There are still major barriers to receiving Suboxone treatment, despite it being the recommended treatment for opioid addiction.
We break down simple strategies to help you get the evidence-based treatment you deserve.
Barrier 1: No doctors near you prescribe Suboxone, or no doctors are taking new patients.
Strategy: Be vocal.
Does it suck that you have to speak up about lack of treatment options, when you’re already suffering from an already stigmatized disease? Absolutely. But here’s the thing – no one, NO ONE, can advocate for your health better than you can. Contact medical organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine and tell them about the experience in your area. Talk to your primary care doc about getting the waiver required in order to prescribe Suboxone, and other drugs like it.
Advocacy is uncomfortable at first, especially if you’ve been hiding your addiction from everyone. But advocacy can become an important part of your recovery, as you aren’t the only one in your area struggling and it can become about a solution for more than just you. At Workit Health, the one thing we’ve learned is that no one is going to build the world we want to live in, except for us. When Robin and Lisa, our two co-founders, saw a gap in addiction treatment, they built a new addiction treatment company. Now we’re treating people from all over the state of Michigan who couldn’t receive care otherwise.
Strategy: Turn to telehealth.
Especially in more rural areas, telehealth treatment, or seeing your provider via online videoconference after your first visit, works when you lack local treatment options. If you need to travel out of your area for treatment, ask if the doctor will be able to continue your care from home via telehealth.
Barrier 2: Pharmacies don’t carry any type of buprenorphine (Suboxone).
Strategy: Get known at a local pharmacy.
You’ve found a doctor, and gotten a prescription. But now, local pharmacies are all saying they don’t carry any type of buprenophine. Say whaaaat?
The simplest strategy here is to head into your local pharmacy, introduce yourself, and let the pharmacist know that you’ll be needing this medication. Ask them if they can begin carrying it for you. They’ll let you know if this works for them or not. If they’re able to carry it for you, sing their praises! Others in your area are probably struggling to find pharmacies that carry buprenorphine, in Facebook groups and on message boards. You've found one, so let it be known.
Barrier 3: Your 12-step group is telling you that you aren’t clean.
Strategy: Change the group by staying, or get outta there.
The good thing about 12-step groups? They’re donation-based, and in many places, there are many to choose from. The bad thing? In some circles, stigma against medication is still strong. Your actions here depend on your situation. If you love your group and aren’t bothered by the heckling, don’t make your medication a big deal, but be a voice of reason for new folks who come in on medication. In this way, you can quietly begin to change the group’s culture. Your own sanity, health, happiness and sobriety need to be placed way ahead of trying to change the culture of 12-step groups, however, and if the lack of acceptance bothers you, it’s time to find a new group. If there isn’t a large selection of groups in your area, consider starting your own that is more in line with your values. If you’re not feeling accepted, chances are that others in your area are also feeling ostracized. There's a new group making waves called Medication-Assisted Recovery Anonymous. Why not start the first MARA meeting in your area?
Barrier 4: Your family is concerned that you haven’t quit entirely.
Strategy: Education, and communication.
Education, while maybe a waste of time on the 12-step crew already set in their ways, can be a key factor when seeking your family’s support for medication-assisted treatment. Evidence shows that those using medication to recover from opiate addiction have better chances of success, and it is now considered the gold-standard of treatment. Don’t have the patience to explain all this to the fam yourself? Consider downloading some stats from the internet, and leave them strategically where they can be read with morning coffee. Then, sit down for a conversation about your family’s concerns. Fear usually comes from a lack of understanding. Explain how medication works for you, and they should come onboard.