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Suboxone vs Methadone: What is the Difference?

Man holding up a question make determining the difference between Suboxone and methadone

Suboxone and methadone are medications prescribed for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for an opioid use disorder. Since neither medication is inherently better than the other, a medical professional will consider multiple factors when deciding when to prescribe each medication. This careful consideration ensures that patients receive the medicine that best suits their individual needs and situation.

What Is Suboxone?

Similar to methadone, Suboxone is used to treat addictions to other opioids. Suboxone is a combination of two active ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone and comes in two forms — tablet and film. Both methods offer the same results and dissolve in your mouth. Here’s how each component works:

Buprenorphine: This is a partial opioid agonist. It works by binding to the same receptors in the brain that opioids do, but it activates these receptors less strongly than full agonists (such as heroin or methadone). By doing so, buprenorphine can help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid dependence. Because it’s a partial agonist, it has a ceiling effect which means that beyond a certain dose, its effects do not increase, reducing the risk of misuse, addiction, and side effects.

Naloxone: This is an opioid antagonist. It works by blocking opioid receptors, preventing opioids from activating them. Naloxone is included in Suboxone to deter people from trying to misuse the medication. If Suboxone is taken as prescribed (sublingually), naloxone has minimal effect because it’s poorly absorbed. However, if someone attempts to inject Suboxone, the naloxone becomes active and can cause withdrawal symptoms, acting as a deterrent to misuse.

Together, these components work to stabilize the individual undergoing treatment, reduce the likelihood of misuse, and support the recovery process. Suboxone is typically part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and behavioral therapies to address the underlying causes of addiction and promote long-term recovery.

What is Methadone?

Methadone: This is a medication used in treating opioid addiction. It works by activating the same brain receptors as other opioids like heroin, morphine, and certain prescription painkillers. Unlike these opioids, methadone acts more slowly and doesn’t cause the intense euphoria or “high.” It has long-lasting effects, which is helpful in treatment. This helps to keep the medication levels in the brain steady, avoiding the highs and lows that could lead to a relapse. Methadone is effective at reducing cravings and making withdrawal symptoms more manageable, leading to a smoother recovery journey.

Methadone is usually given in tablet or liquid form and must be taken under strict medical supervision at designated opioid treatment centers. This careful monitoring is important to make sure the treatment is safe and tailored to the needs of the individual. This controlled method ensures that methadone is used in the most beneficial way in the recovery process.

Suboxone vs. Methadone

Man comparing Suboxone and Methadone

As two different medications for people with substance use disorder, both methadone and Suboxone have characteristics that define them. Those factors make one option or the other better for certain people undergoing treatment. Some differences between methadone and Suboxone include:

  • Treatment methods: When prescribed methadone, a patient must go to the clinic daily and remain under medical supervision because this medication is only accessible through opioid treatment programs. After a patient meets certain criteria they may be offered some take-home medications to dose at home. A doctor can prescribe Suboxone and monitor the beginning of the treatment. After the initial observation period, you can dose at home and offer fewer clinic visits than methadone.
  • Affordability: While the costs of these medications can vary depending on location, it’s important to consider that insurance or grants may help cover some of these costs. To understand more about the affordability of these treatments, it’s advisable to check with your insurance provider and call the clinic you’re looking into to see of other payment options they offer.
  • Side effects: Regardless of which medication your medical professional prescribes for treatment, it may have side effects. Methadone shares many side effects with Suboxone, but some of the additional side effects of Suboxone include trouble focusing, low blood pressure, and swollen tongue.
  • Consumption forms: While Suboxone comes in a tablet and film, the most common forms of methadone are tablets and liquid.

Aside from their differences, methadone and Suboxone have several similarities. Ultimately, both medications yield effective, long-lasting results when paired with other cornerstones of MAT, including counseling and personalized care. When you consult a medical professional about medication-assisted treatment, they will determine which medication will benefit your recovery the most.

Trust MedMark’s Personalized Treatment

When you work with our team at MedMark Treatment Centers, you’ll experience compassionate care. We strive to provide individualized and comprehensive treatment options that help you make meaningful progress toward recovery. After 50 years of treating people with opioid use disorders, we understand how to tailor our treatment to your needs and encourage an effective support system.

To learn more information about your medication-assisted treatment options, contact our team or find a MedMark location near you.

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