As many readers know, I maintain a forum for people who take buprenorphine for opioid dependence. The initial purpose of the forum was to serve as a source of accurate information about the new medication. Now, several years later, the forum is also a gathering place for people who share certain interests.
Studies have established a connection between opioid dependence and certain personality traits, including a tendency toward depression. In my conversations with people addicted to opioids, many describe an emptiness experienced throughout their lives. Opioids, prescribed or illicit, initially eased that emptiness, relieving the depression and for some even giving a sense, for the first time, that life was worth living.
I suspect that the emptiness experienced by people with borderline personality disorder is akin to the emptiness that some people find responsive to opioids. Over the years I’ve had many people write to me, independently, about a ‘hole’ they felt before taking pain pills. I suspect that the current studies of the antidepressant actions of buprenorphine are examining similar effects.
At any rate, because of notoriety from the forum, I receive many messages from people about Suboxone and buprenorphine. Many of the messages are heart-warming stories about the incredible changes in the writers’ lives since taking Suboxone. Others include questions about side effects such as constipation or decreases in sex drive, wondering if Suboxone is to blame and whether I know of a solution. Some are looking for specific research studies about buprenorphine and pregnancy, pain, or other conditions. For those of you with questions about Suboxone or a desire to socialize with others who use the medication, I invite you to visit. It’s free, by the way.
The response to Suboxone by the addiction-treating community has been somewhat surprising over the years since introduction of the medication. When I first set up SuboxForum, I was working as a health expert for a large website. Back then, I received messages almost daily from people who were angry about Suboxone. Many of the letters were openly hostile. Others expressed hope that the medication would have some horrible side effect that would force it from the market—something that thankfully has not occurred.
I wondered at the time why someone would have so much anger over a new medication for treating a condition that was killing hundreds if not thousands of people in our country each week. I suspected that the reason had to do with a perceived threat toward the employment of the writers i.e. fear that this new medication would actually work, and eliminate the need to send people to $70,000 treatment centers.
But could the truth really be so… so disgusting? Or was I being overly cynical?. I asked myself why else people would be so angry? Even in the halls of AA, people who relapse or who buy into the snake oil of some huckster, there is rarely anger toward either the huckster or the alcoholic. If anything, people simply shrug their shoulders and wish the person good luck.
But buprenorphine and Suboxone are not snake oil. I have been a doctor for 25 years, and I have never seen a medication that has so obviously saved so many people in such a short period of time. And yet the people who work in AODA treatment, who claim to want to ‘help the suffering addict,’ are angered by the substance.
I worked as Medical Director for an AODA treatment center in Oshkosh Wisconsin that is now one of the only treatment programs in the state that does not use Suboxone. The counselors there, who by all accounts care about their patients’ welfare, carry a huge blind spot for a medication with potential to save the lives of hundreds of their own patients. Such blind spots are impervious to the brightest lights, remaining even as graduates of their non-Suboxone program appear in obituaries.
I’m sorry that just as you are looking for closure, I must admit that you’ve been reading an introduction to my next post. In the next day or two, I am going to post a letter that I recently received from a reader of my blog about Suboxone. I invite people to read what the gentleman has to say, and when I have a chance, a couple days later, I will respond to his comments with my own thoughts about Suboxone. I will try to be nice, although it is difficult for me to be nice in response to a letter encouraging people to take actions that could end their lives. I’m sorry to keep readers on the hook for so long!.
You are free, of course, to add your own comments below; realize that I tend to remove comments that are ad hominem. Thank you, as always, for reading.
Photo by Luke Addison, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.