Can Suboxone help while I wait for more intensive treatment?

Many people think about treatment alternatives in a linear fashion.  Start in the most intensive program that you can afford (or in which you can find a spot) and then find less intensive treatment alternatives as your recovery stabilizes.   Recent research calls this idea into question by finding that its much better to quickly start a Suboxone prescription (or other buprenorphine based medications) while patients wait for more intensive opioid addiction treatment options.  

In letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, December 22, 2016, Sigmon et al, report that patients given Suboxone while they wait for comprehensive treatment are much more likely to stay off illicit opioids than are patients who try to abstain without the assistance of Suboxone.

For the study, the authors employed a few technology ideas, including a gadget that electronically dispensed dosing of buprenorphine as well as an automated voice-response telephone system to assess patient status.  Patients were required to show up every two weeks for urine specimens.

In some ways, its not much of a surprise that patients prescribed Suboxone faired vastly better than those that were not.  It is the rare opioid addict that can quit cold-turkey.  The conclusion that is most surprising to me, however, is that there was only a 20% recurrence rate for those prescribed Suboxone.  That means that 8 out of 10 stopped taking illicit opioids for the entire time they were waiting on a comprehensive treatment solution.

In an earlier blog post, we discuss that patients pursue different levels of treatment intensity at different times during their recovery.  This piece or research illustrates that sometimes it works well to start with less intensity while you wait for more comprehensive treatment.  

For more information on the study, please click on the "source" button below.  Feel free to leave comments, questions or suggestions below.