Unlike methadone, buprenorphine treatment orders can be written in a prescription that you take to your neighborhood pharmacy. While methadone is only given in a medication room at your local treatment program, the buprenorphine therapy puts some freedom back into your daily schedule.
When you first begin buprenorphine treatment, most medication-assisted treatment programs will require you to come for your first visit when you will see the doctor, completed a clinical assessment and have some lab tests completed. One of those tests will most likely be for tuberculosis, and you will have to return two days later to see if you had a reaction to that test. It is at that visit when you will get your first prescription of either buprenorphine or Suboxone.
You may already know that Suboxone contains not just buprenorphine but also naloxone, a medication that helps you control your urges to use drugs. It’s often confused with naltrexone, which is the generic form of Narcan, used to reverse potentially fatal opioid overdoses. But naloxone effectively blocks the opioid receptors in the brain so that they do not respond to any opioids that the person might take, and therefore it becomes easier to resist psychological cravings for the opioid drugs they would be using if they weren’t in buprenorphine treatment.
Buprenorphine without naloxone is issued as a generic medication and also as brand-name Subutex, a pill form of the medication often used for pregnant women who want buprenorphine treatment but do not want the naloxone that would also affect their unborn babies.
Stories of buprenorphine treatment are listed on Internet sites such as that of the National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment (NAABT) because they encourage people that they, too, can succeed at recovery through buprenorphine treatment. While you enjoy reading about the success of other addicts, below, we hope you will consider whether buprenorphine therapy is right for you.
People Who Succeeded at Buprenorphine Treatment
Mike. Mike is a middle-aged, bearded guy who states he once looked on opiate addicts with no sympathy as people who made a conscious choice to use drugs. A former high school football star, he became a husband and father, and he sang in his church’s choir. When he hurt himself in a do-it-yourself home project, he began taking pain pills and thought nothing of it. But soon he took more and more of them; five years later, he was taking dozens of pills daily—eventually as many as 50 a day. Like many people addicted to opiates, he could not accept the idea of daily visits to a methadone clinic, but he found help with regular visits to his doctor, where he received prescriptions for buprenorphine just like any other medication. For him, it meant the remainder of his weeks and months continuing uninterrupted by clinic visits, and he hasn’t used opiates since he began buprenorphine treatment in 2006.
Dawn. Dawn has just reached her 30s, and she began abusing pain pills when she was only 15. She had mild menstrual cramps, and when her sister gave her a Tylenol with codeine she fell in love with it. She says taking it was like a warm blanket had settled over her life. Before she knew it, all her sister’s capsules were gone, so she filled them with powdered sugar and moved on without guilt. For years she used just once or twice weekly, but after her father passed away her use became daily. She says she “lived to use, and used to live.” When she robbed her father’s trust fund, her mother told her to stay away, and from there she went into a state-funded detox program. After her second day of buprenorphine treatment, she laughed at something, and then she wondered how long it had been since she laughed for real joy. She was finally living again. Symptoms of her Crohn’s Disease went away, and her depression lifted. It took her two years of nightmares, and she has now been clean for 14 years.
Keith. Keith has posted a picture of his dog, so we can’t say what he looks like, but he comes from Pittsburgh. His story is common: The first time he used opiates, he snorted a line of crushed Percocets with a friend. He loved it so much that he stole a bottle of pain pills from his grandfather, and within four days he had used up the entire bottle. It was a shame that he needed shoulder surgery in 2003, but for that he was given a prescription for Percocet 10 mg tablets. When that doctor cut off his medication, he went to another doctor, who performed another surgery and gave him more drugs. From there he went on to OxyContin, and then to a pain clinic—“the beginning of the end,” he says wryly, with a laugh. After two months at the pain clinic, he failed a pill count and was kicked out. Since he had a reputation in Pittsburgh, he found a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic across the state line who performed yet another surgery and—of course—prescribed more pain pills. The first time his family doctor tried him on buprenorphine treatment, the dose was insufficient and he relapsed. But when he finally found a licensed, certified medication-assisted treatment center, his dose was adjusted and he has been clean ever since.
Sheryl. Her story begins with a marriage from hell, living with an alcoholic husband who beat her. She admitted she was also an alcoholic, but she quit drinking to support his recovery. She would occasionally stop and have drinks away from the house, and one day when she went home her husband punched her in the face, breaking four bones. Like many battered women, she avoided seeing a doctor for a week. When she finally went, he put her on hydrocodone, and it quickly became her drug of choice. Even though she quit drinking totally in 2000, she could not stop the pain pills, shopping for doctors and even forging prescriptions. Eventually she left her husband and went into treatment, and ended up with a partner she met at an AA meeting. When she began using again, she hid it from him and she even chaired NA meetings high on pills. She was stealing from her partner, and she ended up back in treatment. After that rehab, she went into treatment for depression—and was dumbfounded when her doctor treated her depression with hydrocodone, 50 mg daily. She was in heaven, she said, but when she lied to her doctor about all the ways she lost her pills, he suspected her of abuse and cut her off. Finally, she found a doctor who specialized in buprenorphine treatment. For a while she took Prozac for depression, but eventually she was switched to other medications that would not mix poorly with her buprenorphine. She is grateful to God, she says, and she is grateful that she has a doctor that trusts her now. Her same partner that she met in NA never gave up on her and he trusts her now, too.
These are the stories of real people whose lives changed through buprenorphine therapy. Visit the NAABT page and read other people’s stories. Your life can change with buprenorphine treatment, and maybe someday you’ll want to post your own story there. Learn more about buprenorphine by calling your local medication-assisted treatment program.