Is Suboxone the Same as Methadone?

Opioids are most commonly prescribed as a treatment option for chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain which is experienced for an extended period of time. Although opioids have shown success in treating those with chronic pain, the drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction. This can become habit-forming and lead to a physical and psychological dependence. In order to prevent addiction, they must be taken as directed and used very carefully.

However, in many cases, addiction occurs. Treatment for opioid addiction often utilizes two fairly different medications: Methadone and Suboxone. Both Methadone and Suboxone as opiates despite being used in opioid addiction treatment. Methadone is used for both chronic pain treatment and opioid dependence treatment whereas Suboxone has only been approved for treating addiction. In this article we will discuss the differences between Methadone and Suboxone and how they are both utilized in treatment.

Suboxone vs Methadone

We at Freedom Now offer medication-assisted treatment as an effective program for opioid dependence disorder. There are three common medications used in treating opioid addiction in MAT programs. These medications include:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naloxone

Each of these medications aid in preventing withdrawal symptoms during detox and treatment. Suboxone is the brand name of a medication that combines both Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Aside from the use of these medications, MAT programs include counseling options and behavioral therapy.

If you are considering MAT for your opioid dependence treatment, you have probably heard of both Suboxone and Methadone. Below we will discuss the differences of Methadone and Suboxone treatments in MAT.

How Does Methadone Work?

Methadone is an opiate that aids in treating chronic pain. It is a full opioid agonist which means that it can affect the way in which the brain responds to pain. Methadone latches onto the brain’s opioid receptors which helps in relieving the body of chronic pain. A daily dose of 5mg to 10mg (in the form of a liquid or tablet) of Methadone will be recommended for daily use. A typical dose for methadone treatment can bring between 4-8 hours of pain relief.

Methadone has been commonly used in treating heroin and opiate pain medications for years. Methadone, unlike many other opiates, enters the body at a reduced rate which prevents chronic pain, painful withdrawal, and other symptoms of opiate discontinuation. Yet, as with many opioids, Methadone can become addictive.

To prevent the likelihood of addiction, Methadone can only be administered and prescribed while under a doctor’s care or at an addiction treatment facility. Methadone can only be prescribed and dispensed at an opioid treatment program (OTP).

Facilities that offer OTP can offer other services in addition to MAT. These can include individual or group counseling options, sobriety coaching, and life-skills training.  Because of the success of Methadone treatment for both chronic pain and opiate addictions, more than 100,000 Americans have been prescribed Methadone to treat opioid addiction. However, these cases are closely monitored by a medical professional to ensure proper administration and progress tracking.

Treatment with Methadone can range in duration. It is common for most patients to be prescribed Methadone for at least a year. However, depending on the nature of the addiction and your unique needs, this time frame may be lengthened. In order to cease taking Methadone, a tapering program will most likely be considered in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms to help encourage sustained abstinence.

How does Suboxone Work?

Is Suboxone the same drug as Methadone? The short answer is no, Suboxone is not the same as Methadone. However, Suboxone is prescribed in a similar manner and has become the most commonly prescribed medication in MAT.

So, what is Suboxone? Suboxone is a prescription drug that combines two of the medications mentioned in the above list: Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Unlike Methadone, Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. Thus, it reacts in the brain at a reduced rate comparatively. It still acts similarly to Methadone by taking over the brain’s opioid receptors to prevent cravings and suppress withdrawal symptoms, but is a bit weaker than Methadone. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist and it reverses the effects of opioids in the brain.

Suboxone uses both of the drugs together in order to reduce the effects of opiates, suppress cravings, and reduce the risk with dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone is less likely to become addictive compared to Methadone and is much easier to taper daily doses.

Unlike Methadone, Suboxone is administered as a dissolvable film that is placed under the tongue daily. The recommended daily dose of Suboxone ranges between 4 mg Bupe. / 1 mg Nal. and 24 mg B / 6 mg N.

The biggest difference between Suboxone and Methadone is that Suboxone can be prescribed by most doctors and can be taken at home. However, most people beginning Suboxone treatment will be monitored by their physician to ensure their safety and the proper use of the medication.

Treatment with Suboxone can range between 6 months to a year depending on the severity and the progress of treatment. As with Methadone, ceasing to take Suboxone should only be done as directed by your doctor through medication management/tapering.

Side Effects of Suboxone and Methadone

As with many medications, there is the possibility for various side-effects to present themselves while taking Suboxone or Methadone. Below is a list of potential side effects you may experience while taking these medications.

Side Effects of Methadone

Side effects of taking Methadone can affect both the body and the mind. These side effects can range from mild to severe. If you experience any of the following symptoms while taking the medication, seek medical attention.

  • Sleepiness, weariness
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Lack of, increased sexual desire

The list below is severe adverse reactions to Methadone. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Difficulty breathing, respiratory depression
  • Fainting, decreased motor skills
  • Hives or skin rash
  • Facial swelling or swelling of the mouth or throat
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations
  • Hallucinations or confusion

Side Effects of Suboxone

Suboxone can also present potentially dangerous side-effects. Common side effects of Suboxone use include:

  • Abdominal pain or nausea
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • Insomnia, trouble sleeping
  • Feeling tired or sleepy, drowsiness

Serious side effects of Suboxone may include:

  • Skin irritation: itching, rash, or hives
  • Respiratory depression, difficulty breathing
  • Trouble swallowing, swelling of the throat
  • Unusual bleeding, bruising of the skin
  • Extreme drowsiness and muscular fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Constant, extreme stomach pain
  • Discoloration of the skin or eyes

Misuse of Suboxone can be fatal. Only take Suboxone as directed by your doctor.

Potential for Abuse: Suboxone vs Methadone

Methadone and Suboxone both have the potential to be misused. Although the likelihood of either medication resulting in addiction is uncommon, especially if administered as part of a monitored MAT program.

Suboxone is the less likely medication to be abused. Buprenorphine has a limited effect on the brain, resulting in a weaker dopamine spike that may encourage misuse. Naloxone also discourages any euphoric effect Buprenorphine may have on the patient. In most cases, Suboxone is considered the safer alternative to Methadone in MAT programs as it is less addictive and is classified as a Schedule III drug by the DEA, meaning it has a mild to low rate of abuse.

Methadone, on the other hand, acts as a full opioid agonist. Thus, it has a greater impact on the patient’s brain which can cause the patient to be more vulnerable to physical dependence and abuse. Methadone is classified as a Schedule II medication by the DEA and has a high potential for misuse.

In 2016, the CDC released a report that revealed just how likely Methadone abuse is. Between the years 2002 and 2006 the US saw an increase of nearly 22% in Methadone related deaths. This increase has only differed by 6% over the past few years. Although Methadone has shown to be an effective treatment option for addiction, there are nearly 5,000 deaths per year due to Methadone abuse.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

MAT treatment is a viable option for treating those with an opioid dependence issue. There are currently MAT programs that still use both Methadone and Suboxone in their programs. But, which one is right for you? Below we address the differences between Methadone and Suboxone treatment options.

Treatment with Methadone

Methadone treatment for opioid addiction is currently only available for those enrolled in an MAT program at a Methadone Clinic or other addiction treatment facility. The drug can only be prescribed by a licensed physician and acts as an element in intensive inpatient treatment.

If your condition stabilizes and treatment can be reduced to an outpatient program, your doctor may allow for the prescription to be taken at home, but will likely still be monitored through recurring appointments.

Treatment with Suboxone

A Suboxone treatment program does not alway require you to take part in MAT. Being prescribed the medication will not require a particular doctor or physician. However, beginning treatment may require close monitoring during your opioid treatment.

Freedom Now is a Suboxone Clinic which utilizes the drug as a part of our detoxification and withdrawal prevention services. If you are interested in pursuing MAT with Suboxone, contact us today to learn more about our opioid addiction services.

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