Yes, you can take a legally prescribed medication for opioid use disorder 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. Each program has individualized rules and conditions to follow. It’s impossible to make general statements about how each program works and what they will and will not do; however, most programs do 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.
Does Probation Test for Suboxone?
No, probation officers don’t typically test for Suboxone, which requires a very specific drug test. If you are on probation or parole, the drug tests will typically detect drugs like cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, PCP, opioids (like heroin and prescription painkillers), barbiturates and benzodiazepines.
Managing Your Suboxone Prescription While on Probation
Suboxone is legal for you to use with a valid prescription written 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.
1. Get the Right Paperwork
Many states restrict Suboxone and other drugs to those who can demonstrate an “absolute need.” Your doctor may need to submit paperwork outlining why you need this medication for opioid use disorder and verifying that you are receiving it legally.
2. Pass Your Drug Urine Screen
Your probation team may routinely check your urine for illicit drugs. Suboxone is not usually part of a routine drug screen, as court-ordered drug tests are designed to identify illicit drug misuse and deter misuse—not to test for a medication that helps you avoid relapse and focus on recovery.
However, 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.
Why Take Suboxone While on Probation?
Suboxone therapy may be court-ordered as a term of your release from incarceration. However, it has many benefits, including:
- Ease withdrawal: Opioids like heroin can change brain chemistry and spark sickness when you try to quit. Suboxone makes these symptoms fade.
- Reduce 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.
- Avoid relapse: By curbing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, Suboxone can help you avoid relapse and focus on your recovery.
- 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. So-called “drug courts” can sometimes offer treatment programs, including Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT), in lieu of jail time. These treatment programs can provide effective rehabilitation that helps promote positive change.
In one study, 66% of people in drug courts were rearrested within the next two years. While this number may seem high, consider the fact that 81% of those who didn’t participate in a drug court were rearrested.
Additionally, over a two-and-a-half-year period, the study found that drug court participants were more likely to have a job and less likely to be arrested than non-participants. And those who were re-arrested tended to have shorter incarceration periods.
A program like this could be beneficial in helping you achieve and maintain abstinence from an OUD.
Frequently Asked Questions About Suboxone Drug Testing and Probation
Not typically, no. Routine drug tests don’t test for buprenorphine, Suboxone, or their metabolites. A special drug test would need to be conducted in order to test for Suboxone. Additionally, Suboxone should not result in a false positive.
Although you may be tempted to hide your relapse, if it was on any type of illicit drug or drug that shows up in routine drug testing then they will find out. It’s better to disclose your relapse to your probation officer upfront. This will show them that they can trust you. If you report a relapse, they will refer you to addiction treatment where you can get the support you need.
Getting a Suboxone doctor’s note for probation is fairly easy. All you have to do is contact the doctor who prescribed you this medication and let them know the nature of your probation and what you need. They should be able to write you one that you can present to your probation officer.
If you go to the hospital for drug use, it’s unlikely that the hospital will report you to your probation officers. However, the U.S. Probation Office is exempt from the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which usually protects your medical information, meaning the hospital could share your medical information with your probation officer if they request it.
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD
Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More
- 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.
- Prescription Information Form. Oregon State Board of Nursing. https://www.oregon.gov/osbn/documents/Form_ProbationPrescription.pdf. Accessed July 2022.
- 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.
- Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/sites/default/files/675-principles-of-drug-addiction-treatment-a-research-based-guide-third-edition.pdf January 2018. Accessed July 2023.
- The Efficacy of Drug Courts. EBP Society. https://www.ebpsociety.org/blog/education/271-efficacy-drug-courts. September 2017. Accessed July 2022.
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