Maintenance drugs are medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, suboxone, and other “less-addictive” drugs that serve as a replacement to the more addictive opioid drugs that addicted individuals are trying to detox from. For example, a person addicted to heroin may replace it with buprenorphine in order to “wean-off” of the heroin with less harsh withdrawal symptoms. Maintenance drugs are still considered opioids, but they do not have the same addictive qualities that other opioids have. For this reason, these medications are typically used in the detoxification stage of the addiction recovery process.
While maintenance drugs can be viewed as positive since they help addicts come off of their opioid drugs, they may actually be robbing people of their long-term sobriety. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Because maintenance medications are themselves opioids and are able to produce euphoria in people who are not dependent on opioids, many people have assumed that this form of treatment just substitutes a new addiction for an old one.” So, do maintenance drugs just replace the addict’s previous addiction with a newer “less serious” addiction?
An article from The Huffington Post by Jason Wahler explains the discussion of maintenance drugs when figuring out how to maintain sobriety:
- “There’s nothing wrong with a short tapering and use of medications while an addict is detoxing and trying to get their sobriety legs back. However, maintenance and tapers are two different things. Short tapers can be beneficial and used on some clients during detox, as a way to minimize withdrawals symptoms and complications. Maintenance is used for someone who is unable to come off of those meds completely, and this would be for a very small portion of people in treatment.”
In other words, replacing opioids with “less dangerous” opioids does not solve the problem long-term. True sobriety and long-term recovery occur when no drugs are present in the individual’s system. While maintenance drugs may be used for short-term help to ease withdrawal symptoms, it is important to realize the detrimental effects they can have on the person’s chances for long-term recovery.
Why are maintenance drugs pushed on recovering drug addicts? One possible explanation is the nation’s pharmaceutical industry, which is encouraging people who are addicted to drugs to wean-off of them by purchasing another drug. Is this the right thing to do, or is “Big Pharma” pushing this idea for their own success? This process creates a cycle of drug use that is difficult to escape. Instead of pushing more drugs onto individuals trying to achieve long-term sobriety, we should be focusing on what we can do to make them drug-free and experience true sobriety and detoxification.
How Can We Fix It?
Instead of allowing our nation’s pharmaceutical company’s control what happens with America’s addicted individuals, we should start placing the emphasis on what is best for the addicts to succeed! This could mean enhancing our country’s addiction centers, treatment programs, and state-funded programs so that American addicts can receive the help they truly need to remain sober for the years to come. Once the country starts focusing on what the addicts actually need to maintain a successful recovery and less of what can benefit themselves, we may begin to see a change in how addiction is handled in the United States.
So instead, explore the various forms of treatment around you that do not involve taking more medication. Individual and family counseling, support groups, inpatient treatment programs, outpatient treatment programs, and holistic forms of recovery will help addicts achieve true long-term sobriety. If you or a loved one is suffering from drug abuse, it is important to get help from addiction professionals as soon as possible. For more sobriety help, call SAFE Prevention at 1-877-503-2608 to learn more about addiction prevention and treatment for your individual situation. Call SAFE Prevention today to get started on your journey to long-term recovery!