People using methadone or Suboxone as directed for the treatment of an opiate addiction are not drug addicts, although they still physically dependent on opiates.
To understand the difference it is important to understand the difference between Physical Dependence and Addiction.
The body naturally adapts (physical changes occur) to the use of certain drugs and medications, and the sudden cessation of use of such medications can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
Opiates cause physical dependence and so the use of medications like methadone and Suboxone will result in a state of physical dependence and upon cessation of use, a period of drug specific withdrawal symptoms.
Other medications that produce physical dependence include certain anti depressants, anti anxiety medications, beta blockers for high blood pressure and others.
Although someone using beta blockers to control high blood pressure would experience withdrawal symptoms upon the sudden cessation of use, you would hardly call a person using such a medication on a daily basis a drug addict!
The American Academy of Addiction Medicine considers addiction to be a chronic condition that is characterized by behaviors such as a loss of control over the use of drugs or alcohol, using drugs or alcohol compulsively, craving the substance and using this substance despite obvious harms from its use. 1
A person using methadone or Suboxone as prescribed will take just enough of their medication each day to feel normal, not high. They will not lose control over their use, not use their medication compulsively, not crave their medication and experience benefits, not harms, from their use. By all measures, the use of methadone or Suboxone as an addiction treatment does not equate to an addiction.
Break Free from Addiction with Methadone or Suboxone
Although while using methadone or Suboxone you will remain physically dependant on opiates, by switching from opiates of abuse (heroin OxyContin, etc.) to methadone or Suboxone you end your compulsive use of opiates and all the harms that are associated with such a loss of control.
Methadone and Suboxone aren’t perfect medications, and if you decide to stop using these drugs you do need face a period of opiate withdrawals, but once stabilized on wither of these medications you’ll no longer get high each day and you’ll no longer feel a desperation to use or to get the money you need to use. Once stabilized on methadone or Suboxone, you’ve broken free from addiction and from there you’ve got an excellent chance to get your life back on the right track. 2
Page last updated Sep 19, 2010