Should Drug Replacement Therapy be Long Term?

Drug replacement therapy is the use of prescription medications to assist an addict withdrawal or quit another drug.  Suboxone and methadone are both medications used when treating heroin addiction with drug replacement therapy.  Drug replacement therapy is often used only during the detox phase of treatment but in some cases may be used as a long-term or “maintenance” program.  

The use of long-term drug replacement therapy should be a decision made between a recovering addict and their medical team.  While maintenance therapy may be beneficial, there are dangers involved with the practice.

Dangers of Long Term Replacement Therapy

Both Suboxone and methadone are opioid drugs and therefore have the potential to become habit forming. The misuse of methadone and Suboxone may also produce highs which could lead to abuse. Weaning off of methadone or Suboxone can produce withdrawal symptoms the same as other opioids.  These withdrawals typically last longer than the withdrawals from heroin or prescription painkillers.  

The longer withdrawal symptoms could make detoxing a challenge and may lead to relapse.  Long-term effects of Suboxone use include: drowsiness or fatigue, depression, anxiety, decreased pain tolerance and GI issues.  While drug replacement therapy serves as a great tool in helping a patient through a painful detox it does nothing to address the actual addiction.  

Benefits of Long Term Replacement Therapy

While the dangers are legitimate your doctor may feel that the benefits outweigh those risks.  Drug replacement therapy can work as a bridge to total sobriety and can help addicts focus more on recovery.  Many experts believe that a slow gradual change can lead to benefits later in recovery.  

Long term replacement therapy can keep users in a controlled environment while they are learning the skills necessary to cope with their addiction.  Removing the criminal element while the patient is going through treatment can eliminate some of the negative side-effects of addiction while an addict is getting help.

The opinions are torn in the medical community on whether or not drug replacement therapy is an effective treatment for addiction.  Ultimately the decision is a personal one between you and your doctor.  Make sure you have a conversation with your doctor about all options that might be available to you.


The Lakehouse Recovery Center offers 30, 60, and 90 day programs to men and women seeking to recover from drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to providing excellent clinical care, we offer both recovery and non-recovery activities. Our goal is to show clients how to have fun again, learning how to live in recovery without drugs and alcohol. For information, call us today: 877.762.3707



Messages sent through this form are confidential. Required fields are marked with (*).

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.