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Is Suboxone Just Replacing One Addiction with Another?

One criticism commonly made of Suboxone and methadone is that using them to treat opioid addiction is really just replacing one addiction with another. Tom Price, as President Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary expressed this view, drawing criticism from healthcare experts.

Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning it binds to opioid receptors in the brain the same way as opioids but it does not cause euphoria. It can cause a slight elevation in mood, but there is a ceiling effect, meaning after a certain dosage, taking more will have no added effect. It prevents cravings and it keeps opioids from working if the person in treatment relapses. The naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it dislodges opioids from receptors and stops them from having any effect. The naloxone is only active if someone tries to inject Suboxone, which is pointless anyway because of the ceiling effect.

Critics of medication assisted treatment–including Tom Price–often advocate the use of naltrexone instead. It is sometimes called the “addiction vaccine.” It is a long-acting opioid antagonist, meaning that you get a shot and opioids will have no effect for a month. However, it does nothing for cravings, which can be so intense that addicts sometimes try to overcome the “vaccine” with large doses of opioids. Naltrexone has shown some success in clinical trials, but it still hasn’t been thoroughly studied and it may increase the risk of overdose.

Suboxone and methadone, on the other hand, are very well understood. Medication assisted treatment has been used for decades and has been well studied. Critics of this approach seem to confuse addiction with dependence. It’s true that Suboxone and methadone are forms of chemical dependence, but they also curb cravings and allow recovering addicts to function more or less normally. Eventually, the medications can be tapered off, leaving recovering addicts free of even the medication.

Suboxone doesn’t work for everyone. Not everyone responds to medications in the same way and Suboxone is no exception. Some people feel awful while on it and some people feel awful tapering off of it. For these people, some other approach might work better, but for many people, medication assisted treatment is effective for long-term recovery.

Medication assisted treatment is one of several approaches that might work for you. To learn more about our options for detox and treatment, call Gardens Wellness Center today at 844-828-1050 or email us at