Suboxone vs Methadone

Two of the most commonly used drugs used in medication-assisted treatment are Suboxone and Methadone. MAT is a method of treatment used to treat opioid dependence. Treatment for opioid dependence helps lessen the effects of withdrawal symptoms to ensure that the patient receives a stabilized recovery and their best interest is taken into account. However, because the two different drugs are used in medication-assisted treatment, you may have questions regarding the benefits of both, which one is better, and the side-effects of both medications.

This article will help address the MAT drugs we use at Freedom Now for our clinical treatments for opioid abuse and how they compare with each other.

Is Suboxone the Same as Methadone?

Although used to treat similar conditions, Suboxone is not the same drug as Methadone. Both medications are used in opioid addiction treatment. However, Methadone has been approved by the FDA to also treat chronic pain, whereas Suboxone has only been approved for opioid treatment.

Although they have similar effects on the body and brain during treatment, there are some striking differences between the two drugs.

What is the Difference Between Methadone and Suboxone

Depending on the severity of your addiction, Methadone or Suboxone may be prescribed in order to aid in your recovery. In more severe cases, Methadone treatment is commonly used because it has a greater impact on the brain’s response to opioid dependence. However, there is a greater risk of abuse with Methadone. Suboxone is commonly used in more milder cases of opioid addiction and has a lower risk of abuse during treatment. Below we will discuss the unique properties of both drugs and how they differ from each other.

Methadone

Methadone is an opioid agonist and pain killer. This means that it latches onto the brain’s receptors and changes the way in which the nervous system and brain process pain. It is a powerful drug and must be administered with care. In the beginning stages of treatment, methadone maintenance by a physician or pharmacist will help administer the drug in low dosages in order for the body to become accustomed to the medication’s effects and reduce the risk of overdose.

Methadone, like Suboxone, is used to help reduce the painful effects of withdrawal symptoms as the client is undergoing treatment. However, like any other medication you may be taking, there are some potential side-effects that may last for only a short period of time or may present themselves throughout treatment.

Side-effects of Methadone can include:

  • Weariness, drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Urinary retention
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sexual impotence

Methadone is administered orally in either a liquid or tablet form and methadone treatment will continue as long as treatment is needed and the patient is benefiting from the treatment. Methadone treatment will only be administered in a controlled environment with a medication management plan. Doses can be as low as 1 milligram.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone, like Methadone, is an opioid agonist. However, it is only a partial agonist. Suboxone also attaches the brain’s receptors and inhibits the “high” effect of opioid abuse. Although Suboxone is an addiction treatment medication, it may be less effective in some cases of severe opioid addiction.

Suboxone consists of two active ingredients Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Buprenorphine is the active partial opioid agonist and helps block the pleasurable feelings that come from opioid abuse. Naloxone is a drug that aids in reversing the effects of opioids. Like Methadone, Suboxone is used to help reduce painful withdrawal symptoms of opioid cessation. In most cases, Suboxone can only be prescribed and taken while in a MAT program.

Suboxone will be administered daily in the form of a dissolvable film or a tablet. A single dose of Suboxone typically ranges between 12 milligrams and 32 milligrams.

As with Methadone, Suboxone poses its own side-effects:

  • Abdominal pain or nausea
  • Headaches
  • Bowel issues (i.e. constipation)
  • Vomiting
  • Perspiration
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Fatigue or sleepiness

Although abuse is less likely with Suboxone, it is important that you take it only as you are prescribed. If abused, a Suboxone overdose can be lethal.

Does Suboxone Interfere with Methadone?

Before combining any medications, it is important to address any concerns you have with your doctor. If you are currently taking Suboxone or Methadone, combining the two medications can pose dangerous side-effects. In some cases, combining Methadone and Suboxone may aid in reducing the analgesic effects of Methadone, yet, the combination can increase your risk of developing a rare, but life-threatening heart condition.

If you are currently in a MAT program that uses Methadone, including Buprenorphine into your treatment may trigger unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, yawning, extreme sweating, goosebumps, fever, chills, flushing, uneasiness, irritation, stress and anxiety, depression, dilation of the eyes, heart tremors, increased heart rate, body pains, uncontrolled twitching and kicking, abdominal cramping, loss of appetite, nausea, throwing up, diarrhea, and weight-loss. You need to seek immediate medical attention if you develop sudden dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations during treatment with these medications.

As with any new medication, it is vital to your health that your doctor is aware of any medications or supplements you may be taking at the time of your appointment.

Is Methadone Better than Buprenorphine?

Methadone and Suboxone are both commonly used medications to aid in addiction treatment. Yet, it is believed that one may be better than the other as far as the safety of the client and aiding in their long-term recovery from substance abuse and addiction.

At Freedom Now, we have chosen Suboxone as the medication used in our medication-assisted treatment program. Suboxone has less life-threatening side-effects vs methadone and is less likely to be abused during treatment. Statistically, there are also less overdoses with Suboxone vs Methadone. Recovery rates and the safety of the patient are our greatest concern. If one drug poses similar results and is proven to be safer than another, we believe it is the best option for our clients’ continued care.

Is Suboxone Safer than Methadone?

As stated above, in a study performed in 2012, Buprenorphine based drugs like Suboxone were shown to be relatively safer in comparison to Methadone. Suboxone causes less respiratory depression than Methadone, yet, has not shown many differences as far as adverse effects go. However, the mortality rate with Methadone was found to be significantly higher than that of Buprenorphine.

In both cases, it is possible for Methadone and Buprenorphine to be abused. With any prescription medication, there runs the risk of diversion. It is important that if you are considering treatment with either medication that you do so in a controlled environment and only take the medications as prescribed by your doctor.

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