Suboxone is currently the most popular opiate replacement drug. It has become big business for one simple reason; people who decide to stop using opiates learn from the recovery and treatment community that they are too weak to go through detox without a replacement drug regimen. That lie is bad enough, (millions go through opiate withdrawal with no treatment whatsoever successfully each year) but suboxone supporters then magnify the untruth by saying that not only is suboxone needed in the detox process, but after the individual is detoxed they will also need to be on suboxone for life.

Just like methadone maintenance used to be, suboxone maintenance is the new opiate cure-all. So, rather than spend a few days detoxing from opiates and moving on as free individuals, they learn that they need to take a drug that mimics heroin or other opiates for the rest of their lives or risk a lapse back into uncontrolled heroin use. This lifelong suboxone regimen supposedly gives them a way to avoid those few days of potential discomfort in the detox process and also stay off opiates for the rest of their lives, but at what price? Are you really free if you believe you need suboxone because you are too weak to stay away from opiates? It comes right back to the power of drugs myth doesn’t it!

The lifelong replacement therapy theory is rooted in the myth that no one can be emotionally strong enough to withstand a few days of detox discomfort – that if they are faced with the possibility of withdrawal, they will avoid detoxification altogether and instead remain an active opiate user. And, if that user is somehow successfully detoxed, the newly sober individual will always need their suboxone crutch or face inevitable relapse – because again, they have an inherent weakness.

If you learn that you are weak, (and this is a learned concept!) that opiates are more powerful then you are, and that you NEED a substitute that shields you from heroin, then it is fairly easy to sign up for suboxone treatments and never wander far from your local drug store or doctor. This is all part of the recovery movement our culture advances daily. We once again see that decisions are made based on beliefs in weakness, not in the facts of natural human resiliency that we see the world over. The fact is this: people get over opiate use (and all other substance use) by the millions every year with no crutches and they have done so with opiates for centuries. They become free based on the choice to detox their bodies and then move on. They reject recovery (and remember, replacement “therapy” is just another tool of the recovery movement) and choose freedom instead.

Suboxone does have some value in the actual temporary detox process, where it can be administered to curb the potential discomfort of opiate withdrawal. We don’t deny this. However, suboxone has withdrawal potential of its own, so it must be very carefully limited and monitored with the goal of being tapered completely just like the opiates themselves. Used in this manner, it is a tool that has a very limited scope in its benefits, but those benefits exist.

However, that is not where the suboxone story ends. The replacement drug therapy lie is that you will NEED a continued regimen for life or you are certain to return to problematic opiate use.  As is the case with all the recovery society half-truths they miss the all-important point with the replacement drug model, and that is why the person likes to get high in the first place! Because this portion of the issue is ignored completely and goes unanswered, the person eventually stops their suboxone treatments (because suboxone doesn’t get you as high as heroin in comparable respective dosages) and returns to opiate use and is seen by recovery society members as a recovery failure. As a whole, suboxone replacement therapy it is a remarkably ineffective and damaging method to deal with problematic opiate use because the reasons for one’s use are never addressed in this model.

If we want to actually help people create an abstinent lifestyle or one of reduced use, the answer lies not in fear tactics, but in addressing why someone makes the decision to continue their use. This is the source of all use – one’s desires and motives for a brief moment of satisfaction, relief and happiness. By sidestepping the actual reasons people create to continue their use while convincing that individual that they can’t stop or reduce without suboxone’s magic, we are continuing the false belief in the “power of heroin.” It’s time to let go of drug mythology and address people where they are and why they make the choices to use or not to use. Because in the end, no one, not even the hardened and tired “addict” does anything they don’t want to do.