Is Suboxone a Wonder Drug that Helps Heroin Addicts Get Clean--Or Just Another Way to Stay High?
Pablo Iglesias

Five months ago, Chris resolved that it was finally time to get clean.

Suboxone is "not being used in the context we've seen it to kick a habit or even to replace a narcotic dependence. It's just a way to control your habit a little bit better."

Sort of.

The 34-year-old Brooklyn real estate broker (who declined to be identified by his real name; "Chris" is a pseudonym) had begun using heroin and quit once before, in his late teens. But family problems and a few tough months caused him to relapse, and soon he was snorting the drug two or three times a week.

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan says dealers carry Suboxone to keep their clientele happy.
Caleb Ferguson
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan says dealers carry Suboxone to keep their clientele happy.
Internist Dana Jane Saltzman is one of the 1,600 doctors in New York state authorized to prescribe Suboxone.
Caleb Ferguson
Internist Dana Jane Saltzman is one of the 1,600 doctors in New York state authorized to prescribe Suboxone.
Addiction researcher Adam Bisaga says, “You wouldn’t get as high as with heroin. . . . But you’d still feel somewhat affected.”
Caleb Ferguson
Addiction researcher Adam Bisaga says, “You wouldn’t get as high as with heroin. . . . But you’d still feel somewhat affected.”

After nearly a year of using, the days between doses started to get dicey, and Chris got worried. On the off days, he says, "I was never myself. I was irritable, exhausted, had no motivation or desire to do things I once enjoyed doing. I wasn't happy."

So, in between bags of heroin, Chris scored Suboxone, a prescription painkiller used to treat opiate addiction. He'd use it when he was making a halfhearted attempt to get sober, or when he just didn't want to feel bad between bags. Thanks to its main ingredient, buprenorphine hydrochloride, Suboxone eliminated the agonizing heroin withdrawal, the "three days of complete hell" he had to go through every time he tried not to use.

Chris didn't get Suboxone through a doctor, at first. He didn't have to. It was easier and quicker to buy the drug from a friend who had a prescription and lots of leftovers, which he was willing to sell to Chris for $5 a pop. "Subs," as people often shorthand the drug, come in paper-thin strips, a lot like the Listerine kind, that melt under the tongue. Chris's friend took half of a two-milligram strip each day and sold the extras to Chris.

Eventually, Chris decided he was spending too much money on the subs. He found a physician willing to prescribe him 24 milligrams a day—a "totally ridiculous" dose, he says, far too much for one person to take. (According to the drug's manufacturer, U.K.–based Reckitt Benckiser, the recommended maintenance dose is anywhere from four to 24 milligrams.) He takes one or two strips each day, two to four milligrams, and sells the rest on Craigslist.

"I don't work with everyone," Chris says. "I'm probably more cautious than most." He tries to weed out law enforcement by asking for Facebook or LinkedIn profiles to back up the buyer's identity. "I'm not a full-blown addict. I do have a job. I have a lot to lose." Besides, he adds, "I'd rather sell to someone who wants to get clean, rather than someone who just wants it in between their heroin binges. I'd rather help someone."

Other dealers up and down the East Coast who sell buprenorphine take the same tack in their Craigslist sales, positioning themselves as stops on the road to recovery.

"If you're trying to kick your diesel habit, then TEXT me asap!" writes one dealer. "Heroin is overwhelming here in New Jersey, so please do the right thing and get on Subutex asap!"

"Not LE here," writes another dealer in Soho, using the shorthand for "law enforcement." "Just a guy with a few extras and looking to help someone in need. Please be real about getting clean."

"No bs and no le," echoes a poster in upstate Montgomery County. "I'm just trying to help someone who needs to be off of pain medication."

The technical term for what Chris and other dealers are doing is "diversion," and it is, as you might guess, illegal. Selling your meds is a class C felony in New York, carrying a minimum of one year and a maximum of 10 in prison.

In the case of Suboxone and its generic equivalents, diversion is also increasingly common. Suboxone has been on the market in the U.S. since the late 1990s. Over the past two years, sales have skyrocketed, corresponding to a rise in heroin and (especially) painkiller addiction. The number of pain-pill prescriptions hovered around 209.5 million in 2010; the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 5 million people in the U.S. abuse painkillers.

It's hardly surprising that a drug that can help people get off opiates has become a runaway success. According to IMS Health, a company that collects data about the drugs U.S. doctors prescribe, Suboxone reached $1.4 billion in sales in the first quarter of 2012—nearly 10 times the figure from 2006. Seven years ago, Suboxone was the 198th-most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S. Today, it ranks 26th. In 2012, doctors wrote 9.3 million prescriptions for buprenorphine. From January to March of this year, they wrote 2.5 million more. A majority were for Suboxone, which controls about 70 percent of the buprenorphine market.

As the legal market for the drug expands, so does the black market pooling underneath. If Chris is too picky, Craigslist drug seekers can do business with 24-year-old Luis, who teams up with a friend with a prescription to sell the drug. Luis, who calls himself a "distributor," is homeless and says he's selling Suboxone to finance his move out of the shelters. That, and a desire to help folks.

"People thank me," he says earnestly. "I'm not doing a bad thing. I'm not selling drugs."

In her line of work, Bridget Brennan sees—and busts—a lot of drug dealers. She's immensely skeptical of the notion that anyone buying Suboxone on the street is taking it to get clean.

"To me, that seems highly unlikely," she says. "You don't need health insurance to go to a treatment center."

Brennan is New York City's Special Narcotics Prosecutor, and her office is responsible for prosecuting drug crimes. It was created by the city's five district attorneys in the 1980s as a way to respond to a new epidemic of heroin and a corresponding citywide increase in violent crimes.

Brennan doesn't seem surprised, or especially concerned, to learn that people are using Craigslist to sell their detox meds. She notes that Craigslist drug sales have transpired on and off for years. "Our focus is on more of the major suppliers," she says. "But we do monitor Craigslist, and we do periodic sweeps there."

Brennan says that, in her experience, most dealers carry Suboxone as a way to keep their clientele happy; in recent years, her office has busted several drug rings that stock it alongside heroin, Xanax, and Percocet. Addicts buy Suboxone when they can't afford their drug of choice, or when they have a pressing social engagement that requires them not to turn up totally high.

"It's not being used in the context we've seen it to kick a habit or even to replace a narcotic dependence," she asserts. "What I've seen is not a real commitment to getting clean, it's just a way to control your habit a little bit better."

Mike Laverde agrees. He's a former heroin addict himself, now nine years sober and an intervention specialist with a Chicago company called Family First Intervention. Like Brennan, he sees black-market Suboxone users as just another subspecies of addict.

"They think they can take the Suboxone and come off drugs themselves," he says. "But they can't. The problem in the drugs department is them." Without actual treatment, Laverde says, addicts are very likely to fall back into dependence on their drug of choice. That practice—toggling back and forth between the drug you like and the drug that helps you avoid withdrawal—is known as "bridging."

"People cycle on and off, absolutely," says Jose Sanchez, a substance-use counselor at the nonprofit Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center. His clients, Sanchez explains, tell him they carefully plan out their drug use. "They'll stop taking the Suboxone for a couple days, so that by the third day they'll be able to feel that zing of the opiate, whether it's heroin or Oxycontin."

It's unlikely they'll ever really get clean that way, he adds. "It certainly could work. But I think to be successful, you need every bit of support you can get"—i.e., counseling and a doctor's supervision.

When someone self-medicates with Suboxone, Sanchez says, "You really can't judge how well the medicine's working for you. All you know is you feel good that day, and the next day you want to feel just as good."

If you wanted to kick an opiate habit the aboveground way, you might visit a doctor like Dana Jane Saltzman, an internist who's also one of the 1,600 doctors in New York State authorized to prescribe Suboxone. Her practice is hidden away in midtown, in a nondescript, five-story building not far from the marquee lights of the Ambassador Theater. She keeps two websites, one for her regular practice, and the other, NYCSuboxone.com, for people looking to get clean.

Saltzman's building is a little down at the heels, but her clientele is anything but. Most of her Suboxone patients, she says, are Wall Street guys, "masters of the universe types" who find themselves with a pain-pill addiction and a pressing need to get sober without cutting into their 100-hour workweeks.

"I see a lot of young men, very high-functioning, very ambitious and upwardly mobile," Saltzman says. Many of them are prescribed Oxycontin after they sustain sports injuries: shoulders, backs, knees. A client came to see her several weeks ago who'd been on the painkiller for two years before he realized he'd become dependent.

Buprenorphine is popular with Saltzman's patients and other opiate addicts for one basic reason: It too is an opiate.

"It hits and stimulates the same receptors in the brain that are affected by heroin or methadone," explains Adam Bisaga. He's a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and an addiction researcher at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Like other opiates, buprenorphine binds to certain receptors in the brain. It's "stickier" than drugs like heroin, binding to those receptors faster and holding on longer: Morphine has a half-life of about two hours; buprenorphine's is anywhere from 24 to 60 hours.

Buprenorphine is also a partial opioid agonist. It doesn't fill up the brain's receptors as completely as heroin or painkillers do, making its effects much more muted than the intense euphoria heroin offers.

"It stimulates the receptors, but only to 50 percent," Bisaga explains. "At some point there's a ceiling, and no matter how much you take, you'll never get across that. It's like an electronic block on your gas pedal in a sports car."

To further limit its effects, Suboxone contains naloxone, an opiate blocker. The most famous naloxone-containing drug is Narcan, which can treat people during an overdose, and which has no known potential for abuse. Subutex, a Reckitt Benckiser-manufactured formulation that's pure buprenorphine, is more potent—and in greater demand on the black market. Saltzman says she won't prescribe it unless a patient has a proven allergy to naloxone.

Suboxone's older cousin, methadone, is a full agonist, meaning that its effects, along with its getting-high and overdose potential, are that much stronger. But Suboxone offers users a powerful feature methadone can't match: It's designed to be taken at home, whereas by law methadone is required to be distributed at a clinic. (In New York, methadone patients can get take-home doses, but they're tightly controlled; to get a six-day supply, a patient has to have been in treatment for at least three years.)

"You have to go to the clinic every day, and that has a little bit of a reputation," Bisaga says. "Many people don't like the idea."

Buprenorphine was introduced as a treatment for opiate addiction in Belgium in 1983, in the form of little orange tablets that were placed under the tongue. Four years later, it was being used in France. Reckitt Benckiser won approval to distribute Suboxone in the U.S. in 1994, although it wasn't released here until 2003. At the time, the Food and Drug Administration granted it "orphan" status, which is awarded to drugs that are meant to treat "rare diseases or conditions" and aren't expected to be profitable. Orphan drugs qualify for generous tax credits, and the FDA can't rescind the designation once it's granted.

Suboxone retained orphan status until 2009, when the patent for the tablets expired. Several U.S. drugmakers promptly set to work making generic versions, two of which went on the market this past February. That month, analysts projected Reckitt's annual pharmaceuticals profit would take as much as a 4 percent hit.

By 2006, Suboxone's abuse potential had become pretty clear: A study of French buprenorphine users found that a lot of them were crushing up their tablets and injecting them. According to the European Opiate Addiction Treatment Association, the same problem soon turned up in England, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Finland, and the Czech Republic. (A recent report in the daily Prague Post estimates that Subutex accounts for 70 to 80 percent of all drugs sold on the street.)

Also in 2006, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found the same issue cropping up in the U.S., noting that buprenorphine abuse appeared to be "concentrated unevenly in Northeastern and Southeastern regions."

Seeing buprenorphine cross the Atlantic came as no surprise to Bisaga. "It's a problem with every drug we have," he says. "It was just a matter of time."

Introduce a drug, and soon people will find a way to use it to get high.

According to SAMHSA figures, emergency-room visits involving buprenorphine use "increased substantially, from 3,161 in 2005 to 30,135 visits in 2010, as availability of the drug increased." More than half of the people seen at the ER reported that they were using the drug "non-medically."

The researchers who studied French buprenorphine injectors wrote that it seems "pharmacologically impossible" for anyone to get high from the drug. And yet, they say, the addicts did report feeling a "rush" after injecting it, which the researchers chalked up to the placebo effect.

The question for drug- and policy-makers alike is how to short-circuit any new drug's potential for getting you high. Adding naloxone to buprenorphine hydrochloride is one way to limit abuse, Bisaga says. Another was to pull the tablets off the market and replace them with a film designed to be impossible to abuse. (According to several pharmacies the Voice contacted, brand-name Suboxone tablets are still available, at least in New York, though Reckitt Benckiser had notified the FDA in February 2012 that it would voluntarily discontinue the tablets. The company said at the time that the pills would be off the market by March 2012 at the latest. Reckitt Benckiser did not respond to several requests for comment for this story.)

People still try very hard to make the most of their Suboxone; Internet forums are full of tips and tricks about how to get high off the strips. Some users recommend melting them in water and injecting them, or offer instructions on how to "snort" them. Others insist the would-be stoners are wasting their time, that "bupe" won't ever get you lifted.

Bisaga begs to differ. "People who are not in treatment, not taking it every day, can get high." If you take it consistently and correctly, as part of a treatment plan, you probably won't feel any euphoric effects, he says. But taken more sporadically, it's possible: "You wouldn't get as high as with heroin. It's not such a powerful, instant, intense euphoria. But you'd still feel somewhat affected."

Some patients in treatment report that the drug has mood-lifting properties. "People often feel good on Suboxone," notes Saltzman, the Suboxone specialist. "Many people say they feel better than they have in their lives."

Saltzman has seen the rise of Suboxone abuse firsthand. She has had a license to prescribe it since 2000; in the past few years, the number of patients she suspects are diverting the drug is increasing.

"There's a constant wave of diversionary tactics in here," she says. "It's constant and unending. It's just piling up."

She tries to weed out the drug-seekers from the people who are genuinely eager to get sober. She requires patients to attend group therapy and one-on-one sessions with a counselor, and she encourages them to enroll in a 12-step program like Narcotics Anonymous. She also drug-tests them every time they come in to have their prescription refilled.

"If someone doesn't want to give a urine sample, that's always a bad sign," she says. "That may mean their last prescription was sold on the street."

Saltzman is quick to add that most of her patients—including the ones who relapse or sell their prescriptions—genuinely want to get better. She acknowledges, too, that her treatment is too expensive for many: $400 for the initial visit and $250 for every visit thereafter. The medication itself is covered by insurance, but the office visits aren't.

That's by design, Saltzman says. Otherwise "we'd have lines out the door. It would be a whole different thing. Making people pay is about getting their full attention. It's very intense work, and it's not at all like primary care." (By law, Suboxone doctors can only treat a maximum of 100 patients.) A couple of low-cost clinics in the city don't charge for the initial visit, but most Suboxone doctors' rates are as steep as Saltzman's.

As for the price of the drug itself, at a CVS pharmacy, the estimated price for an uninsured person to get 30 days' worth of Suboxone tablets is $295. At Duane Reade, it's $315. At Rite Aid, it's $283. Insurance brings down the price substantially: United Healthcare's rate is $60 ($25 for the generic). Blue Cross Blue Shield's is about $40; Aetna's, $75.

Chris, the real estate broker and Craigslist dealer, routinely gets e-mails from people who say the price is what prevents them from procuring the drug legally.

"im interested in yr add," a recent would-be buyer wrote. "recently lost insurance, and the cost of a doctor/script is just too much fr me right now. very serious about getting off, without getting too sick to work. Im a professional honest guy with a family you can look me up on facebook, just search [redacted] in new york, there is a drawing of a rabbit as my main photo. Please keep it discreet and profess. and i will do the same."

Motive and legality aside, how harmful is "bridging" with Suboxone? Every dose of buprenorphine is a dose of heroin (or the like) not taken. And a person is far less likely to die from using buprenorphine. According to Joshua Lee, a professor at New York University Medical Center and an attending physician at Bellevue Hospital, buprenorphine has "less overdose potential" than methadone. In particular, it's less likely to cause "respiratory depression"—the physical state when breathing becomes so shallow as to no longer provide the body with oxygen.

"As doctors prescribing it, we're very concerned with this," Lee says of black-market use. "And we discourage people from doing that. But from a public-health, harm-reduction standpoint, we acknowledge that diversion of buprenorphine seems different than diversion of oxycodone, say, or Xanax."

"So many people who cannot afford the medications from legitimate sources are basically buying it on the street to treat themselves," offers Bisaga, the Columbia professor and addiction researcher. "I don't think these people are doing it to get high—although certainly there are people like that. I think most of them are just trying to get treated at low cost, which is obviously a tragedy. Most developed countries in the world have free treatment for drug addicts and this is no longer an issue."

A few months after he began selling his prescription on Craigslist, Chris has decided to stop for good. "I pulled all my ads down," he says.

Chris is muscular and pale, and he looks exhausted. He's wearing a V-neck sweater and jeans, and carrying a shoulder bag that looks like something a doctor making house calls might use. He says he saw "many, many" people in the few months he was selling—including attorneys, fellow real estate brokers, and even one addiction counselor.

Chris says he got himself off Suboxone, a process he describes as "brutal." He did it by transitioning to the painkiller Percocet, then weaning himself off that.

The experience of detoxing left Chris with mixed feelings about Suboxone. "On the one hand, it is a good thing," he says. "It keeps people from stealing and robbing and overdosing. But it really just masks the issue: the addiction. From heroin withdrawals, you move onto Suboxone, and then you have to go through those withdrawals. It's something that's going to happen, but a lot of us choose to prolong it."

In the longer term, he adds, the drug also made him feel "like total shit."

"My girl always says I couldn't even formulate sentences," he explains. "I was not articulate. I couldn't fuck her, excuse my language. I was just totally like a zombie. And then my feet were constantly uncomfortable. I couldn't sleep without it. My eyeballs would turn into like these huge dishes, big pupils like Mickey Mouse."

To his dismay, Chris realized that he initially felt even worse when trying to pull back on the Suboxone than when he experienced heroin withdrawal. "You're exhausted for a very long time. It takes forever to get out of your system," he says.

He believes now that his doctor didn't adequately warn him that the detox drug had the potential to be addictive, nor about its "sticky" properties. "The doctor I was seeing—it was literally five or 10 minutes—he sits there and gives his typical speech about how bad drugs are, et cetera, and then he writes a scrip, and I'm gone. He gets paid, I go fill it, and that's it."

Saltzman says some Suboxone doctors operate as little more than drug mills. "I had one of them get arrested right in front of me on 57th Street the other day," she says. In part, she goes on, the problem may have to do with how Suboxone doctors get their licenses. Ten years ago, in order to be able to prescribe the drug, she was required to complete a two-day class at Mount Sinai Hospital. These days, she says, "it's an Internet course that takes a couple of hours."

Chris also was disturbed to hear his doctor tell him that he might have to use buprenorphine for the rest of his life. "It made me feel like a loser," he says.

Adam Bisaga takes a different view. "This is the push that they hear from [12-step programs]," the Columbia professor says. "That recovery with medication is something inferior. That you're not truly in recovery until you take nothing. It's not science. It's just ideology from a 12-step movement that makes them vulnerable to relapse." (Responds a spokesman for Narcotics Anonymous: "The experience of NA members is that being clean means complete abstinence from all mood- and mind-altering drugs. That said, NA welcomes everyone. Ultimately, we're not in the business of telling people blanket statements about whether they're clean or not.")

"On the other hand," Bisaga adds, "you do hear the stories of the pharmaceutical industry pushing people to stay on as much medication as possible. Depending on where you stand in this conversation, you can hear arguments on both sides. We rely on science and effective treatments, and we'd like patients to make informed decisions on their future."

Saltzman says some of her patients are, for all practical purposes, on the drug permanently, but she doesn't encourage it. "I don't like that idea. It's not a healthy way to live," she says. "To me it speaks to someone not wanting to look at themselves."

Chris gazes out a window and rubs his legs, which sometimes still hurt. "At some point," he says, "you have to pay the piper. There's no easy way out with opiate addiction."

Asked how long he's been clean, he smiles, looking both proud and more tired. "Two weeks," he says.

amerlan@villagevoice.com

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66 comments
billyxoc1
billyxoc1

I do heroin I also work and rise two kids. I have a habit of our gram aday that's 10 to 12 papers or bags. This Is more than anyone I know. This is my last day. I took last shot at 10.my hour b30am Tues. I see doctor in morning at 11.30 am I will be sick as hell. I am going on suboxon let's see what really happens. It's 2.00pm I am okay now. Ok went to bed woke up sick omg its bad. Crawld to car my mom drove me the 120 miles yo doc. I kept praying we would never get there. But we did and we walked into the office. He started asking me questions I have no idea what the fuck he said. Finally he called n a script. We had to go to drug store. Got the siboxon and drove back he gave me one 8mg tab. I went to lobby went to sleep. 45 Min later he woke me we went in his:: office he gave me 2 more. I still feel bad no change. Went back to lobby. Went to sleep. He woke me n a hour. Gave me one more I threw it up in trash can. But I am starting to feel better. Very little but some. I went out side threw up again. He told me to come back n his office asked me how I feel told him bad. He told ne to come back n morning. I went to motel room went to bed woke up sweating my ass off. I took like 5 showers. Woke up at 7 I was ssick but not as I was. I took a pill and ate two bits of breakfast. And then headed back to his office I took one more pill. We get to office I feel good. Then bad then good. He told me ti come back n 10 days he said take 4 a day. Ok we left drove hone I slept took one more got home feel good went to town and started feeling bad went home to bed slept. Woke up next day feel ok took pill n 47 min I was good. Took another a hour:-)later I feel good went to town had a beer I feel great took one more. Now n bed. I feel pretty good thanks Billy

henrywestwood1
henrywestwood1




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henrywestwood1
henrywestwood1




My name Douglas dashy from Oxford,UK ...HIV has been ongoing in my family for long..I lost both parents to HIV and it is so much pain have not been able to get over.As we all know medically,there is no solution or cure for HIV and the cost for Medication is very expensive..Someone introduced me to a man(Native Medical Practitional)in oxford..I showed the man all my Tests and Results and i told him have already diagnosed with HIV and have spent thousands of dollars on medication..I said i will like to try him cos someone introduced me to him..He asked me sorts of questions and i answered him correctly..To cut the story short,He gave me some medicinal soaps and some herbs(have forgot the name he called them) and he thought me how am gonna use them all..At first i was skeptical but i just gave it a try..I was on his Medication for 2 weeks and i used all the soaps and herbs according to his prescription.. that he will finish the rest himself..and i called him 3 days after, i arrived and i told him what is the next thing..he said,he has been expecting my call.. he told me to visit my doctor for another test..Honestly speaking,i never believe all he was saying until after the test when my doctor mention the statement that am, HIV negative and the doctor started asking me how do i do it....Am telling this story in case anyone may need this man his email is: dr.skhivhomefcure@gmail.com or call him now at +2348158847627

dr.skhivhomefcure
dr.skhivhomefcure




My name Douglas dashy from Oxford,UK ...HIV has been ongoing in my family for long..I lost both parents to HIV and it is so much pain have not been able to get over.As we all know medically,there is no solution or cure for HIV and the cost for Medication is very expensive..Someone introduced me to a man(Native Medical Practitional)in oxford..I showed the man all my Tests and Results and i told him have already diagnosed with HIV and have spent thousands of dollars on medication..I said i will like to try him cos someone introduced me to him..He asked me sorts of questions and i answered him correctly..To cut the story short,He gave me some medicinal soaps and some herbs(have forgot the name he called them) and he thought me how am gonna use them all..At first i was skeptical but i just gave it a try..I was on his Medication for 2 weeks and i used all the soaps and herbs according to his prescription.. that he will finish the rest himself..and i called him 3 days after, i arrived and i told him what is the next thing..he said,he has been expecting my call.. he told me to visit my doctor for another test..Honestly speaking,i never believe all he was saying until after the test when my doctor mention the statement that am, HIV negative and the doctor started asking me how do i do it....Am telling this story in case anyone may need this man his email is: dr.skhivhomefcure@gmail.com or call him now at +2348158847627

m.ram131313
m.ram131313

I would really like help to get of methadone. I hear that suboxone helps can someonepplease help me find a way to get them?

mahituna
mahituna

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deafmichelle33
deafmichelle33

Hi . I need help .. I would like to try and start use suboxone.. I want to get myself better . Where can I get them ?

chrisekat85
chrisekat85

When are the first signs u should take a piece of suboxin for withdraws from herion??

ShanShan
ShanShan

Spent 5k to walk into a rehab out of state.  Rehab took my money and booted me after the 1st week due to insurance not wanting to pay.  So here I was with no insurance to cover these meds, and I had to turn to the street for them.  The first drug rehab  tried me on made me have horrible hallucinations (subutex?) but the day they put me on Suboxone was the day I got my life back.  I used Suboxone for 2 weeks straight to get off the drug and now I only use 1/4 piece of strip as maintenance when I crave every so often.  While Suboxone doesn't make me high, I can't take it at night because it keeps me up all night.  This drug is a life saver for those who use it properly and who are determined to get clean.  You can get strips on the street for $10-15 each where I live and even though it isn't right to purchase the meds off the street, it's better than a $260 a day habit on Roxi ($30 street value per pill) that I had before taking Suboxone.

I almost lost everything due to my addiction but now I am proud to say that after 14 months of remaining clean and sober, I finally have money in the bank and a much better relationship with myself and family than ever before.  

I am a 40 year old female, two children, married and a grandson.

jaylaomega
jaylaomega

I have been on opiates since 2005. I got addicted after an epidural messed up my back and the doc prescribed me 180 Percocet. I finally got clean in 2012, COLD TURKEY may I add. But this back pain got the best of me and after being clean for a year I relapsed. I'm BiPolar I as well so I'm on Prozac, Seroquel, Ambien and opiates.... Sad, sad combination. Believe me, I tried to find a sub doc but the visits are too damned expensive. $300. True enough I spend $300+ a month on pills but not at one time..... So I attempted to wean myself off, needless to say it didn't work. My neighbor who's a heroin addict gave me an 8mg sub strip and I waited til I was in full wd to take it. I cut the strip into 3 pieces and I took my first dose on 3/21/14. And guess what? I was higher than I've ever been in my life. I guess it affects different people in different ways. Every person is not the same. Coming from a place of addiction, I can totally see this spiraling out of control. But the one difference is I feel better. I want to live and I want to be productive. Sub is a wonder drug and if used properly u can become sober. It's not for everybody.

Daniel
Daniel

It's good to see an article with discussion

on Soboxone. Last Feb I flew back from West to my Eastern Coast city,

and went into in detox, they suggested Soboxone. And I did go on it.

While it did help with the acute withdrawals,

Suboxone kept me hooked on opiates.

I could only get daily "carries" and the only place that

supplied Suboxone was in the west-central part of the gigantic city

I had returned to.

soon after being discharged from detox, I was alternating between

street dope (heroin, and Oxys and other pills) and Soboxone. This was because I would

miss a carry ( I was homeless at the time and would move from

shelter to shelter). So I'd lose a bus ticket, miss a carry, end up sick again and

back to the street drugs. This went on as long as I stayed on Soboxone.

Once off that Soboxone I was off the opiates!

whicor777
whicor777

SubSux...I have a feeling you are not a fully dependent on opiates yet! The reason i say this is because you talk about being lethargic for up to a year, i don't know any opiate dependent person that would make a statement like this! I have been opiate dependent for 20 plus years, i have tried every remedy known to man to become normal..i finally realized a long time ago that being normal was never going to be in the cards for me because of my altered brain chemistry due to abusing opiates ...i will never be able to normalize my opiate dependent brain...i have self medicated to escape the hell i lived in my whole life due to other mind disorders...when i here someone say they could soldier on for possibly a year suffering lethargic disorders." to keep a job" it tells me they have not suffered the true depth of opiate dependence! Suboxone is so much better than sticking a needle in your arm and chasing that rush that takes you to the brink of death..and if you need to eliminate your so called addiction to suboxone..then just start shooting heroin again..get your fill and start subs again and jump when the Dr says..no problem, that's if its possible for you to do? I have seen this work in short term young users that sought help while there was yet time, they had not yet become dependent to the brutal opioid drug.Suboxone saves lives and it will soon be widely excepted that it will become a life long savior for the otherwise doomed opiate dependent human brain.

jonathansardinhaa
jonathansardinhaa

I joined this site to look at others people opinion on the subject, and now that I have im sad, If you haven't been an addict and just think you are better than others than you may as well be writing letters to the makers of suboxone and stay on you guys high horse's... Im glad im clean but damn I thought better from people.. I guess I was naïve.

jonathansardinhaa
jonathansardinhaa

A lot of people abuse suboxone because they want to, and don't have the want to stop but don't want to be sick.. I was an addict for a long time and I decided to take suboxone, not from a dr but I bought ten pills and it works, When I would take it I would be energetic and functional. NOT HIGH... now most people just get bored of being sober or need a crutch. And dr want to put out as many pills as possible. I can be a oxycodone addict or heroine addict and still get over it painlessly with suboxone, but then were does that leave me? Alone and wanting to get high to get rid of the problems I had before.. ive been up and down but if people would get 20 subs and work them with a family member and slowly get back to reality it would work subs alone will not cut it and if you just want to shoot em up or snort them, then just stay an addict you have to want to stop, people on subs need a support system. People get high for a reason, whatever it may be to each there own. But with help from a friend or family member subs work but the person has to have a want to get clean.. Then again im not a great person or strong mind neither I was an addict for years before I saw my life was 6 years gone. so I miss my friend family and reality.. Subs help if you want them too its just a painless way to not be sick and get on you're feet.. other than that its on the individual.. Sorry for ranting good luck to everyone.... All I know is im smiling today and im happy.. 

thommyberlin1
thommyberlin1

Because using is using and people die from using. That's how I see it.

lcatsimanes
lcatsimanes

Look- let's get real. The recovery market is full of scam artists, from unregulated "rehabs" that are really just sober living houses to sober houses shabbily run...All the way to strip-mall "Pain Management" clinics that are run by nothing more than Federally certified drug dealers who look the other way to make a buck.


There is an alternative, for those who embrace the harm reduction method. Get with a real addiction Dr. Private practice? Frustratingly, these people aren't always known by even the best substance abuse counselors. And here's the kicker- they often charge LESS per half hour than a "mill doc". Why? I have no idea. Poor marketing, I think, and a natural fear of doctors from addicts.  But when you find a good one? He/she will insist on actual time during your appointments. Not the wait 45 minutes, get drug tested, get your script after 5 minutes with the doc regardless of results. You also won't get the ridiculous doses a scam Doc will give you.


I've seen it ALL, working with a "too young, too smart" son who wanted to get clean, yet was still gripped by the the damaged parts of his brain that rule addiction. After many attempts at clean- on his own, rehab etc- he's now 1 month shy of a year from heroin.  His current addiction doctor classified him as a "hard core addict". And still. Suboxone- never more than 8mgs, down to 2 mgs per day- has been the one thing that's tamped down his urge, kept the horses at bay and allowed him to remember who he is as he heals.


Think about it: Nicotine and opiates are about the same level of addiction. Nobody bats an eye when somebody chooses Nicorette or another med to step down and out. Why the judgement about Suboxone?

sunfla
sunfla

Suboxene was a lifesaver for me. I was taking up to 120 mg a day of methadone. Was on 8mgs a day for a year and started cutting back.down to 2mgs a day and still fighting!

thommyberlin1
thommyberlin1

"I'm using drugs to get off drugs."

Just say it to yourself a couple of times. Kinda silly innit....

Drug addicts use drugs.... methadone, xanax and buprenorphine ARE drugs. 

Funny how rarely they ask people who've actually gone through it what they think...

LOOK: Heroin withdrawals are no big deal. They won't kill you.  Anyone who's been addicted for any period of time goes through withdrawals many times. Oh it's no fun, but really it's no big deal.

If you're going to prescribe drugs, they may as well be the good ones which are usually less harmful than the substitutes.

Xanax withdrawals CAN kill you, Suboxone takes longer, but methadone is BY FAR the worst. Withdrawals off methadone are NEVER ENDING. 

The truth is MOST people simply don't want to get off, or don't know how.

If you want to get off dope there's places where you can go and talk to people who have gotten off - and it doesn't cost you a thing - not a single penny.

that's what I did.

The first time I shot up was the late 1970's. I've been off 5 and 1/2 years. Had I known what my life could be, I would have done it sooner.




sa1234
sa1234

to the author, thank you so VERY much for writing this article.  we have a family member who is an opiate addict and using suboxone but saying he is off of the "hard stuff" which did not add up for us.  this article explains why. he has agreed to see a doctor to officially begin a suboxone program with therapy and drug testing.  we hope and pray that he is finally committed to getting clean and that suboxone treatment will put him on that  path.  would love more info on how effective the suboxone treatments are long-term.  please consider writing more articles on this topic to give loved ones an understanding of the world of those addicted to opiates.  

wado1967
wado1967

I have been taking suboxone for 6 months, my life is 100% better. with counseling once a week, more people need to hear the positive part of suboxone. if mehodone works for you great. after  all the point is to get sober,and drug free.

lnmd93
lnmd93

long_term-addict below makes a very good point.... level of functioning is the goal of treatment.  People on methadone do not improve their level of functioning.  People on Suboxone do.  This is a simple point of fact.  Methadone was created to prevent people from using needles and spreading HIV/AIDS.  Suboxone was created to help people truly recover...and they do!!!

long_term_addict
long_term_addict

I just wanted to add;

Suboxone doesn't get you "high", it's a combined agonist/antagonist (it's a partial blocker), so it even prevents you from feeling any opiates whilst on it. Methadone might make you feel a bit dopey, but it's not the same as heroin either.

Whoever you're interviewing is, if they're implying that suboxone can actually get you high, well, they're wrong. It simply doesn't work that way on the body, it can't get you truly wasted (might make you sleepy if you're on too high a dose- and 24mg is pretty standard for someone coming off 30mg of methadone btw).

As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I'm in my 40's and started using in my early 20's. I spent 12+ years on methadone while using (at one point I was on 100ml of 'done a day and using too, and I'm a 50kg woman) and it never helped me to stabilise or quit my using. 

Suboxone has been the only drug that has genuinely helped me to stop illicit drug use as it genuinely removes cravings, unlike methadone. 

In Australia suboxone is what most methadone users aim to transfer onto (got to get below 30ml) because it doesn't cause the problems methadone does. And suboxone is well known to be MUCH easier to taper off than methadone, again making it the heroin opiate replacement of choice for those who really don't want to use any more.

Please do your homework before spreading some sort of panic about one of the few really effective forms of pharacotherapy, especially implying that it's a nightmare to withdraw from when it's not if tapered off gently, like almost any medication should be.

And if someone wants to stave off withdrawals so they can function, what of it? I suppose the junkie should go through withdrawals as punishment for their addiction? If we approached prohibition with any sort of common sense these problems, such as the selling of medication on the streets, would be few and far between.

smh

long_term_addict
long_term_addict

Ugh, why not write an article critical of people with type 2 diabetes using insulin or people with bi polar using mood stabilisers?

I am a long term opiate addict (and happen to be bi polar II as well) and I am so sick of this attitude that the only ~true recovery~ is medication free, it smacks of 12 step programmes and shames those of us who have found that we don't do well in an unmedicated state. And for the record, I'm in my 40's, I have had plenty of experience being medication free and it isn't helpful.

Why we accept some types of medical intervention to stabilise the mind and not others is firmly rooted in the climate of the decades long (and unsuccessful) drug war. Perhaps it's time we start accepting that there will be long term addicts who will never be clean and that's ok as long as they are functioning well in society.

And I'll tell you what, I'd rather be on suboxone than methadone any day- you want to be critical of opiate replacement therapies? Maybe look outside the US approach to understand exactly how archaic your approach is.

ronco99
ronco99

Suboxone abuse is safer than smack.

lnmd93
lnmd93

To lamundson379:  In our location, if you qualify for Medicaid, you qualify for the drug.  Most commercial insurance plans cover the medication, especially since it is now generic.  Also, a new product, Zubsolv, is now available through a company called Orexo and they offer two weeks of free medication and then $75 off for subsequent prescriptions.  Don't lose hope.  There must be somebody there that can help you. If all else fails, she should qualify for methadone as an alternative to heroin.  Check out the programs available in your area.  Most importantly, she has to want to quit.

lamundson379
lamundson379

im reading this and im in tears because my daughter who is 20 is addicted to herion and we have everything in place for her to quit but we don't have the money for the medication . I just had 2 strokes and we are getting by on very little at this time. im only 45.  I have worked my entire life to make it on my own and for the first time I need help and that's very hard to even say. ive never asked for anything I couldn't pay for. I live in az and there isn't anything out there for people like us. ive been told sorry we cant help! because I have always worked I made just alittle more than qualifies us for any help. If I wouldn't of worked my daughter would be getting help and that stinks. im afraid shes gunna die and shes such a beautiful kid. I cry everyday and feel so helpless. id do anything to be able to get this drug!!!!for those parents out there that could help there kids i wish I was you. me and my kid will figure it out, we always have I hope somedayday soon this drug will become affordable so everyone can be saved

joannerees
joannerees

@billyxoc1  Have you seen this fascinating documentary on Ibogaine? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khhsboVsyrw

I recommend contacting https://crossroadsibogaine.com/  for several reasons. They are just across the border from San Diego. Here is what makes Crossroads unique:

- Dr Martin Polanco has over 14 years experience with Ibogaine treatment.

- Dr Luna is our Stanford trained cardiologist.

- State of the art medical facility adjacent to the highly reputable Hospital Angeles.

- Luxury healing sanctuary located on the beach in a secure gated community.

- Experienced staff that masterfully balances clinical professionalism with heartfelt compassionate care.

- All treatments supervised by no less than 2 licensed emergency room doctors and 2 nurses. 

- Our unique treatment protocol including 5meo-dmt. 

- Comprehensive aftercare available and 6 weeks FREE recovery coaching. 619-452-1130


joannerees
joannerees

@billyxoc1  Have you seen this fascinating documentary on Ibogaine? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khhsboVsyrw

I recommend contacting https://crossroadsibogaine.com/  for several reasons. They are just across the border from San Diego. Here is what makes Crossroads unique:

- Dr Martin Polanco has over 14 years experience with Ibogaine treatment.

- Dr Luna is our Stanford trained cardiologist.

- State of the art medical facility adjacent to the highly reputable Hospital Angeles.

- Luxury healing sanctuary located on the beach in a secure gated community.

- Experienced staff that masterfully balances clinical professionalism with heartfelt compassionate care.

- All treatments supervised by no less than 2 licensed emergency room doctors and 2 nurses. 

- Our unique treatment protocol including 5meo-dmt. 

- Comprehensive aftercare available and 6 weeks FREE recovery coaching. 619-452-1130


joannerees
joannerees

@m.ram131313  Have you seen this fascinating documentary on Ibogaine? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khhsboVsyrw

I recommend contacting https://crossroadsibogaine.com/  for several reasons. They are just across the border from San Diego. Here is what makes Crossroads unique:

- Dr Martin Polanco has over 14 years experience with Ibogaine treatment.

- Dr Luna is our Stanford trained cardiologist.

- State of the art medical facility adjacent to the highly reputable Hospital Angeles.

- Luxury healing sanctuary located on the beach in a secure gated community.

- Experienced staff that masterfully balances clinical professionalism with heartfelt compassionate care.

- All treatments supervised by no less than 2 licensed emergency room doctors and 2 nurses. 

- Our unique treatment protocol including 5meo-dmt. 

- Comprehensive aftercare available and 6 weeks FREE recovery coaching. 619-452-1130

mahituna
mahituna

@deafmichelle33  Doctors or off the street, watch the Doctors who want you on a maintenance program (year or years). Subs are a bitch to stop after year(s) of use but it means  a lot of money for the Doctor. Get on and off as quick as possible. If you want to really stop a short term taper will work.

mahituna
mahituna

@deafmichelle33  Start with lowest amount possible. Start with 1mg and wait 1 hour and take 1mg more if not feeling better, repeat if needed. stop when you feel better. that is your starting dose, stay on that for a few days and then taper weekly maybe 25%. when you get to .5mg start to skip a day. then start to skip 2 days. when you get to 4 days stop. the key is the lower you start off with the quicker the taper. nobody usually needs 8mg to get relief let alone 16mg. Subs are very powerful and have a long half life 30+ hours compared to Oxy 4-6 hrs. main key: start as low as possible and taper. you will still be uncomfortable at the end but nothing close to cold turkey. if your motivation to stop is high a short term sub taper will work. remember to make changes in your life as well. Also walking helps a lot, a trip around the block will do wonders and I think it's a requirement. 

lnmd93
lnmd93

@chrisekat85  You need to be in the withdrawal stage..i.e. sweats, chills, body aches, restless legs, etc.  If you take it too early you will precipitate withdrawal and you will think you need more Suboxone...if withdrawal gets worse with Suboxone, you took it too early.....Good luck in your recovery.....

lnmd93
lnmd93

@ShanShan  CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR RECOVERY!! You have described perfectly what it is like to get your life back with Suboxone.  Please tell your friends how great this drug is for opiate addiction.  Again, kudos to you and hug that grandson of yours!!

lnmd93
lnmd93

@ShanShan  Congratulations on your recovery!!!  You have described what anyone serious about getting their life back after opiates with Suboxone is like.  Please tell your friends about the benefits of this drug.  Again, kudos to you!!  Hug your grandson!!

SubSux
SubSux

They help if you withdrawl from them appropriately, i.e., QUICKLY!  If you were prescribed a high amount from a doctor, and you didn't know better, staying on them far too long, then my friend, the chains of suboxone are on.  Unless people have had a similar situation, and been on them for far too long, people need to sit back and listen up.  This drug is insanely addictive, and withdrawl symptoms can last more than one year of time.  Withdrawl symtoms causing lethargy that could affect a person's ability to remain employed.

lcatsimanes
lcatsimanes

@sunfla Good for you. You are the poster child for harm reduction treatment within opiate addiction. Tamp down your danger, ramp up your healing. Stay out. GO!!!

SubSux
SubSux

Get off them fast!  Take as low of dosage as possible and continue to taper.  If not, be prepared for a long road ahead.  If you like the effect from them, welcome to the club.  Many of us did, but it will soon be stealing your soul, and all the enjoyment of your life.  You will enter into a state of never ending apathy.   Considered yourself warned.  I know, I have been on them for more than four years.  Worse mistake of my life.

dgnboy2
dgnboy2

Methadone was being used long before HIV was even thought of. As far as "Not Performing " while on methadone? I went to college and became a Registered Nurse, successfully passed my state board exam and have maintained a clean record with the blessing of the State Board of Nursing.

SubSux
SubSux

Wrong.  But nice try.

rudedawg
rudedawg

To lamundson379;

I'm in a similar situation in Phx.

To get to the point,I have two bro's hooked on dope as well as myself. Idk how, but if I can help I would love to.

She's way too young and it's a travesty....:-(

Stay in touch

deafmichelle33
deafmichelle33

Hello ? This is Michelle . I would like To talk w a person tell me how and where can I get help ? I need help to WD the oxy . Would like try to use suboxone . I'm more of private person . Too shy be in social or anyone to know me . :)

thommyberlin1
thommyberlin1

@jonathansardinhaa Yeah... about as much as this bullshit requires lol -last night I was in a treatment facility talking to guys trying to get off the shit and in a hospital room with a friend who has been hallucinating for two days thanks to Dr.s who know NOTHING about addicts. Where were you?

lnmd93
lnmd93

@dgnboy2 I am sure that methadone works very well when used correctly.  I did not mean to imply that all people on methadone could not function.  I was responding more to the negative connotations given Suboxone.  It has been my experience that often people are overmedicated with methadone.  It is difficult to overmedicate on Suboxone because of the naloxone component.  I have seen people recover on both.  Each one serves its purpose in the proper setting.  Congratulations on your recovery!!

lamundson379
lamundson379

@rudedawg im so sorry I didn't there was a reply but thank you so much. I didn't relize i signed up on this site.....shes still on dope and i would do anything if i could to help her what part of phx ?

lnmd93
lnmd93

@jonathansardinhaa @thommyberlin1 This is why they were designed.  They weren't designed to be abused or to substitute for the same affect that opiates create.  The goal is to wean off of them and to stay clean.

 
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