Opioid addictions can be devastating. Many people struggle to kick their opioid habit but cannot do so due to devastating withdrawal effects. As a result, medications are often used to assist in the detox and recovery process. Although methadone was once the main medication used for opioid dependence, Suboxone is gaining popularity rapidly. What is the difference between methadone and Suboxone? Is one of these a better choice?
What Are the Differences Between Methadone and Suboxone
Methadone is an opioid, with all of the risks and effects of this class. It is used in recovery because it has a very long half life. People who formerly abused opioids can take a single daily methadone dose to stabilize themselves. Hypothetically, this should allow them to work on the psychology underlying their addiction before going through physical withdrawal and cravings.
Once they quit methadone, however, they will have to go through a physical withdrawal. Because methadone is highly addictive, people who use it have to go to a special methadone clinic every day where they are given a single daily dose of this medication. They cannot miss even a single day or they will go into withdrawal.
Suboxone is a newer class of medication, used since 2002. It is not an opioid but rather a partial opioid agonist. This means it binds to the same receptors as opioids but has slightly different effects. It does not produce as much as a high and has far fewer side effects. It also is easier to taper off of, with fewer withdrawals. Most people do not notice any side effects and are able to begin rebuilding their lives without a hindrance. Suboxone also has far lower abuse potential because it can cause withdrawals in people who use it with other opioids such as heroin or oxycodone.
Because Suboxone is a different class of drug than opioids such as methadone, it can be used in different ways. It has lower abuse potential, so people who use this medication do not have to go to daily clinics to receive it. It also is easier to taper off of and has less potential for overdose.
Methadone and Medication Assisted Recovery
Methadone has helped many people to address an opioid or heroin addiction, but it has significant drawbacks. These can actually be a detriment to people who are trying to recover from an addiction as they make it difficult to achieve good health, education, work success, and relationship building. These negative effects include:
- High risk of overdose; in fact, methadone is one of the most likely opioids to cause this
- Need to get medication from a daily clinic, which can interfere with work, vacation, and other activities
- Commonly tested for in work-related drug screenings, which can mean that users often cannot find or keep employment
- Highly addictive, with serious withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly
- Difficult to taper down, with many people feeling withdrawal and cravings throughout the entire process
- Not legal in some states due to abuse and overdose potential
- Sedation and daytime sleepiness
- Inability to drive or use heavy machinery while taking the medication
- Users often feel that they have “traded addictions” rather than completely recovering
- Same physical side effects as other opioids, including constipation and cognitive changes
The daily clinic needed to get methadone is a huge barrier to recovery for many people. They have to plan their lives around their addiction. This makes it difficult to proceed with recovery. People have to interact with other users in an uncontrolled environment for months or years, which can be a challenge as well. In addition, many people using methadone will feel somewhat intoxicated while taking it, making it difficult to deal with recovery and to get back into the swing of a sober life.
These drawbacks are a significant barrier to many people who are trying to recover from an addiction, which is exactly why Suboxone was developed. Suboxone has the same benefits of methadone without many of the drawbacks.
Benefits of Suboxone Therapy
Suboxone’s unique pharmaceutical qualities are the reason it has been shown to be extremely helpful in recovery from opioid addiction. It binds tightly to opioid receptors, preventing other drugs from having an effect. Thus, people who relapse while taking Suboxone will not get the high that they were craving. This can prevent huge setbacks. For this reason, it is not as valuable as a street drug and can be prescribed at a monthly clinic visit rather than a daily one.
Having a monthly clinic visit rather than a daily one allows people to work full time jobs, go on trips and vacations, and begin to rebuild a sober life. Because most drug screenings do not test for Suboxone, many people are able to successfully participate in jobs and school programs discretely.
Suboxone also has a different side effect profile than methadone, including:
- Easier to taper off
- Very little intoxication, with many users reporting feeling as good as they did before they ever began using
- More gentle withdrawal due to a longer half-life
- Very little potential for withdrawal
- No slurred speech or cognitive effects
- Less daytime withdrawal
- No constipation, bloating, and other gastrointestinal effects common with methadone
Choosing recovery is a life-changing decision. In many cases, medications can make this process easier and increase your chance of success. If you are interested in using medications such as Suboxone to recover from an addiction, it is important to talk to a professional about the best path forward. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day at 877-978-3148 to help you make the right choices for a bright an sober future.