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Methadone vs. Buprenorphine Treatment: Which One Fits My Needs?


Opioid addiction treatment centers that offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) use medications that include methadone and buprenorphine. Both medicines relieve the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that happen when someone discontinues opioid use. With their symptoms reduced, the patient can work on achieving their treatment goals. Whether the doctor and patient choose methadone or buprenorphine depends on the patient’s individual needs. Learn more about these two MAT medications and where they succeed best in treating opioid use disorder.

About Methadone Maintenance Treatment

Addiction professionals call methadone the gold standard of care in opioid use disorder treatment. It has half a decade of history of relieving withdrawal symptoms to help patients work toward opiate-free lives. As a full agonist, methadone activates the opioid receptors in your brain to satisfy its need for opioids. When you take methadone as directed by your doctor and coordinated by your treatment team, you can have a safe treatment experience without encountering withdrawal symptoms.

A methadone-based MAT program requires daily clinic visits at the beginning of treatment. When you go to the treatment center every day, you receive your medication from the dispensing nurse and will attend counseling sessions on a regular basis. These visits help you get adjusted to the changes associated with recovery. Once you meet certain requirements of the program as dictated by state and federal laws, you can work toward gradually achieving medicine to be taken at home or more commonly referred to as ‘take home’ medication.

Buprenorphine Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

Buprenorphine has a shorter history than methadone as a treatment medication for opioid addiction, but it has as much of an impact. You can take buprenorphine on its own or as a compound that includes naloxone, a medicine that inhibits misuse. Both types of this medication are referred to as partial agonists. They activate the opioid receptors, but not to the same extent as a full agonist, so they have a reduced risk of causing any sense of euphoria.

Since buprenorphine maintenance treatment has safety mechanisms in place that help you follow your treatment plan, you can begin to receive take home medication faster than the more structured methadone maintenance program. There are two types of buprenorphine treatment: (1) Buprenorphine maintenance that is dispensed by the nurse at an Opioid Treatment Program or (2) through an Outpatient Based Opioid Treatment Provider (OBOT) where your doctor writes you a prescription that you fill at a pharmacy as you would any other prescription. Counseling is part of both programs. Many structured Opioid Treatment Programs provide both buprenorphine treatment options.

How Do I Know Which Treatment Will Work Best for Me?

Your MAT provider can help you understand which type of MAT medication will have the best results for your symptoms. They will recommend a medicine based on factors such as:

  • The severity of your symptoms
  • Relapse history
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • History of opioid use disorder
  • Insurance coverage (which may cover only specific types of treatment)

Methadone tends to have a higher level of potency than buprenorphine, making it suitable for patients with severe withdrawal symptoms. Meanwhile, buprenorphine may work for patients with mild to moderate symptoms. You and your doctor will work together to find a treatment that best fits your symptoms and situation.

Medication-Assisted Treatment at MedMark Treatment Centers

Do you or a loved one want assistance in recovering from opioid use disorder? Let MedMark Treatment Centers help you get on the path to sobriety and reclaim your life. Our clinics across the United States provide MAT with methadone and buprenorphine, so you can find the right solution. We welcome you to schedule an intake using our online contact form or by calling 866-840-6658.

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