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Am I Sober if I’m on Suboxone?

Suboxone, or buprenorphine, is a medication used to limit cravings and withdrawal symptoms in opioid treatment. It’s a partial opioid agonist, which means it binds to opioid receptors in the brain the same way an opioid does but it doesn’t kill pain or get you high. You might feel a slight elevation in mood, but nothing close to a full opioid. And no matter how much you take, the euphoria remains limited to a very low level. Suboxone assisted treatment has helped many people people quit opioids, but some people wonder if they are really sober if they still need to take a drug.

The short answer is that it depends on your goals. If your goal is to be completely substance free, then clearly taking Suboxone means you haven’t yet reached that goal. Suboxone has some intolerable and extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Many say they are worse than opioid withdrawal, including heroin. It’s understandable that someone on Suboxone might fear running out and going into withdrawal. Taking a drug to avoid withdrawal, or trying to quit and being unable because of the withdrawal are features of addiction. Even if Suboxone doesn’t cause the same disordered thinking as opioid addiction, the physical dependence is certainly something to worry about.

On the other hand, the impairment and disordered thinking are really what make addiction so dangerous. If your goal is to function normally so you can get your life under control, then Suboxone can usually help with that. If you were on insulin for diabetes, for example, you wouldn’t say you were addicted to the insulin because you were dependent on it. Suboxone is not quite the same because you can live without it, but if you were in a position of having to choose between life on opioids or life on Suboxone, the latter is usually the clear winner.

Addiction is an emergency and for some people medications like Suboxone are the only escape from total disaster. If you can at least pause the destruction, you give yourself some options. You might decide you want to be free of any drug because you don’t like being dependent. That’s fine. You can talk to your doctor about tapering down, while you keep an eye on your cravings. If you are on Suboxone and you don’t mind having to take it, that’s fine too. You might want to consider getting off of it later, but in the meantime, if you can live your life and focus on your priorities, then that’s progress.

If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com to learn more.