Skip to content

Breaking the Chains of Stigma: Pharmacies Must Support Suboxone Patients

By | October 23, 2023 |

Paul Walter is a Physician Assistant at Bicycle Health, a telehealth company that provides medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD). He is also a passionate advocate for people in recovery from addiction.

His article shares the story of one of his patients, Amanda (not the patient's real name), who was denied access to Suboxone at her local pharmacy. Amanda's experience is not an isolated incident, and it reflects a disturbing trend in some pharmacies across the country.

Paul Walter is a compassionate and caring provider who is dedicated to helping people in recovery from addiction. He wrote this article to raise awareness about the barriers that people in recovery from addiction face, particularly when it comes to accessing medications like Suboxone. He also wants to call on pharmacies to play a more supportive role in the recovery process.


Pharmacies Must Support Suboxone Patients

As a dedicated healthcare worker, Amanda embodies the principles of respect and compassion in her daily life. For seven years, she had also been walking a path of personal recovery, which led her to pursue a career as a medical assistant, find a supportive partner, and become a loving mother to two beautiful children. Amanda's story is a testament to the transformative power of recovery. However, it also reveals a disturbing truth about the barriers that individuals seeking help for addiction face, particularly when it comes to accessing medications like Suboxone.

Living in a rural town with just one pharmacy serving a hundred-mile radius, Amanda had been a loyal customer of the same pharmacy for years. She trusted them with her healthcare needs, especially her prescription for Suboxone, a medication that plays a crucial role in her recovery from opioid addiction. But one day, everything changed...

In tears during her last appointment with her healthcare provider, Amanda recounted a profoundly distressing experience. She overheard someone behind the pharmacy counter callously shouting, "That Suboxone girl is here again." The cruelty in those words froze her in her tracks. To make matters worse, the pharmacy staff abruptly told her that she would have to find a new pharmacy and offered no explanation or resources to help with the transition. The sudden denial of her prescription forced her to make the difficult decision to stop treatment, putting everything that she worked for at risk - her career, her family, and her life. 

Amanda's experience is not an isolated incident. It reflects a disturbing trend in many pharmacies across the country, where individuals seeking treatment for addiction are met with judgment, ridicule, and barriers to accessing vital medications. This is a stark reminder that the medical community, including pharmacies, played a role in our country's opioid epidemic. It is already hard enough as it is for patients to track down buprenorphine (see figure below). Now, it's our collective responsibility to make things right and stop the harmful cycles of judgment and stigma from continuing to affect our community.


Instead of driving patients further into addiction by adding more obstacles to their recovery journey, we must celebrate the immense effort they put into their daily battle against addiction. Recovery is a grueling and heroic process, one that should be met with empathy and support at every turn. By providing the necessary resources, education, and compassion, pharmacies can play a crucial role in facilitating recovery, rather than impeding it.

It's imperative for pharmacies to understand that Suboxone, and medications like it, are not simply prescriptions but lifelines for individuals in recovery. Denying access to these medications not only endangers lives but also perpetuates the stigma surrounding addiction. The consequences of such actions can be catastrophic, leading individuals to relapse, overdose, or even lose hope altogether.

Pharmacies should be at the forefront of the battle against addiction, acting as a bridge between medical treatment and recovery. They have a moral obligation to ensure that every patient is treated with dignity and receives the medications they need to regain control of their lives. It's time for pharmacies to embrace their role as healthcare providers and advocates for those on the path to recovery.

In the face of the ongoing opioid crisis, let us remember that recovery is possible. It is within our power to support and uplift those who are striving to break free from the chains of addiction. By addressing the stigma and discrimination faced by individuals seeking help, we can pave the path to a brighter, healthier future for our community. It is time for pharmacies to step up, eliminate barriers, and provide a safe and compassionate environment where every individual can access life-saving, evidence-based treatment.

To learn more, go to

More Patient Stories:


New call-to-action