Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Trapped on Suboxone: A Woman Who Can’t Say No.

My comrade-in-arms Jason Schwartz, who blogs at Addiction & Recovery News, has a good post today on harm reduction. I filed a comment on his post and was compelled to cross-post it here, in greater detail, just because I have to start sharing this information I’ve been collecting or I’m gonna burst.

A Suboxone film.

A Suboxone film.

I’ve been interviewing people who are part of the new state of American harm reduction: Oxy and Vike addicts who are “stabilized” on enormous doses of Suboxone. (If you’re part of this trend and want to share your story, please email me.)

Over the weekend I spoke to a woman who, for a 50-75mg/day Percocet habit, was prescribed 16mg Suboxone per day. She had emailed me in desperation for advice about how to quit. She’s been at this level for 7 years. She has gained 75 lbs. and has gone into menopause. She feels emotionally dead.

I can’t tell you how crazy it makes me when I hear 1) that doctors are “treating” a 75mg Percocet habit with 16mg buprenorphine (you don’t need to atom-bomb a small Oxy habit; this is how to quit); and 2) that harm reduction advocates think these prescribing practices improve people’s lives.

An ad for a Florida Suboxone doctor. Suboxone ads promising to "free" people from addiction crowd the back pages of city alternative weekly newspapers and are posted on signs across the hillsides of poor urban neighborhoods.

An ad for a Florida Suboxone doctor. Suboxone ads promising to “free” people from addiction crowd the back pages of city alternative weekly newspapers and are posted on signs across the hillsides of poor urban neighborhoods.

Here are her Suboxone doctor’s prescribing practices: she has a five-minute visit with him every two months—via Skype. (This is one of the “good” doctors—one of the ones who doesn’t charge exorbitant cash fees for twice-monthly visits.) And when she told her doctor she wanted to quit taking Suboxone, this physician told her that, if she wanted to quit , she would one day just “forget” to take it and then she would be done.

“I think he just doesn’t get it,” she said.

He’s never taken it, so he’s in this la-la land that people can come in with an addiction and take Suboxone, and boom—they’re cured.

She’s desperate to get off Suboxone, but she knows she can’t do it by herself. She looks back at her previous Percocet habit with longing and regret—withdrawal from that level would have been comparatively easy.

She recently had surgery, and the anesthesiologist and nurse told her that they’re seeing more and more OR patients on bup—it’s the new wave. … After her surgery she took 2 Percocet every 4-6 hours as directed, and within five days a devastating withdrawal descended upon her. She described it as a band of fire belted around her abdomen, along with all the other symptoms of withdrawal, magnified. She managed to abstain from Suboxone for almost two weeks, hoping she could stick it out—and it only got worse, despite taking 3-4 Percocet every 3 hours.

In the end she couldn’t hack it. Within half an hour of taking one strip, the belt of fire disappeared.

I told this woman that there are public health experts and media mouths who think she’s better off because she’s no longer doctor-shopping or significantly threatened with overdose. I asked, How would you respond to them?

“I’ve lost my freedom to choose,” she said.

I’ve lost my personality. I’m more quiet and withdrawn. I feel like part of me is dead. And I’m a slave to it. I have to have it. I’ve lost the ability to say no.

A woman caught in a system that doesn’t let her say no. Don’t we call that “rape,” or “coercion”?

Suboxone revenues, 2005-2011. A curve generally thought of as "exponential."

Suboxone revenues, 2005-2011. A curve generally thought of as “exponential.”

And, please, Jason, let’s talk about the money. Reckitt Benckiser pulled in $1.4 billion from Suboxone products in 2012. A Harvard researcher who is looking at American Suboxone prescribing and reimbursement tells me much of it is paid by Medicaid.

So, though my middle-class, employed, insured source gets her Suboxone through Cigna, and though her doctor does not accept Medicaid or other public assistance, taxpayers—you—are indeed underwriting a great deal of this system.

It’s mostly poor people who are trapped on this drug.

Reckitt and Titan (who is developing the implants—the ones recently rejected by the FDA for not delivering enough drug to to the patient) see Oxy and Vike junkies, along with heroin addicts, as a deep mine of insurance and taxpayer revenue, just as Purdue saw pain patients—potential OxyContin buyers—10 years ago.

And, finally, let’s talk about how “people can’t abuse Suboxone.”


A melted Suboxone film, ready for injection.


People can and do abuse Suboxone.


  1. Thanks for the mention. Great post!

  2. I’m addicted to snorting the liquefied film strips. It is (ab)usable, Until you don’t feel high and just kind of feel dead inside.

  3. Wow – is all I can say with each horrific and sad story. I am beginning to think the use of this drug has become criminal at best. Steal someones life – isn’t that a felony? My doctor gets mad each time I question his idea that I need to be on this therapy for a year. He cut me down from 16 mg a day to 12 mg. Little does he know that I am down at 8 mg every 24-36 hours. I’ve never lived in the confines of normalcy including day/work night/sleep. Hell I write at night and love being up during the day so my schedule seems to fit a 36 hour day more appropriately. So guess what I am an individual that is not fitting into their conceived regiment of what they think a day in life should be. I am livid that everyone across the board is treated the same. My addiction was the result of medical habituation afters years of surgeries. I am not the person they think every addict must be – prior to treatment. I wish I could go back to that first day and had the knowledge I do today. I would have run to a center that does not use Suboxone. I told my doctor that I am looking for a doctor closer to home. He is a 60 mile drive each way. In the beginning he would have been crushed because I believed his every utterance. I think my arguing and questioning him has finally sunk home – I’m getting off this bullshit now. He has given up on ruling me and did not argue – in fact he helped me to locate a doctor closer to me. The doctors that tell me they’re the experts are coming close to me grabbing them by the neck and stating the obvious. I’m the fucking expert – I’m the idiot that is on this crap. Do not tell me what a book could never tell you. So girl don’t give up – 5 10/mg percocet a day. I took 5 at a time 4-5 times a day. They were crazy to treat you in that manner. 7 years – dear God what are they thinking? Even at my level 7-14 days of real discomfort and the physical end of it would be over. God how I pray for you – call Addiction Centers of America. They are detoxing people from suboxone. If I am not successful within the next 30 days I am going in myself. I have been on this crap for 17 weeks. Seems like 7 years would be forever. Don’t give up – a lot of people behind us need right direction – we need to help give them better direction and guidance. SIMPLY BLACK

  4. Guinevere – I appreciate you and this site more than you could know. It is where insanity and sanity meet. Hopefully the later takes over completely. I blogged yesterday that against my sub doctors advice or knowledge I have been cutting down on my own. 6 weeks @ 8 mg and today starts 6 weeks @ 4 mg. Can’t wait til I jump completely. Don’t think I can handle another full scale attack and severe with-drawl so this is how I must do it. Once down to 2 mg I am hoping to jump after 6 weeks of that. September come I be done. This years holidays I will be the person I can best be and drug free. Sleeping well and have gained back the 90 lbs I lost throughout the addiction to pers’s vic’s ms contin anything pain killing I took and took and took. I feel much better today – in physical therapy each day building up back, hip and leg muscles. I even thought I would try yet again to quit smoking. I will blog again at next drop down to 2 mg. God Bless! Simply Black

  5. I am struggling on subutex now for 2 years after a petty codeine addiction. I should have never been put on this drug. I am looking for support to detox off of this. I tried once but the depression and panic attacks were unbearable. Please help!!
    Warmly, gloria

  6. Can suboxone prompt peri menopause? I’m 56.5 and taken 16 mg _ for 5 years…..just entered peri menopause…..when I cut back for 3 days, then take 3, I like the warmth and comfort it brings to my back and neck…helps me sleep and dream well…but can it make your hair thin?

  7. Good article. My mother, who was a pain pill addict since the old school stomach surgery to make you loose weight in the early 90s…. ever since its been hell on earth for a child having to babysit his mother every day. Anyway it effected me….. bad. I now, at 28 years old am injecting suboxone strips atleast 3 times a day every day. There is something weird about it… its obviously scientifically made to absorb into you faster and STAY in you… much like the government mad cigarettes and nicotine… however thats a “GOOD DRUG” …..its from us. DONT WORRY FOLKS GO TO CHURCH AND TAKE THESE GOOD DRUGS. THE BENZOS. THE OPIATES. ….anyway my mother was 50 and recently died. She looked like she was 90. It hurts my heart. It hurts my soul.

    The look in your mothers eyes… as shes asking buddy from a car window for “more man, cmon… thats all give me a few more” ….I was about 4 or 5. I’ll never forget those days. If you are reading this and think your kids dont remember something at ANY age… please remember that you were a kid and have memories too. Thats a side note though.

    Anyway yea… all i used to do was smoke herb. The best god send ever. If they let addicts smoke herb that would be a good start. It would help withdrawl, gain weight, etc. the list is long og the pros….. however it has a bad side effect…. IT MAKES YOU THINK. They dont want you to do that.

    Most will think this is “crazy” talk. Yea. Hope you sleep good tonight. Dont run from facts. And DO NOT BASE AN OPINION UNTIL YOU HAVE ATLEAST TRIED SOMETHING FIRST.

    Im done venting but yes….. good article. I liked the end. because yea…. they get you SUPER good at first when you inject and you develop a mean tolerance. Its all for patents and money anyway.

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