successful in helping addicts avoid physical heroin withdrawal symptoms, which ultimately keep many from seeking help or recovery, misuse of these substances, especially if they’re used recreationally before any “stronger” opiate such as morphine, oxycodone and/or heroin is used, can lead to addiction. See “Methadone and Suboxone: The Brutal Truth of Medicine Assisted Treatment“. And those suffering from the withdrawals of this drug, remain greatly unprepared for its devastation.
However, even though horror stories exist and still arise, when Suboxone and Methadone are used correctly, the chances of an addict being successful with his or her recovery are greatly improved. MATis not a cure. It is just one tool available to help those suffering to become successful in their recovery from heroin addiction and to remain drug free.
Is Suboxone and Methadone a Crutch?
Suboxone and methadone are often considered a “crutch” by those who don’t support its use. But for most addicts, this couldn’t be further from the truth. For many, Suboxone or Methadone have brought them from the depths of their addictions. MAT has helped them to break free from the physical dependency that their DOC demanded. More often than not, MAT is a short-term solution that allows for an addict to not suffer physically from withdrawal symptoms of heroin, . So if MAT is a crutch, then so is Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, Residential Treatment at an inpatient addiction treatment center / drug rehab facility, counseling etc. Besides, isn’t it the sick (those who suffer from addiction) who need a crutch for assistance? Addiction is a perpetual disease and recovery is forever. Therefore, an addict must forever use some kind of “crutch” to ensure a successful, long-term recovery.
How Does Medicine Assisted Treatment Work?
Suboxone contains both buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is an opiate, but it is weaker than heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine. Methadone is just methadone. Both work by attaching themselves to the same receptors in the brain as heroin and morphine, and helps in suppressing withdrawal symptoms, reducing cravings and blocking the effects of other opiates if one tries to use them to get high. Naloxone (also found in Suboxone but not Subutex) is an opioid inhibitor, which means it blocks opioids. Since buprenorphine and methadone are opioids, these medications can cause a patient to become dependent. But recovery is not just about stopping a drug addiction. It is also about retraining one’s thoughts to make decision making more conducive to a productive lifestyle.
Due to its constructs, both Suboxone and Methadone must be tapered in order to be discontinued. Stopping these drugs immediately will cause severe withdrawal symptoms (said to be worse than heroin) and leaves an addict highly likely to relapse. However, when used correctly, medicine assisted treatment offers a 70% success rate for those in long-term recovery. Though differing opinions exist both inside of and outside of the recovery community, it is an option that has proven to be successful for those seeking sobriety.
The Many Roads to Recovery
If recovery is about using multiple tools, is there an appropriate route to follow for those in recovery? Not exactly. Recovery is about learning to be a person not dependent on a mind altering substance. Those who have suffered with addiction, have undergone changes in their brains that are caused by the addiction itself. Learning to put one’s self first, by choosing life, is the most important step. But that does not mean that a recovering addict is allowed to live selfishly in all ways possible. Maintaining balance and healthy relationships is just as important.
In order to be successful with sobriety, an addict must first admit that there is a problem with addiction. In doing so, life changes are also made to achieve a sense balance. Among using MAT, individual counseling is often recommended to help the addict find the underlying reasons that led to his or her addiction. Other recommended options for treatment include: residential treatment at a top drug rehab facility, outpatient therapy which includes group and individual counseling, 12 step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), 4 step programs such as SMART Recovery, religion, spirituality, etc. Combining any of these programs may help the recovering addict to rebuild relationships based on trust and honesty. Socializing with the right people is an important aspect for success.
Social Situations with the Right People Can Aid Recovery
While addicts often feel guilty and alone, incorporating a social setting is a great way to receive positivity and support. Not only is an addict learning how to be someone no longer dependent on a mind altering substance, but they must also learn how to break free from the addictive mindset, regardless of the length that an addiction has survived. Learning to live a life full of awareness and acceptance is important when making big changes.
Often times, an addict may not be able to do this restructuring on his or her own. Therefore, finding guidance is a tool that helps produce and build strength that allows for independent living. In turn, this then allows for the ability to make new and better choices. The recovering addict can learn to make positive changes in any of the above mentioned programs.
Rewiring the Brain and Undoing Damage from Addiction
It has been proven that addiction rewires the mind and inhibits its ability to making good decisions. Addiction lives at the forefront of the decision making process. An addict’s actions become entirely about obtaining and using the drug. If they’ve become physically dependent on it as well, acquiring the drug becomes ultra-urgent to avoid experiencing a withdrawal. See Addiction Vs. Dependence: What’s the Difference?
Heroin withdrawal physically lasts anywhere from 4-7 days. Therefore, the use of Suboxone or Methadone is often helpful in assisting an addict during the beginning of his or her recovery. Once in recovery, an addict is learning how not to rely on heroin and to trust the person they are slowly becoming. This is why the inclusion of safe social settings are important. Unfortunately, just as MAT’s can be mismanaged and used incorrectly, there are faults that reside in some of the individuals and group atmospheres as well.
Written and Published by William Charles – Publisher of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.