You have likely heard of Suboxone, the most popular brand name medication for the treatment of opioid addiction. Suboxone, Subutex, and Zubsolv are all brand name formulations of buprenorphine.
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The value of treatment with Suboxone has long been debated by federal, state, and county substance abuse treatment boards, and with its use comes a degree of personal responsibility required on your part.

According to a report issued by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, a great deal of thought went into the approval of opiate treatment with Suboxone. While some reports described treatment with Suboxone as “an essential component in the…treatment of opioid dependency,” it was also described as “helpful for short-term use only.” Policy-makers communicated with substance abuse treatment professionals and considered whether Suboxone treatment could actually be harmful to the person using it for a long-term recovery protocol. Many felt it should be utilized only as a stabilizing agent, a medication that could help a person make the break from daily heroin or pain pill addiction until they could stop and take a breath and focus more on treatment. But treatment providers are recommending it even over the long term.

One of the biggest arguments was the possibility that treatment with Suboxone would fail to promote any sense of responsibility in the person seeking recovery. They argued that going to a clinic on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis required the person with the addiction to do no more than go to the clinic and simply pick up their prescription.

Yet the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has talked long and loud in its promotion of medication-assisted treatment with Suboxone, other buprenorphine formulations and with methadone. In a brochure available to patients and families, SAMHSA states that medication is “often the best choice for opiate addiction.”

SAMHSA does not, however, recommend that the patient should simply report to the clinic to take their medication or pick up the prescription. Your personal responsibility, if you want to participate in medication-assisted treatment with Suboxone, is to incorporate counseling and support from the people who care about you into your treatment plan.

Why Is Counseling So Important?

Addiction to opiates is actually a chronic medical condition that you will manage for the rest of your life, as if you had asthma or diabetes. As SAMHSA says, people cannot just stop using and walk away from it. Opiate addiction comes with too many withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It takes counseling to help the person break old habits, replace negative coping skills with positive ones and begin to focus on making healthy choices.

Facing the Issues

Counseling during treatment with Suboxone also helps the person face difficult issues they have experienced over the years. For many people, those experiences have triggered or been at the root of their addictive behaviors. Learning to accept that you cannot change the past—that you can only accept it and more forward—is an integral part of successful treatment for opiate addiction.

Some of those issues might involve your own perception of yourself as a person who has little worth or who is not worth loving. If someone or something in your past has caused you to feel that way, your counseling during treatment with Suboxone can help you resolve those issues and realize that you are a worthwhile person.

Other people have fallen victim to addiction because they have stressors in their lives that seem insurmountable. By using drugs, they only make those stressors worse. Suppose you live with a person who abuses you, physically or emotionally. Suppose you cannot get a job that makes you feel valuable because you have lacked proper training. Maybe you lack the financial resources to move into better housing and feed your children properly. A counselor cannot resolve those issues, but he or she will know about agencies that can provide you with the help you need. If your addiction has led you to have legal problems or involvement with Children’s Services, the counselor can point you in the right direction so you become proactive in protecting your freedom and your children.

Look After Your Body, Too

It’s also your responsibility to take an interest in your physical health as you begin treatment with Suboxone. You will have a physical when you begin treatment, and that is the time to talk openly with the doctor and the nurses about your physical ailments. People neglect themselves when they are in the throes of addiction, and even when they begin recovery they find it difficult to communicate about their needs. If you don’t open up immediately, be mindful that as your treatment progresses, you should choose a time to speak up and request any medical services that have not yet been offered.

As part of your responsibility during treatment with Suboxone, it’s important to begin focusing on nutrition,shopping at the grocery store for healthful foods and taking an interest in preparing well-balanced meals for yourself and your family. The old days of grabbing something from the frozen food department are over. You might even discover that you enjoy cooking. As all these new activities become part of your daily and weekly regimen, you will begin to feel so good about yourself!

Can Your Family Help During Treatment With Suboxone?

Your family and your friends represent an important part of your treatment. Remember, however, that your treatment counselor will not communicate with them until you sign releases authorizing the exchange of information between the counselor and the specific people who will become part of your support network.

It will then be important for your family to become educated about drug use, because as much as they have been exposed to it from your experiences, they may not know the actual truths about addiction and recovery. Many people who are not treatment professionals are still very suspicious of treatment with Suboxone and methadone, and so they also need to have accurate information about that as well.

The people in your support network will include not just family but also people that you meet at 12-step meetings. Nobody achieves long-term recovery without the support of their family and also without hearing the stories of other people who have battled addiction the same as you.

So, as you make the decision to begin treatment with Suboxone—or methadone—it’s important for you to move forward with pride and with a plan to take responsibility for your recovery. You won’t just be going to one or two sessions and then shrugging your shoulders that these things just don’t apply to you. By walking tall into your recovery as you attend regularly at your local treatment center, you are moving toward a better, happier, healthier life. And that’s what recovery is all about.