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Suboxone vs. Methadone: What Are the Differences?

The United States has been caught in the throes of an opioid epidemic for more than a decade now. From heroin and OxyContin to fentanyl and hydrocodone, millions of Americans have been abusing opioids and continue to do so at shockingly high rates. In fact, approximately 130 people die each and every day in this country as a result of an opioid overdose. This should come as no surprise, as the United States (which makes up only 4.4% of the world’s population) consumes more than 80% of the world’s opioids. However, two of the most tried and true weapons used to combat opioid use disorder are methadone and Suboxone, medications designed specifically to help treat opioid withdrawal and addiction. 

The opioid epidemic did not just happen overnight, rather it grew silently throughout the early 2000’s before becoming too massive to ignore by the end of the decade. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared the rapidly growing opioid problem an epidemic. As addictions multiplied, more and more had to be done to help curb the growing rates of opioid abuse with methadone and Suboxone.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a drug that was first developed back in the 1960’s but is used today to treat opioid dependence. It is a full opioid agonist which means that when it is consumed, it activates the opioid receptors in the brain. This occurs because methadone in itself is an opioid, however it is nowhere near as potent or addictive as stronger opioids like heroin and oxycodone. When methadone is used at the direction of a medical professional, it helps to lessen the severity of opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings for continued opioid use. 

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is the brand name for the drug buprenorphine. Suboxone has not been around nearly as long as methadone, as it was developed in the mid 2000’s. Upon its development, though, it was referred to as the “gold standard” of opioid treatment because of its effectiveness in minimizing withdrawal symptoms and fending off cravings to use again. It is a partial opioid antagonist, which means that it binds to the opioid receptors in the brain but does not activate them. 

Suboxone vs Methadone: The Differences

The plain and simple descriptions of both methadone and suboxone automatically highlight some of their most basic differences. For example, as previously stated, methadone is an opioid agonist and suboxone is an opioid antagonist. This means that when methadone is being taken, it activates the opioid receptors it binds to. When suboxone is taken, it also binds to the opioid receptors but does not activate them. Methadone and suboxone also differ in relation to how long they have been around for, as methadone has been utilized in opioid addiction treatment settings for more than twice as long as suboxone. But what are some of the more specific differences between these two medications?

Suboxone can be taken home

Both methadone and Suboxone can be habit-forming if they are abused. However, methadone is more addictive than Suboxone, as it takes large amounts of Suboxone to achieve a high. As a result, doctors usually prescribe Suboxone to patients and allow them to take it home with them. It is not common for a person recovering from opioid use disorder to be prescribed methadone and sent home, as methadone is more habit-forming. Instead, those who are prescribed methadone are made to go to their local clinic on a daily basis to obtain their dose. 

Suboxone treats short-acting opioids and methadone treats long-acting opioids

Both methadone and Suboxone can be used to treat any type of opioid use disorder, but more often than not, they will be prescribed in response to the type of opioids the patient was abusing. Patients who abused short-acting opioids like heroin and some prescription painkillers can benefit more from the implementation of Suboxone into their treatment. Conversely, those who were previously hooked on long-acting opioids like fentanyl can benefit most from the use of methadone to treat their symptoms. 

Methadone can be used by pregnant/breastfeeding women 

Research has shown that methadone can be used by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers without posing harm to their babies. This is a huge benefit when it comes to treating opioid dependent mothers, as it can help them stop their opioid dependence altogether. When the opioid addiction itself is treated, it reduces the risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) as well as other potential defects and health issues for both the baby and the mother. Suboxone, on the other hand, is listed as a category C medication, meaning that not enough research has been conducted to prove whether or not the use of it during pregnancy will produce any negative side effects or not. Typically, category C medications are considered in those pregnancies where the benefits of the drug outweigh the risks, making Suboxone one that should only be prescribed in conjunction with the opinion of an obstetrician. 

Both methadone and Suboxone have changed the game when it comes to opioid dependence, as they each can help stop active opioid addiction, aid in persevering through the pain of withdrawal, and keep individuals focused on their recovery rather than their physical and psychological chaos. It is important, however, to work with professionals who can prescribe the appropriate medication for your situation so that you can gain the most benefit possible.

Ohio Addiction Recovery Center

If you are struggling with an opioid addiction, or if you have a loved one who is, do not hesitate to reach out to us today. We understand that taking this first step can be the hardest, but it is also the most imperative. If you do not get the help that you or your loved one needs, the future can be riddled with severe repercussions and possibly even death.

So, do not wait any longer. Call Ohio Addiction Recovery Center right now to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one today.

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