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Suboxone Treatment Centers: Too Few, Too Late

Not Enough Suboxone Treatment Centers for Everybody

It seems like Suboxone treatment centers should be accessible to anybody who wants help. Suboxone, the brand name of buprenorphine, is an FDA-approved medication for use in addiction treatment that serves as an alternative to methadone. Unlike methadone, which is a full agonist—meaning it fits into your brain’s receptors just like heroin or pain pills—Suboxone is a partial agonist. You can’t really take enough of it to get high. It doesn’t quite fit into your brain’s receptors so to speak, and it has a shorter half-life than methadone.

Unfortunately, access to Suboxone treatment centers is limited by government rules. Doctors must take a short course to become certified in Suboxone administration. Then, for the first year, they can only treat 30 patients. After that they can serve up to 100 patients. If the doctor has multiple practice locations, he is still limited to 30 or 100 patients. Think of all the people you know who could use help and multiply that by communities all over the place—the rules are far too stringent.

The Story of a Pain Pill Addict

Take the story of Patrick Cagey, told by Jason Cherkis on the Huffington Post website. He completed a 30-day rehab treatment program quoting the AA Big Book and enthusiastic about going into the recovery rooms and finding a sponsor. But like 80 percent of opiate abusers, he found that staying clean without medication-assisted treatment was difficult. His parents promised him they would get him into a Suboxone treatment program. But guess what? They couldn’t.

Patrick participated in wrestling during his teen years, and he seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. He wrestled in college, and he was also into body building. Then he was injured, and he became addicted to the pain pills he took during his convalescence. When state and federal guidelines limited his access to pain pills, he did what many addicts have done—he turned to heroin.

Once he got out of rehab, his mother called a whole list of Suboxone treatment centers. She was told it would take about six months to get into a program.  Patrick attended 12-step groups, and when he was confronted by a couple of women selling drugs at a meeting he switched to another meeting.

But soon after he graduated from the 30-day program, Patrick relapsed. The story tells of his father calling and leaving messages on Patrick’s cell phone. Finally, he went to Patrick’s condo and forced his way in. He could not open the bathroom door, however, because something was blocking it. It was Patrick’s dead body.

Finding Suboxone Treatment Centers

So if you’re like Patrick, and you want to get into treatment right away, what can you do? Suboxone treatment centers that are CARF-certified must maintain a waiting list noting the people who have contacted them for services. Some clinics offer Suboxone but do not provide counseling services. You’ll do better to find a place that provides some kind of one-on-one or group therapy in addition to the medication-assisted treatment, because therapy is an important part of recovery.

Other suggestions from the National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment (NAABT) include:

  • Ask your own family physician to become certified to prescribe buprenorphine or Suboxone. According to the NAABT, only 3 percent of all U.S. physicians are eligible to do this.
  • Ask your family physician to help you get into one of your local Suboxone treatment centers. There is an exception to the Suboxone treatment certification requirement that allows any doctor to administer (but not prescribe) Suboxone over a period of 72 hours.
  • Look for physicians who are Suboxone-certified on the Buprenorphine Physician and Treatment Program locator offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Not all doctors and programs choose to be listed on this website.
  • You can also go to Suboxone.com, a website operated by the manufacturer of this drug. If you enter your zip code in the green box on the top right-hand side and push Enter, you will get a list of providers in your area.
  • If your preferred Suboxone treatment program does not have openings, ask them for a referral to another place. While many will not say they recommend or prefer one clinic over another, they will give you the names of those in your area.
  • Be persistent in your phone calls. While treatment facilities must maintain the waiting list as mentioned, you never know when the squeaky wheel will get the grease.
  • Begin attending 12-step meetings. Even if you’re still waiting to get into a clinic, being around those who are in recovery will help and inspire you. Just be aware that some people will recommend trying abstinence-based recovery—and again, remember that 80 percent of opiate addicts fail without Suboxone or methadone treatment.

Your recovery begins as soon as you make a commitment to follow through. Call your local Suboxone or buprenorphine treatment provider today to get started.




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