The Controversy Over Opioid Maintenance Medications

Arguments abound over whether drugs like suboxone and methadone are more effective in treating addiction that abstinence-based treatment and recovery programs. The controversy, it seems, revolves around two factors: mortality rates and quality of life. The medical community recognizes that opioid maintenance medications reduce the risk of death in opioid-dependent users, while abstinence-based treatment recognizes that maintaining a dependence to an opioid medication diminishes one’s quality of life and keeps a person from successfully healing from addiction.
There is no denying that opioid maintenance medications save lives. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) Decreases opioid use, opioid-related overdose deaths, criminal activity, and infectious disease transmission. After buprenorphine became available in Baltimore, heroin overdose deaths decreased by 37 percent,” and, “MAT Increases social functioning and retention in treatment. Patients treated with medication were more likely to remain in therapy compared to patients receiving treatment that did not include medication.” Buprenorphine and other partial agonists are also effective during the detoxification process by allowing one to taper down from opioids.
The problem arises when an individual is not receiving any other form of treatment and does not have a plan in place to eventually cease taking the medication. There is no “magic pill” that can cure opioid addiction, as it requires in-depth treatment that addresses all underlying causes of addiction. While maintenance medications are an effective way to keep an individual safer from the possibility of overdose or other consequences that arise from using illicit drugs, they also maintain one’s physical and psychological dependence.
The brain needs time without any form of opioid in order to properly heal from the damage caused by addiction. Abstinence-based treatment focuses on the healing that occurs during sobriety as a necessary step toward achieving a quality of life far greater than one who is dependent on maintenance medications would experience. That is not to say that partial agonists like suboxone have no place in addiction recovery. They are often necessary tools for one to begin taking steps toward full recovery and can be effective in keeping an individual from harm until they are ready to achieve the happy, joyous, and free life offered by entire abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

Your story can become one of happiness, joyousness, and freedom in sobriety. You can make the decision to seek help now and begin building a brighter future on the journey of recovery. Oceanfront Recovery, located in beautiful Laguna Beach, offers medically supervised detox with the goal of making the process as comfortable as possible with the most care and attention paid to clients’ physical withdrawal symptoms through the appropriate use of medication and other support systems. For information about individualized treatment options, please call today: (877) 279-1777