Overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids (like fentanyl), have increased by more than eight times since 1999. Overdoses involving opioids killed nearly 69,000 people in 2020, and over 82% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids… More than 564,000 people died from overdoses involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids, from 1999-2020.

From the Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research report (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2021; available at http://wonder.cdc.gov 

Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction

I wasn’t always an opioid addict. When I was a teenager, my friends and I smoked pot and drank occasionally. In my twenties, I started using club drugs. When I lost interest in the nightclub scene, I switched from drugs to alcohol. Drinking was a major problem for me, and I soon became a regular at the local detox center. As my drinking accelerated, I started using whatever I could get my hands on. By the time I found heroin, I was already homeless, jobless, and living in my car. I honestly didn’t see how things could get any worse, but I was wrong. They got a lot worse. 

woman outside looking contemplative

Heroin tore my life apart like no substance ever had. The gnawing agony of dope sickness—the sick feeling that results from opiate withdrawals—pushed me to new depths of depravity and lawlessness to support my habit. I was isolated from family and friends, surrounded only by other addicts who were as sick as I was. I was addicted to opiates for about 2 years. During that time I was beaten and robbed, taken advantage of in every way imaginable. I saw things I couldn’t unsee, did things I never thought I’d do, and I still couldn’t stop. I was trapped in a fate worse than death.

Suboxone is the most reliable treatment for opiate use disorder

Then one day, just like in the movies, I had a moment of clarity. I realized that I was going to die if I didn’t change immediately. I found my way into a detox center and quit everything cold turkey. The sickness was worse than any torture I could possibly imagine. My nervous system felt like it had been set on fire, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, couldn’t function. After 2 weeks of this agony, I still felt the same. The sickness wasn’t going away. I was terrified. Would I feel this way forever? Was this the price I would have to pay for the rest of my life? At that point, I considered suicide as a viable option. 

A few days later, a doctor came to the detox and talked to us about this new drug called Suboxone. He said it was designed to help opiate addicts get clean and stay clean. I was willing to do anything to stop feeling the way I felt, so when the doctor asked if anyone was interested, I raised my hand. I worked with the doctor to build a Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Plan that worked for me. He warned me that Suboxone is not a short-term solution, and advised me that most patients are on Suboxone for 3-5 years. Compared to a short, miserable life using opiates, I figured, 5 years on Suboxone is a drop in the bucket. 

MAT-Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorder

With my first dose of Suboxone, the pain and nausea of withdrawals went away almost entirely. I was finally able to eat solid food, take a shower without collapsing, talk to my fellow detox clients, I even laughed at something on the TV. But probably the best feeling was that I was finally able to sleep. You don’t realize how important sleep is until you can’t do it for a few weeks. 

The after-effects of opiate addiction were, in some ways, worse than active addiction on the streets. Before Suboxone, I felt like the rest of my life would be a never-ending series of relapses and overdoses, jails, institutions, and eventually, death. Probably sooner than later. Quitting opiates permanently felt so far away and impossible for me, like something that only happens in the movies. At my lowest, I knew I’d never be happy again, would never be free again, would never feel alive again. Suboxone changed all that for me. 

“Thanks to medication assisted treatment, I’m happy, joyous, and free”

Before Suboxone, I was obsessed with drugs and alcohol. I thought about drugs all the time, and was constantly chasing the next dose, the next high, the next whatever I could get my hands on. With Suboxone, I rarely even think about drugs and alcohol, and relapsing is the furthest thing from my mind. Suboxone gave me a better life. Actually, no, Suboxone didn’t give me a better life, Suboxone gave me the mental and physical freedom to give myself a better life. 

woman outside with outstretched arms expressing joy

After detox, my next stop was a 30-day inpatient treatment program. After that, I went to a longer 90-day inpatient program. When I got out of rehab, I moved into a sober house where I followed the rules (mostly), and I went to an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) where I learned about the disease of addiction. I started going to 12-step meetings and participating in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. I learned some new trade skills and started working on my career. I got a good job, reconnected with my friends, and I made a bunch of new friends in my local 12-step community. But the greatest reward is that I got my family back. 

“Suboxone helped me earn back my family’s trust by allowing me to focus on recovery instead of relapse”

My family was right to ostracize me when I was actively using, and when I first got sober, they weren’t too keen on trusting me right away. I had to show them that I was serious about changing, so I started doing the work. I got a job, got an apartment, got a car, and got a sponsor. Piece by piece, I was putting my life back together. It took a long time to earn back my family’s trust, but I did it by living the life of a sober person. I took responsibility for my addiction, and figured out how to live a sober life on my own two feet. I worked hard during the day and went to AA meetings at night, I started eating right, exercising, I even picked up a few hobbies along the way. 

Today, my life is better than it’s ever been. I’m still taking Suboxone, and it’s still helping me avoid cravings and keep my mind out of the opioid-gutter. I still have a job, I still have a place to live, and I still have friends and family in my life. When I look in the mirror today, I don’t see the junkie anymore. I see a better version of myself. I’m happy, I’m reliable, I’m honest and dependable. I keep my word and I help people who need help. I couldn’t ask for a better life than the one I have today, and it’s all because I was willing to do the work to get here. 

Suntra is NYC’s premier provider of Medication Assisted Treatment and other concierge recovery services

I’m so grateful to have Suboxone in my life. I don’t like to think about where I’d be today if I’d never stopped using, but I probably wouldn’t be sitting here writing this article, that’s for sure. Suboxone took the focus off of my opiate addiction, and gave me a chance to live differently. If you or a loved one is struggling with opiate addiction or substance use disorder, contact the folks at Suntra Modern Recovery and ask about Suboxone and Medication Assisted Recovery services. You’ll be glad you did. I know I am. 

— Anonymous for Suntra Modern Recovery, 2023

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact Suntra Modern Recovery today. We’re New York City’s premier provider of concierge addiction recovery services, including Suboxone and MAT, recovery coaching, interventions and more. 

SAMHSA National Hotline

If you or someone you know needs help with opioid use disorder, call the SAMSHA National Hotline, a 24-hour, 365-day-a-year, treatment referral hotline. 1-800-662-HELP (4357)