Vaccine hesitancy and the anti-vaccine movement are excellent examples of the dangers of the widespread distrust of science.
Is there really a major problem with Suboxone misuse? Is Suboxone bad for you?
Unfortunately, as opioid overdoses continue to rise, we still confront the issue that many people have a distrust of Suboxone treatment. Opioid addiction has been a major problem for over a decade now.
With intense marketing pressure from opioid manufactures, followed by increased regulation of medical opioid prescribing and opioid dispensing, and now widespread availability of toxic fentanyl analogs on the streets, we have long been in the midst of a perfect storm that is the ongoing opioid epidemic. During the past 18 months, we have had the opportunity to see how the US, and the world, handle a viral pandemic, for comparison.
The end of the COVID-19 pandemic was expected to occur within months of a worldwide vaccine rollout. Disease control depends on the success of the COVID-19 vaccination effort in all countries.
We now see that having an incredibly effective coronavirus vaccine made available to all US citizens is not enough to resolve this public health crisis. The anti-vaccination movement, fueled by false conspiracy theory, has held back our ability to achieve herd immunity.
Life after Suboxone and Life after COVID-19.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the pandemic would just go away? We would all love to return to normal life, the way it was before COVID-19 happened.
Our first problem was that there was no COVID-19 vaccine. Then, when we had the covid vaccine, there was inadequate supply and distribution.
Now, our greatest enemy is misinformation about vaccines, such as the Pfizer and Moderna MRNA vaccines. The same could be said for medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder.
There are Suboxone, Subutex, ZubSolv, Bunavail, Sublocade, and Brixadi. I use the name “Suboxone” to refer to all of them because it has become a household name for the category.
I remember visiting a sober living home to meet the owner and program director. My friend who was to introduce me had warned me ahead of time not to mention Suboxone.
He told me that the people who run the sober home do not believe in taking Suboxone. Their concern was that they believed Suboxone could get you high and get you addicted.
I’ll never forget when the director looked me in the eye and stated with all seriousness, “Suboxone is only to be used short-term, never long-term. It is only for detox.” He was not a doctor and had no medical training. His opinion was not based on scientific evidence at all, only on his own distrust of a highly effective medical treatment.
Suboxone vs Kratom
If there is one thing that reminds me of coronavirus vaccine misinformation more than anything, it is the push for people to use the plant-based drug, Kratom, instead of Suboxone. Kratom is a dangerous opioid-like substance that has flourished in popularity due to a general distrust of Suboxone and a distrust of doctors.
Does Kratom have any medical usefulness at all? Some people claim that it can be used for pain management and opioid addiction treatment.
In my clinical experience, it is not good for anything. I have only seen Kratom users quickly build tolerance to the point that they take more and more to get the same effect. I have also seen Kratom trigger cravings that have led to opioid relapses and even overdoses.
Why look for help from a substance that is not approved for medical use when we already have an FDA-approved drug with a proven track record? The anti-Suboxone sentiment is very similar to the anti-vaccine sentiment.
Vaccine opponents range from people who think Bill Gates put a microscopic tracking chip in the vaccines to vaccine opposition because people demand their right to choose what they put in their body.
COVID-19 is now largely a vaccine preventable disease. And, similarly, opioid addiction is largely a Suboxone treatable disease.
On social media, misinformation spreads quickly. Anti-vax claims include claims by a doctor who insists that people who get the vaccine are in danger of serious health consequences.
This particular doctor is basing these false claims on outdated science from older vaccines for other viral illnesses. Using partial truths in an argument is an effective way to convince people that their conspiracy theory is real.
The same goes for anti-Suboxone claims. The Suboxone opponents point to the fact that Suboxone is classified as an opioid.
They say that doctors are making their patients trade one addiction for another. Just like an anti-vaccine activist, an anti-Suboxone activist will tell anyone who will listen that Suboxone is like legal heroin.
The fact is that Suboxone contains the drug buprenorphine, which is a unique drug. While it is classified as an opioid, it works differently from other opioids.
Suboxone does not keep opioid addicted patients addicted to opioids. It helps to break the cycle of addiction and allows the brain, and the person, to heal.
Imagine how you feel when you see an anti-vaccine group in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, publishing vaccine information. You start to imagine that the end of the world and humanity is near, because of people who are in denial of science and common sense.
Infectious disease specialists and vaccine scientists have been completely transparent. When they tell us about adverse reactions that do occur, they are being honest and straightforward with the public.
Hearing an individual, cherry picked story that supports a particular argument should not be convincing over carefully collected and studied data. Yes, there are breakthrough infections and some adverse reactions to vaccines.
Real medications that work always carry the risk of side effects. Suboxone also has side effects.
Most patients do not have a problem with Suboxone side effects, but they do occur. In most cases, the uncommon side effects are manageable.
Yet, like the anti-vaccine activist trying to scare the vaccinated person, there are anti-Suboxone activists who try to scare the Suboxone patient with stories. In addition to focusing on overblown stories about Suboxone being addicting and abused on the streets, which is generally not a problem for patients, they also like to tell stories about how people were able to kick the opioid habit without Suboxone.
Of course there are people who quit drugs without help from medical treatment. There are also musicians who become rock stars, body builders who become blockbuster action movie stars, and kids who play sports who go straight to the big leagues.
For every person with the combination of perseverance and luck, there are many more who were not so lucky. There are also people who do not get sick from COVID, and then there are the many who get sick who suffer from long-term serious symptoms and consequences.
Suboxone has a proven high success rate. Patients who take it do very well. They do not have cravings or withdrawal sickness during treatment.
Over time, the brain heals, and eventually, they can complete treatment when they are ready to do so. Just like COVID is a vaccine preventable disease, opioid overdose is a Suboxone preventable consequence of opioid addiction.
Should we force people to get the COVID-19 vaccination with compulsory vaccination?
In the world of anti-vaccination activism, one of the greatest fears is forced vaccination through a vaccine mandate and the requirement of vaccine passports. Yet, we already have required immunization for children to go to school.
For example, there is the MMR vaccine, one of the required childhood vaccines. While there are still anti-vax claims of the dangers of common vaccines, such as the development of autism, scientific study does not support this risk.
A high vaccination rate in the past through mandatory vaccination has been effective in eradicating disease. The smallpox vaccine helped to end smallpox.
On the other hand, when people do not get required vaccines for their children, there are breakthrough mumps cases and measles cases. Not every disease is ended so easily, but with enforced vaccination, we can prevent things such as another measles outbreak.
It is possible to return to a normal life where the only thing we have to worry about from COVID-19 is regular vaccine boosters when needed. We are already used to this with the flu vaccine.
What does all of this have to do with Suboxone?
People have an obsession with Suboxone abuse and Suboxone problems. They want you and your loved ones to worry about the dangers of medication-assisted treatment.
Can Suboxone get you high? It generally does not have any euphoric effects when taken by opioid dependent patients. Even Suboxone sold on the streets is generally used by people trying to quit opioids, not to get high.
While we must work to prevent this sort of diversion, it is somewhat reminiscent of the vaccine shedding effect of the polio vaccine that tends to provide some protection to the unvaccinated in communities. Of course, the best solution would be to make comprehensive treatment more available, so people would have no need to go anywhere besides a proper Suboxone clinic and Suboxone doctor for opioid addiction treatment.
Just like the COVID vaccines focus on the spike protein to protect patients, Suboxone focuses on the opioid receptors, the target of dangerous opioids such as street fentanyl. It both blocks and partially activates these receptors.
People who get Suboxone treatment are able to function normally in society.
They go to work, they live at home and care for their families. In fact, they are capable of achieving great success in life while still in treatment.
Just like we do not want the message of organizations, such as the anti-vaccination league, to misinform people, we also do not want the message from organizations against medication-assisted treatment to misinform. Narcotics Anonymous is a worldwide organization that does excellent work in helping people to recover from addiction. Unfortunately, they also have an anti-Suboxone position that puts them on the other side of science.
While they have a right to their opinion, they are also a large group with worldwide influence and authority. People listen when they publish literature. They have a responsibility to respect the science regarding the overwhelming success of Suboxone treatment in saving lives.
Additionally, it is important for Suboxone providers to be confident in letting their patients know that taking Suboxone is the right thing to do when they are just coming off heroin, fentanyl, or illicit pain pills. Life after Suboxone is possible, and it is possible to detox off Suboxone, but it must not be done too soon.
Suboxone treatment centers must confidently recommend that their clients stay in treatment long-term. When administered properly, Suboxone treatment is highly effective in preventing overdoses and helping people to return to a productive life.
Are you thinking about Suboxone treatment for yourself or a loved one?
I speak to people regularly who are now planning to finally get their COVID-19 vaccine. They have overcome the vaccine hesitancy, and they are ready to make the appointment and get it done.
When I hear this, I am happy that they are finally making the right decision. And, I wish that they had made that decision sooner in order to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.
Likewise, when I hear that someone has decided to finally stop taking opioids, and not try dangerous street solutions such as Kratom, and they are ready to meet with a Suboxone doctor, I am happy to hear the good news. Yet, like the late vaccine converts, I wish that they had not put off the decision for so long.
Getting high on Suboxone is not a concern with medication-assisted treatment. It is generally not a problem with treatment.
Overdosing on opioids while being indecisive about treatment is a big problem. Many overdoses might have been prevented if the person who overdosed was confident in the success of Suboxone treatment.
It is important that doctors and scientists be straightforward and transparent about any possible adverse effects and potential dangers of medical treatment. It is also important that we control misinformation that can lead to tragic, preventable deaths that could have been prevented with readily available and effective treatment.