There are plenty of topics that are difficult to discuss. You get asked how somebody looks in a new outfit: should you speak your mind, no matter what? Is global warming real? Do I want to join this Internet discussion of religion? How do I avoid the political debate at the Thanksgiving Dinner table?
In the treatment and recovery communities, there is a topic that seems to be a real minefield–medication-assisted recovery. Utilizing drugs like methadone and Suboxone, medication-assisted recovery is based on the idea that managing cravings and avoiding withdrawal are a valuable tool for opioid drug addicts. Combined with talk therapy and peer support, these medications may allow many to return to a more stable existence, meeting the requirements of responsible daily life.
This approach is often criticized in traditional Twelve Step recovery programs. A common view is that continuing dependence is not real recovery. There is a danger for some addicts that they will not adhere to the protocols involved in medication-assisted treatment, and may ingest other drugs simultaneously. Some individuals may be less likely to address underlying trauma, if they are using these medications.
On the other hand, there are statistics that show a 50% decline in opioid-related deaths, in addict populations that are prescribed these medications as part of a treatment protocol. For a significant number of chronic opioid users, methadone and Suboxone protocols have allowed them to focus on social, family, and economic problems that have led to relapse during previous recovery attempts. There are Medication-Assisted Recovery Meetings (MARA) in some larger cities.
Is it time for the treatment profession and the recovery community to recognize the value of medication-assisted recovery? The traditions of recovery are well established, and based on common sense—but is the recovery experience exactly the same for everyone? The conversation needs to begin, if the goal is to help as many suffering addicts as we can.