The Good and Bad of Drug Replacement Therapy

Posted On By Yossef Kader
doctor and patient speaking

Ever since the advent of drug replacement therapy, there has been controversy surrounding its effectiveness and its safety. Some proponents believe that offering alternative and prescribed medications to individuals who cannot stop using illicit substances is the best course of action in defending against drug overdoses and other tragedies, while those who oppose drug replacement therapy believe that exchanging one addiction for another is neither a wise nor viable solution.

What is Drug Replacement Therapy?

Drug replacement therapy is a form of substance abuse treatment where an individual, who is addicted to an illegal, or in some cases legal drug, is given a substitute medication in order to keep them from engaging in risky behavior.

One of the most common forms of drug replacement therapy is prescribing Suboxone to people who are addicted to opiates. In the past, before Suboxone was approved for usage, methadone was the preferred form of drug replacement therapy, but due to the dangers associated with methadone and the potential for abuse, it has fallen out of favor among addiction specialists.

The thought behind this type of therapy is that people who are addicted to drugs need the substance they are abusing in order to function normally within their lives. Proponents of this form of therapy look to the fact that many people find it difficult to stay sober for an extended period of time as the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes them to need the substance they are abusing. They believe that abstinence-only treatment does not actually provide the desired results and so they believe that medications like Suboxone, used as directed by a doctor, should be employed in the recovery process. This sometimes means long-term or lifelong drug therapy while others times it could only be temporary.

What Are the Positives of Drug Replacement Therapy?

While there is not a tremendous amount of research on the long-term effectiveness of this type of therapy, what proponents of it say is that it gives individuals who cannot stop using illicit substance a fighting chance at a normal life. For instance, a person who is hopelessly addicted to heroin will find it almost impossible to hold down a job, create a social or family life for themselves, or any of the other various activities we take for granted. But if that person were given a prescription to Suboxone or another alternative, they would be able to take a pill sublingually in the morning and then go about their day without cravings or the need to go buy drugs. This means that they would not have to involve themselves in antisocial behaviors or place themselves in positions of risk, but would rather just go about their day normally.

People who believe in this form of therapy also feel that by giving opiate addicts a prescription for a drug that can curb their cravings and satiate their need for opiates, they are saving them from possible legal trouble and from possibly overdosing on the street. With the growing concern over fentanyl-laced heroin in this country, this form of therapy is looking increasingly more practical for short-term substance abuse treatment. While it may not, in the long run, constitute an actual treatment or solution for drug addiction, it could at least temporarily slow down the epidemic of opioid overdoses we have seen in the past few years.

doctor and patient talking

What Are the Negatives of Drug Replacement Therapy?

One of the main concerns of people who oppose this form of treatment is that they believe that replacing one addiction for another does nothing but delay the inevitable relapse into illicit substance abuse. They feel that individuals who turn to Suboxone in order to find “recovery” eventually return to heroin or other opioids within the span of a few months to a few years. This has been shown in many cases, where an individual will go on Suboxone and do well for a little while before eventually, temptation gets the best of them and they return back to their substance of choice.

People who oppose this therapy also believe drug addiction cannot be solved through drugs, but rather can only be treated through abstinence-only programs. For over 80 years, abstinence-only treatment has been the preferred method for treating drug addiction, but over the past 20 years, the effectiveness of this sort of treatment has been called into question. Those who believe in abstinence-only treatment, say that an addict will be unable to get sober until they are ready, and this is the reason that recovery percentages are relatively low, while those who oppose abstinence-only treatment say that recovery percentage is low because it does not work.

What Does All of This Mean?

It is tough to truly take a stance on one side or the other because on the one hand, abstinence-only programs are really the only way to truly overcome your addiction, but on the other hand, does that mean that people who are not ready for such a step should be doomed to live the hardships of addiction?

So while drug replacement therapy probably does not offer a long-term solution for drug addiction, it can, at least in the short-term, offer some semblance of normality for the addict and possibly move them in the right direction towards complete abstinence. The important thing to remember in all of this is that if you are currently suffering from addiction, you should seek professional help. In this day and age, there is no reason that you should attempt to combat this illness on your own, and those who have professional training can help you overcome your addiction and find the life you’ve always wanted.  

In Need of Detox?

It can be intimidating to know that addiction and alcoholism are always right around the corner. Sometimes getting that little push and having medical guidance can be what it takes. Relapse and active addiction/alcoholism are only as preventable as much as we value the sobriety we hold in our hands. If you or a loved one has been struggling with getting a firm grasp on sobriety and need detoxification, please call 800-982-5530 or visit www.restoredetoxcenters.com. Our teams of specialists are waiting by to help figure out what options are best for sending your life is a comfortable direction that you can proudly stand behind.

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