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Am I Trading One Addiction For Another?

Updated: Dec 4, 2018

There is a common misconception out there that being on medication-assisted treatment such as Suboxone is just trading one addiction for another. This is not only incorrect but just serves to reinforce the negative stigma surrounding those suffering from opioid use disorder. Addiction has a very specific definition and in basic terms refers to persistent use of a substance despite harmful consequences. In fact, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) which is the guide used by medical professionals in the United States and across the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders such as substance abuse there are several criteria one has to meet in order to be diagnosed with any substance use disorder. One must display 2 of the following 11 symptoms within a 12-month period:

  1. Substance is often taken in larger amounts and/or over a longer period than the patient intended.

  2. Persistent attempts or one or more unsuccessful efforts made to cut down or control substance use.

  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from effects.

  4. Craving or strong desire or urge to use the substance.

  5. Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.

  6. Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problem caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance.

  7. Important social, occupational or recreational activities given up or reduced because of substance use.

  8. Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.

  9. Substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.

  10. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: (a) Markedly increased amounts of the substance in order to achieve intoxication or desired effect; (b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount;

  11. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: (a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance; (b) The same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms;

Heroin addiction

So while you do become physically dependent to Suboxone you are not addicted to it since most individuals can go back to leading normal productive lives while on this medication and maintain a job and healthy family relationships which was not possible before. So I would argue that NO you are not trading one addiction for another. If you want to get technical you could argue that you are trading one physical dependence for another but are no longer engaging in the harmful behaviors to attain this. I always compare opioid use disorder to any other chronic medical condition like diabetes or high blood pressure which requires daily medication to control. Yes, its unfortunate that you have to take meds possibly for the rest of your life but taking Suboxone is no different than needing to take insulin to control your diabetes and should not be viewed any differently.

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