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Suboxone vs. Section 35 – What Do I Do About My Son?

Mom watching irritable son at table, walkman

AiR member jezabelle is scared and feels panicky, not knowing how to address her son's problem with pills:

"Please help me to know if I should do a Chapter 35 on my 22-yr-old son. In my heart I know he is on drugs but feel it's not all the time. I am panicking because I can't face that fact. He tells me if he gets saboxin he will be ok he will get off oxys 'cause he gets sick. I feel like if I have him forced into treatment he will hate me and I am abandoning him. Please help me know what to do, what steps do I take? I am scared …"

We’ve written before about Section 35 (civil commitment). This piece provides an overview and lists the other posts on the subject: click here to read it.

Sectioning a Loved One is an option but may not be the first thing to try if your son is willing to be treated, in this case with suboxone. (Click on the topic "suboxone" in the column to the right of this post to learn more about medication-assisted treatment).

I may be wrong, but from the sound of your comment, it appears you’ve only recently learned about the severity of your son’s addiction to opiates. It makes total sense that you are reacting urgently to what is a serious problem.

Recovery is a process

Your son says he is willing to try a treatment. Pulling out of opiate addiction will likely be a process. It is the rare person who goes from regular use to complete abstinence in one step. It may take several treatment episodes to gain some traction with recovery and this will take some time. 

So, grab hold of yourself. Find some way to settle yourself first. We provide posts that talk about self-care and an entire blog—called the Sanctuary—for this purpose.  Self-care is not some touchy-feely suggestion; it is the basis for your well-being and for your ability to be effective in helping your son. We are here to help. So take a few breaths and start reading the posts on this site.  An informed family member makes a huge difference.

What else can you do?

Can you help your son figure out how to get an intake appointment with a suboxone provider?  How will it be paid for? How will he get there?  We suggest you call the provider first and learn all you can about the process so that it goes smoothly when your son contacts them. If your son shows resistance to a suboxone treatment, module 8 in the Learning Center describes how to talk to him.

You’ll see in other posts about suboxone that I recommend treatment in addition to suboxone: counseling, self-help groups, psychiatry if needed…  these can come after the suboxone. For now, set your aim for what your son is willing to try. 

Meanwhile, you can research the civil commitment process

If it brings you some peace of mind, investigate the civil commitment process (Section 35). We provide links in the Resource Supplement for Massachusetts. Have the paperwork and the process figured out, should your son falter and you decide you want to section him.

These suggestions are concrete things you can do:

  • provide the information to your son,
  • offer to help in any way possible to get him there…

There is a posture the family member(s) can take that provides the best chance for the both of you. It is laid out in the eLearning modules. Watch the videos, fill out the worksheets, and read the blog posts. 

I hope this helps.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Dear Jezabelle, I truly understand the torment of making decisions that could cause backlash. My son is my only child and at times, was my only family. Damaging our relationship was a constant thought on my heart when we were in the midst of his worst days of addiction. While I personally cannot advise one way or another regarding Chapter 35 or decisions otherwise, I can tell you what a wise therapist told me that helped me profoundly in these times. She always said “You have to do what is best for you to be safe, sane and at peace within your environment.”

    I used this statement as my own personal compass, it was literally the GPS for my decisions. That said, if you choose to do what you feel is best for the health, safety and well-being of your son, then you certainly don’t need to be afraid you’re abandoning him. This is a terrible disease that throws us into difficult, and sometimes urgent, crisis situations. I never knew when another storm would hit! I learned to remain calm in it, process through it and seek support and counsel when necessary. I am so glad you found your way to this site. Don’t lose hope, you never know what breakthrough can happen in a day. ~Annie