Suboxone and AA: The Clash of the Clans
Maybe you’ve tried to get clean. You did detox, 14 days of treatment, then within two weeks of being home you relapsed. This time you’re serious about getting clean, and that’s why you’ve opted to take Suboxone, an FDA approved prescription medication used to help treat opiate addiction. You’re also very interested in attending 12 step meetings, but you hear that if you’re on Suboxone, you’re not welcomed there.
First, that’s wrong. The only thing you need to attend any 12 step program, whether AA, NA, or another branch, is a desire to get sober. And if you’re on Suboxone and participating in a medication assisted treatment program, it’s obvious you have that desire.
A Well-Meaning Mistake
Although AA and the 12-step programs have not come forward with an official stance on MAT programs including Suboxone, Vivitral, and methadone, most people assume they know the group’s philosophy: MAT is not sobriety and therefore if you’re taking it, you’re not in recovery.
Members have no trouble spouting sayings: “You’re substituting one drug for another,” “You’re not clean and sober if you’re taking a narcotic prescribed by your doctor,” and “You just need to bear through it.” And this has become the standing point for AA and other 12 step groups. If you’re ready to get sober, but don’t know where to start, call 800-533-1341 (Who Answers?) . You’ll talk to someone and get immediate help.
Yet, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) supports MAT and 12 step meetings. Medications such as Suboxone and methadone in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have proven to be successful through evidenced based research.
While there are still people who abuse the system, successes are measured and there is a reduction in IV drug use, over doses, criminal behavior, and death rate and a vast improvement in individual functioning. How is that not a success?
So what’s AA’s official stance? That you should follow your doctor’s orders. And if your doctor prescribes you Suboxone or another MAT approved drug, and you take it as prescribed and stay involved in drug and alcohol treatment, you are sober. You are in recovery, even according to AA.
A Personalized Treatment Plan
Most addiction professionals and “old timers” in the 12 step rooms will tell you to just keep your medically assisted treatment to yourself, and still attend meetings. Sort of a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell situation. It’s up to you, as keeping secrets is a slippery slope, especially when it comes to addiction. It’s sad that two different programs, both of which want you to succeed in sobriety, are in constant turmoil.
What should you do? Whatever it is that will work best for you. For some that’s MAT alone. For other’s it’s the rooms. And for many, it will be a combination of the two. And that’s okay. Anyone who criticizes you for trying whatever you have to do to get sober, obviously isn’t worth your time.
Do what you need to do, whether that means staying quite in meetings when Suboxone or methadone topics come up, or standing your ground during a meeting and explaining your position. Do what you need to do. It’s your recovery, and you need to make your own path to get there.