The safety and efficacy of medicine assisted treatment (MAT) is often heavily debated among individuals in the online recovery community. Some are strong proponents of it while others are vehemently against it, claiming its use is just “trading one addiction for another”. So we’ve asked one of our bloggers, Joann Miller to share her personal experience with methadone and Suboxone and to provide us with her opinion of both. Note that the below is just one person’s experience and is not meant to dismiss or discredit anyone else’s.
I often wonder if maintenance drugs saved me from heroin addiction. My story is a little different from most of the stories I have heard. I guess all of our stories are different when it comes down to it but here is a bit of mine. Fifteen years of my twenty-year addiction to opiates was spent on either Methadone or Suboxone.
My First Experience with Methadone
On my first trip to the Methadone Clinic in Southern Indiana, I traded a Loratab habit for Methadone. That’s the equivalent of trading a monkey on your back for King Kong. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. When I got to the methadone clinic, no one told me that I would be addicted to this as well, but if I am truthful, it wouldn’t have mattered if they had beat it into me. There was no way I wanted to continue hunting pills, and I wanted to feel secure knowing I wasn’t breaking the law. The main thing though is that I did not want to be sick. I was scared to death of it. Makes no sense that someone terrified of a Loratab withdrawal would start Methadone. The withdrawal is ten times harder easy. There was no way for me to know this at the time, but I soon found out.
During that fifteen years I relapsed several times, and each time I went out, I moved up to the next level opiate. So after Loratabs, I went to Percocet. My relapses always happen because I would try to wean myself off of Methadone as fast as possible. The stigma that came along with the clinic was painful. I didn’t want to be a slave to anything. I was doomed to fail every time though.
So this is what my relapses looked like. This is the order of opiates I used. Each time you see a new drug that means I experienced another drug relapse.
5. Oxycodone (Oxy’s)
Xanax was part of the mix the entire way except for the last few months of Suboxone. That was only because my source was no longer able to get ahold of them any longer.
My family hated the idea of Methadone or Suboxone. As far as they are concerned I was still using just the same as if I were taking the pills. So I always hid the fact that I was on any maintenance drugs, so I was still hiding and full of shame. There was no room for recovery when I couldn’t own the path that I was on.
Suboxone – Not Addictive?
In the end, I ended up being very resentful of the clinic. They mislead me to believe that Suboxone was not addictive. They swore that I would be able to just walk off of it whenever I was ready. As we all know now that is the farthest thing from the truth. To be fair, I was told this when Suboxone first came out. Who knows maybe they honestly didn’t know. After I was on it for some time, the Clinic told me that they were wrong and that I would have to ween down to come off of the drug.
MAT Saved Me From Heroin and Death
I didn’t take the time to think about what the clinic did for me because I was so focused on the drawbacks. As you see from the list above, I never made it to heroin. If it were not for the clinic, I would have for sure. A few of the times I ended up back at the clinic it was because I was having trouble finding the drug that I wanted. What if someone had offered me heroin? I would have taken it. Probably after the Opana is when I would have eventually run into heroin. There were numerous times when I was just taking pills that I was afraid to go to sleep. I was mixing the Xanax with as many pills as I could get my hands on. Heroin would have killed me for sure.
The MAT clinic allowed me to have years where I wasn’t moving in the circles of drug dealers or people buying on the streets. I may not have been in recovery but I wasn’t engaging in illegal activities, and I was living my life. On Suboxone, I never felt high. I just didn’t feel sick. The clinic offered me counseling one a week which I took seriously. That ended up helping me in many ways too. If nothing else just for someone to talk to. Holding down a job was easy because I never had to call off so I could hunt down my daily fix. Being a functioning member of society was possible on the maintenance drugs.
Methadone and Suboxone Withdrawal
What made me hate Methadone and Suboxone the most though was the withdrawal. All I kept telling myself was what the hell was I thinking? I couldn’t handle a few days of this crap – that is why I started taking medicine assisted treatment at clinic in the first place. Now I had to face months of it? Where I went wrong was how quickly I weened off. I have since had several friends that followed the clinics recommended detox, and they claim to have felt little to no withdrawal.
Advice For Anyone Considering Methadone or Suboxone
So for anyone who is thinking of starting maintenance drugs aka medicine assisted treatment, I’ve offered some advice below.
1. If you are only taking Loratab, don’t go to the clinic. Sit down and deal with the few days of being a little sick.
2. If you go to a methadone clinic, don’t go higher than 50mg and for Suboxone don’t take more than 8mg. The higher you go, the longer it will take to ween down and the more likely it will be that you decide to leave.
3. When you do decide to leave follow the clinic’s recommendations for lowering your dose.
If you love someone suffering from the disease of addiction and they have decided to take Methadone or Suboxone please don’t judge them. The worst thing you can do is to make them feel as though they have to hide things from you. As long as they are taking this medication – they more than likely won’t be taking heroin…which means they will live. If we die, we cannot recover. Please remember that.
For more drug addiction and recovery stories, visit our heroin addiction and recovery discussion forum.
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Written by Recovery Advocate for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News, and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)
Edited by William Charles, Owner/Publisher
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.
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