Suboxone vs Methadone

Suboxone and methadone are both effective medications for treating opioid addiction. These medications react differently on the brain and body, but they both help to reduce withdrawal symptoms. There are positive and negative features of both medications.

What are Suboxone and Methadone?

Both Suboxone and methadone are invaluable medications used to treat patients with opioid addiction.

Historically, this type of addiction was extremely difficult to treat. With methadone and Suboxone, it is possible for you to beat an opioid addiction with a minimum of severe withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone is the older of these drugs, having been available for opioid addiction since the 1960s. It is a synthetic full opioid agonist. It needs to be taken every 24-36 hours to help eliminate physical withdrawal symptoms and decrease cravings for more severe and dangerous opioid drugs.

There are other drugs that are slightly more effective in treating opioid addiction, including Suboxone.

The biggest question remains – which drug should you be using to improve your chances of being opioid-free?

Each drug acts differently on the brain and body, but has its own set of pros and cons.

Methadone

Pros

The biggest advantage of methadone is that it has been used for 50 years for opioid addiction and is well-studied in this regard. It requires little experimentation and the dosages have been well-established. It is also cheaper to take than taking Suboxone.

Cons

The downside is that it can only be given at a specialized methadone clinic. It has the potential to be taken along with other opioid substances, including heroin. This makes it more difficult to get off the opioid drug of choice. It also has side effects, such as constipation, weight gain and sexual problems.

Suboxone

Pros

Suboxone is a relatively new treatment that works in two ways. It is a combination of a partial opioid agonist (buprenorphine) and an opioid antagonist (naloxone). This has the dual effect of stopping the withdrawal symptoms and blocking opioid effects should you try to use another opioid at the same time as taking Suboxone.

One of the biggest advantages of using Suboxone is that it can be given by any trained addiction specialist rather than at a specialized methadone clinic. This makes it easier to come by than methadone.

It also has a two-pronged approach that makes it difficult to take any other opioid drug at the same time as taking Suboxone. This greatly reduces the relapse rate and makes the relapse rate less than that seen in methadone use.

Suboxone works faster than methadone. It can take up to several months to get off of opioids using methadone. However, the use of opioids can be discontinued within days of taking Suboxone. This increases the amount of time that you can spend in rehabilitation rather than detoxification.

While methadone must be taken daily at a methadone clinic, those who use Suboxone can take their prescription home and can safely take it as an outpatient.  You can use Suboxone while engaging in normal activities, like work, home and school events.

With a faster recovery, it is possible to take Suboxone at home and participate in outpatient rehabilitation. This will allow you to lead a healthier life free of the dangerous side effects of opioid drugs.

Cons

The potential side effects of Suboxone include nausea, vomiting, headaches, depression, decreased sex drive and dizziness. It can also cause an adverse effect if taken along with benzodiazepines, alcohol and other sedatives.

High levels of opioids taken along with Suboxone can trigger adverse effects, like sleepiness and confusion. For this reason, these other drugs shouldn’t be taken with Suboxone. Another major downside of Suboxone is that it is more expensive methadone.

Author:Kent Hoffman
Kent Hoffman

Kent Hoffman, D.O. has been practicing medicine for nearly 30 years. He is board-certified to practice addiction medicine and family medicine. Dr. Hoffman gets to know his patients on a first-name basis to provide compassionate and professional health care.

Last modified: 01/14/2019