Suboxone Addiction: When The Treatment Becomes The Problem
No one would have ever expected anything but success out of Liam. He was born to a charmed, wealthy family and had been its shining jewel. An all-star athlete and honors student, he’d attended Stanford University School of Medicine, with every intention of becoming the neurosurgeon he vowed he’d become at only 17. But a skiing accident changed everything for Liam; he’d been accelerating down a black diamond when a less skilled skier collided with him, injuring his lumbar. The back pain and medical treatments, including two surgeries, entailed the use of opioid painkillers in order to get Liam through the day.
Without his steady hand and laser focus, or an ability to stand comfortably for hours on end, his dream of operating fell away. And without an ability to be active in the same ways he had been—Liam had been something of a fitness nut before his injuries—he grew depressed. Soon enough, he realized he’d developed a problem with his pain medication; he had become dependent.
When You Become Addicted To The Treatment
Liam was still seeking a residency (he would be a neurologist rather than a neurosurgeon), and knew that an addiction could drastically complicate his hopes. He’d heard plenty about compromised doctors and nurses who’d been arrested while abusing hospital medications, or injuring patients while high. He didn’t want to become a shameful statistic. So he sought treatment through a private referral. He would take Suboxone, or buprenorphine, an opioid pain reliever also used for long-term treatment of opioid addiction.
In the beginning, the buprenorphine worked well, but Liam discovered that the benzodiazepine he’d been prescribed for anxiety relating to his crash and the stress it had caused, when combined with the Suboxone, created something of a high. His habit-seeking behaviors began again in earnest. The Suboxone was no longer serving him as treatment for dependence. He was addicted to the treatment itself.
Opioid Addicts In Need Of Treatment
Buprenorphine, sold as Suboxone or Subutex, was approved by the FDA in 2002 for the treatment of opioid addiction in the U.S. Buprenorphine is prescribed by limited approved doctors as a sublingual (under-the-tongue) treatment for moderate pain and for long-term treatment of opioid addiction to suppress the symptoms of withdrawal and to reduce cravings. While it does not cause euphoria in opioid-dependent patients (and blocks the effects of other opioids for at least 24 hours), it can create euphoria and subsequent dependence in individuals who are not previously dependent on opioids. And while it is considered safer than methadone treatment, individual users still find ways to achieve a high (with combination benzodiazepines in some instances), making them more likely to remain drug dependent and less likely to recover.
From a New York Times piece in November, 2013: “Suboxone is the blockbuster drug most people have never heard of. Surpassing well-known medications like Viagra and Adderall, it generated $1.55 billion in United States sales last year, its success fueled by an exploding opioid abuse epidemic and the embrace of federal officials who helped finance its development and promoted it as a safer, less stigmatized alternative to methadone.”
Questioning Safety With Suboxone
In the realm of addiction, there are (many) dragons. Buprenorphine may, in fact, be doing more good than harm, and until statistical evidence reveals otherwise, a story like Liam’s may be purely anecdotal. There are others like him, but their numbers may stack up only so high compared to the numbers of individuals who are being helped by treatments like Suboxone. Opioids, it appears, create one of the hardest addictions to quit, and those who suffer may need all the help they can get.
Still, it’s wise to bear in mind that crossover addiction—the exchange of one addiction for another—is nearly universal in the addiction community. If an addict drops one addiction, he picks up another. With maintenance treatments like methadone and buprenorphine, the crossover addiction may become a case of choosing between the lesser of evils—and surely Suboxone treatment is a lesser evil than previous painkiller addictions.
If You Are Struggling With Opioid Abuse Or Addiction, It’s Time To Step Up And Make The Call…It Could Change Your Life!