Life on Suboxone: Not as Pretty as the Brochures Make You Think

A crumpled wrapper for Suboxone film.
A wrapper for Suboxone film.

If you’re involved at all in recovery from addiction, you’ve heard of Suboxone. It’s a drug used in the treatment of addiction to opioids. It contains an opioid stronger than heroin that prevents a person from going into withdrawal—instead of a patient shooting heroin, they are maintained on a dosage of Suboxone’s opioid, buprenorphine. The second ingredient is naloxone which is included to prevent a person from trying to abuse this drug to get high. It’s a controversial drug, both in drug rehabilitation circles and among those who have received it.

Narconon International recently published an article focusing on Suboxone and it has excited much debate related to Suboxone, methadone, addiction and recovery. When this article was posted to Facebook, it was shared nearly two thousand times and has received nearly one thousand comments.

From all these comments, one thing is certain: Experiences with this drug vary. But so do experiences being prescribed methadone, using heroin or withdrawing from any of these drugs.

The pharmaceutical companies will, of course, paint a positive picture of treatment with Suboxone. If you go to a doctor to be prescribed this drug, he may not know any more than what the pharmaceutical reps have told him. We scrolled through some of the observations our Facebook commenters provided to get the patients’ side of the story of Suboxone use. Here’s what some of them told us. (Comments have been minimally edited for grammar and spelling. We have omitted their names to protect their privacy.)

  • I’m trying to get off Suboxone right now. The depression is horrible. I regret this s***. Getting off everything else was easy. I was never on heroin, only oxys and Xanax. I got off myself after a twenty-year addiction. I regret starting Suboxone.
A man suffers from withdrawal sickness.
(Photo by igorstovanovic/
  • I’ve tried to get off Suboxone—it’s nearly impossible. I hate being like this and yes, I know I’m a slave to this chemical/opiates. After a solid week of hellish withdrawal, I caved in and got back on Subs. I had no idea what bad shape my body was in and how addicted I was until I quit. I was told I wouldn’t feel better for quite a time as the withdrawal can last forty days. Do you hear me? Forty full days. Makes you feel like you are literally dying without it.
  • Worse detox I ever had was coming off Suboxone, and I was a junkie for twelve years. It’s a joke to call this rehab, it’s switching one addiction for another.
  • To be honest, Suboxone ruined my life. My doctor had me prescribed for almost seven years. In those seven years, I relapsed at least once a year but most likely more. I knew that if I didn’t take a Sub for a few hours, I could sniff some dope. Suboxone was a crutch—a filler. One day (the last time), I said screw this I don’t want to do Subs or dope anymore! So I detoxed myself from everything. Detoxing from Suboxone is the WORST!! I was in and out of the hospital six times in two weeks for IV fluids and comfort meds like clonidine and muscle relaxers so I could sleep. For three and a half weeks, I didn’t move from my mother’s couch. Didn’t eat, barely slept… Long story short, Suboxone is the root of all evil. Eventually you WILL have to detox from them and I can tell you firsthand it won’t be easy.

Yes, Suboxone has its supporters. There are some people who feel that taking Suboxone is the only solution to the tortuous cravings they experience for opioids. And without a rehab that helps them recover from the harm done by addiction, they might be right—unless they find Narconon.

How Narconon Helps

Narconon helps those who are addicted to opioids or other drugs in four ways, each of them unique to Narconon drug rehabilitation centers.

1. A well-supported withdrawal: The withdrawal program for the individual is determined by the medical director. In some cases, such as high doses of Suboxone, or other instances, the medical director will recommend a medical detox to safely and swiftly taper the individual off the substances they are on so they can begin the Narconon drug-free withdrawal and start on their path to a truly drug-free future.

During the Narconon withdrawal process 24-hour care is provided to assist the individual to come off all drugs or alcohol as swiftly and comfortably as possible. Generous supplementation with vitamins and minerals helps calm many of the symptoms of withdrawal that are actually a result of nutritional deficiency. For example, muscle spasms will result from a deficiency of calcium and magnesium. Providing ample doses of calcium and magnesium in a form easily absorbed by the body helps reduce this discomfort. Special procedures called assists ease overall aches and help orient a person to their new surroundings, reducing anxiety. No replacement drugs are given on the Narconon program.

2. A deep, sauna-based detoxification: When withdrawal is complete and a person is eating and sleeping well, the next step is a sauna-based detox. Each person exercises to get his (or her) blood moving and follows a strict regimen of nutritional supplementation that helps the body detox more efficiently. He then spends time in a sauna, coming out to shower and cool off from time to time. This process aids the body’s ability to reach deep into fatty tissues and dislodge toxic residues left behind after drug use. Based on the changes experienced by our clients going through this process, those residues were affecting their outlooks on life and their success in rehabilitation. Once those residues are gone, many people say their cravings are lower and some even say they are gone.

3. Recovering from the trauma and pain of the past: The section of the Narconon program called objectives helps a person emerge from past upsets, negative experiences and pain that may have been crippling them for years. Gradually, they regain control of their lives, actions and even their thoughts. This results in a major improvement in their ability to make drug-free decisions.

Maddy is a graduate of the Narconon program.
Maddy is a graduate of the Narconon drug rehab program.

4. Life skills training: By this time, a person is more objective and capable of thinking clearly and now needs to freshen up his ability to cope with the changes and challenges of life. The life skills component of the Narconon program teaches them how to distinguish between a person with their best interests at heart and a person who’s alleged friendship would lead them back into addiction. They learn how to recover their own self-respect and find relief from guilt. And they learn how to solve the challenges that come up in everyday life, which also teaches them how to rebuild their relationships with family members.

This is true rehabilitation. It’s restoring a person to the condition they were in before drug use—or sometimes even better condition than that.

Now you understand why the Narconon program is drug free. We want families to understand that at Narconon rehab centers, there is another choice that doesn’t involve Suboxone or methadone maintenance. To learn more, call us at 1-888-391-7310 seven days a week.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.