Does Being on Suboxone Mean a Person Is Clean?

Does being on suboxone mean you’re clean?

Almost everyone seems to have an opinion when it comes to the drug crisis. It’s a major societal issue that’s been around for over 20 years and shows no signs of stopping or slowing down. Tons of people have their own opinions about the best ways to get clean, how to stay clean, whether or not a person is an addict for the rest of their life, or if medications are the best way for a person to attack their recovery process.

Fights and arguments have ensued all over social media where keyboard warriors attempt to assert their opinions as “fact” and anyone who disagrees with them is simply just in agreement with people being addicts. While all this has been going on, miracle cures, silver bullets, and bogus nutritional products have been out there to sell the idea of an easily attained sober life with minimal effort or work needed and a plethora of treatment centers and detoxes to back up those claims.

One of the biggest arguments I’ve seen is whether or not a person on medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, should be considered sober, so I wanted to take a moment to examine both sides of this fight.

I firmly believe that people do need a way to get sober and that no one really has the right to condemn another person for engaging in something that’s helping them rather than jeopardizing their own survival. That being said, medication-assisted treatment involves a person taking a replacement drug for the drug they’re currently abusing. Often Suboxone or methadone are used to get people off of opioids. Rather than taking heroin or pills, they replace the drug with a partial opiate to handle cravings and withdrawal symptoms. In addition to the drug, the person is recommended to go into treatment to hopefully figure out their issues. Unfortunately, many people skip treatment and just take the replacement drug hoping it will give them a chance at sobriety. But the question remains, is this person sober? They are still on a drug and if they stop taking it, they will experience opioid withdrawal symptoms on top of the return of cravings and the increased possibility of a relapse.

Many argue that being on MAT drugs is better than whatever the person was originally abusing. The counter-argument is that both are considered painkillers and narcotics, so there’s really no difference.

The flip side of this argument is that a person on MAT isn’t sober. They’re still on drugs and haven’t handled the actual issues that are forcing their addiction forward. They’ve simply replaced one drug with another and spun their wheels, so to speak.

I personally don’t think a person is wrong for taking methadone or Suboxone. I think it’s more of a failure of the “system” that so many addicts have gotten onto it as the first course of action, rather than trying a drug-free approach first, or even worse, if this is offered as the only course of action. I would never consider an addict a failure for getting onto these drugs and, furthermore, I don’t think anyone else has the right to judge someone else’s attempts to get sober. Getting sober is one of the hardest things imaginable and an addict being criticized for their brave attempts to live a decent life can throw them right back into the consoling arms of drugs.

I want to see everyone who attempts sobriety to be successful and have a life beyond their wildest dreams. I don’t think anyone out there has the right to come down on someone based on the approach they use to get there. I think the online arguments in social media groups is pointless because, at the end of the day, someone feels like they’re right and someone feels like they’re wrong. All that’s important is that they fix their lives.

The rest is just noise.


Jason Good

Jason has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 10 years. Having been an addict himself he brings real-word experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Jason is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions. Jason is also the co-host of The Addiction Podcast—Point of No Return. You can follow Jason on Google+, Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.