Can You Be on Suboxone While on Probation?

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Yes, you can take a legally prescribed medication like Suboxone while in most probation programs. Your lawyer and probation team should help you understand the terms of your release and what you must do to comply.

More than 3 million people were in probation programs in 2020.[1] Each program has individualized rules and conditions to follow. It’s impossible to make general statements about how each program works and what it can do, however most programs do of course permit individuals to be on Suboxone treatment so long as they have a valid prescription from a licensed provider.

Work with your lawyer and probation officers to understand the terms of your probation. 

Managing Your Suboxone Prescription While on Probation

Suboxone is legal for you to use with a valid prescription offered by a doctor. If you're buying Suboxone on the street and using it independently, you may be in violation of your parole. But if you have a valid prescription, you should not be in violation of your parole. 

Get the Right Paperwork 

Many states restrict Suboxone and other drugs to those who can demonstrate an "absolute need."[2] Your doctor may need to submit paperwork outlining why you need this medication and verifying that you are receiving it legally. 

Pass Your Drug Urine Screen

Your probation team may check your urine for illicit drugs. Suboxone is not usually part of a routine drug screen, but it is possible that your probation team will order additional urine tests that can test for Suboxone. In this case, if your test is positive because you are on Suboxone therapy, you should be prepared to provide documentation from your doctor confirming that you are on this prescription legally and for a valid medical indication. Usually a note from your doctor or a prescription bottle with your name on it is sufficient for this purpose.[3] 

Why Take Suboxone While on Probation?

Suboxone therapy may be essential for your abstinence from drug use prior to release from incarceration. Suboxone can:

  • Ease withdrawal: Opioids like heroin can change brain chemistry and spark sickness when you try to quit. Suboxone makes these symptoms fade. 
  • Halt cravings: Suboxone soothes brain cells, so you're no longer consumed with the desire for drugs. Without this medication, you could relapse to hard drugs. 
  • Stay out of jail: Suboxone is a prescription managed by a doctor. Take it as directed, and you’re not breaking the law. Relapse to an illicit drug like heroin, and you are breaking the law and are at risk for further legal complications.

Don’t put your freedom on the line. Follow your doctor’s instructions and continue taking your medication as directed. 

Success Rates of Suboxone Treatment for Those on Probation

Many people who enter drug treatment programs do so in response to legal pressure.[4] So-called "drug courts'' can sometimes offer treatment programs, including MAT, in lieu of jail time. These treatment programs can provide effective rehabilitation instead of jail time.

In one study, 66% of people in drug courts were rearrested within the next two years; 81% of those in traditional programs were rearrested.[5]

A program like this could be beneficial in helping you achieve and maintain abstinence from an OUD.

Sources

  1. Probation and Parole in the United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics. https://bjs.ojp.gov/library/publications/probation-and-parole-united-states-2020. December 2021. Accessed July 2022.
  2. Prescription Information Form. Oregon State Board of Nursing. https://www.oregon.gov/osbn/documents/Form_ProbationPrescription.pdf. Accessed July 2022.
  3. Urine Abstinence Testing and Incidental Drugs of Abuse Exposure Contract. Cherokee County Georgia. https://www.cherokeega.com/District-Attorneys-Office/_resources/Pretrial-Diversion-Program/102020-Drugs-of-Abuse-Testing-Exposure-Contract.pdf. October 2020. Accessed July 2022.
  4. Is Legally Mandated Treatment Effective? National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-abuse-treatment-criminal-justice-populations-research-based-guide/legally-mandated-treatment-effective. April 2014. Accessed July 2022.
  5. The Efficacy of Drug Courts. EBP Society. https://www.ebpsociety.org/blog/education/271-efficacy-drug-courts. September 2017. Accessed July 2022.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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