Even though opioid addiction has been treated with medications like methadone since the 60s, the concept of treating a drug problem by administering replacement drugs remains controversial among some groups. For many doctors and addiction specialists, administering drugs like methadone or the newest synthetic opioid buprenorphine is considered an effect way to assist people with severe addictions to heroin or prescription opioids in getting through detox.
For many support groups that advocate abstinence-only recovery, the idea of replacing one addictive drug with another is not an efficient step toward becoming sober and will only serve to prolong the disease. Opposing views on the treatment methods for opiate addiction keep drugs like Suboxone relatively controversial among many people working in addiction recovery.
Opioid Medication versus Abstinence
Even though medications like Suboxone or Subutex are considered to be non-addictive because they do not create a sense of euphoria like heroin or other opioids, a number of support groups still remain skeptical. The belief for most abstinence-only advocates is that medications designed to cure addiction are never completely safe and non-addictive.
Because of the nature of these types of drugs there will always be an element of getting hooked and being unable to function without them which will not contribute to the ultimate goal of recovering from a heroin problem.
While many of the new drugs are designed to be safer they can still be harmful when used over a long period of time. Abstinence-only groups argue that in order to become sober, an addict needs to start with a clean slate so that they can have a clear mind in order to focus on changing their thinking and actions.
It is only through complete sobriety that an addict can have ability to do the necessary work in recovery.
How Medication Can Interfere with Recovery
There has been growing support among many physicians involved in medical and behavioral healthcare. They believe there is enough evidence proving that these medications are effective at treating opioid withdrawal symptoms and helpful in giving addicts the first step to weaning off of substance abuse.
Abstinence-only groups argue that these drugs only appear effective because they help to lower crime rates and give the addict the ability to function in daily life and hold down a job. When it comes to long-term sobriety and complete recovery from the disease as a whole they believe that these medications can do more harm than good.
The medications can still block an addict's ability to feel and still provides a distraction for them that will make it difficult to focus on the emotional work of recovery. Addiction is more than just physical dependency; it is an issue of the mind that needs to be addressed without a drug to continue numbing a person's emotions.
Medications like Suboxone are formulated to provide heroin addicts with a drug that will prevent them from feeling the effects of withdrawal. The goal of the medication is to make quitting easier physically but it is not created specifically for real and permanent recovery.
Abstinence-only support groups believe that physicians are focusing on the physical aspects of quitting an addiction without considering that addiction is a disease which also affects the mind and spirit of an individual. The medication may help for a short period of time but it does not work as an effective substitute for the real work that is involved in long-term recovery solutions.
Addicts need to cope with their emotions and create their own spiritual life to lay the foundation for a long-lasting recovery. For those who have experienced success from abstinence, medication only serves to delay sobriety.