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Is There an Advantage to Withdrawal?

  • anonymous Asks ...

    Is there any advantage to suffering during detox? For example, to going cold turkey instead of Suboxone. I feel like if a man does not have to feel pain when stopping then there is not much stopping him from going back to use again, since he knows he can always quit any time he wants to so easily.

  • Anna Deeds Says ...
    Anna Deeds

    Thank you for your question. I think the answer to your question depends on the person and the situation. A lot of addicts are afraid of withdrawal. This fear can keep some people from relapsing. But people have a tendency to forget the intensity of pain over time. Most memories fade and the emotions that are attached to those memories fade as well. Over time, the addict's memory of how bad the withdrawal was can fade and so their fear of it fades. Plus, addicts are masters of denial. Addicts who relapse often tell themselves things like, "I'll only use (drug of choice) once" or "I won't let it get out of control." This kind of addictive thinking overrides the fear of withdrawal because they tell themselves they won't let it get to that point. They are in denial about their ability to control their use of drugs.

    I do agree that complete abstinence is preferable to Suboxone (or methadone) treatment. I don't think Suboxone or methadone are the quick fix that many addicts take them for. They are actually more of a long term treatment since it takes so long to get off them. Complete abstinence has many advantages over medication assisted treatment. Abstinence feels better physically and psychologically. But there are many addicts who try and fail at abstinence over and over. I believe these are the people who benefit most from Suboxone or methadone. I think it should only be for people who have tried rehab and Narcotics Anonymous repeatedly and have not been able to sustain abstinence. 

    I do recommend that people on Suboxone or methadone who want to achieve abstinence, detox slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms. The reason is that withdrawal leads them to relapse. It's an instinct for addicts to try to avoid withdrawal. This is another reason why I don't think feeling withdrawal will prevent relapse. I have found that it actually causes relapse. Most addicts are not able to tolerate withdrawal without relapsing. They need almost constant support to get through the withdrawal without relapsing. It is so easy for the addict to start thinking things like, "I can't take this" and "If I just do a little, I'll feel better." This is where rehab or Narcotics Anonymous can carry the addict through and keep their thoughts on track.

    While your theory that the fear of withdrawal can prevent relapse might be true for some addicts, I don't think it works for everyone. Plus, the addict has to get through the withdrawal without relapsing for it to work. If the addict has nearly constant support through their initial withdrawal and continuing support for protracted withdrawal, consciously remembering withdrawal (and other consequences) can be one tool to avoiding relapse though.

    I hope this answers your question.