Doctors have used methadone for more than 40 years to help people recover from opioid use disorders (OUD). It’s considered a safe and effective therapy for people who want to stay sober and avoid relapse. But some people don’t like methadone for various reasons.
First, under federal law, methadone can only be dispensed for OUD at specially licensed clinics. This means methadone patients have to visit a special clinic for their doses. These visits are inconvenient for those who have to work or have other daily responsibilities. Moreover, being a patient at a methadone clinic can be stigmatizing. It can also lead individuals to be around other patients in recovery who are using which can be a trigger for some people to return to use. Methadone can also cause unpleasant side effects, including weight gain, sedation, difficulty urinating, and insomnia.
Therefore, methadone can be a good medication for some people but doesn’t work for everybody. If you didn’t like methadone, Suboxone might be a better choice. Keep reading to find out how Suboxone is different from methadone and why it might be helpful for you.
What Is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a prescription medication designed to treat OUD. Each dose contains two ingredients: Buprenorphine and Naloxone.
Buprenorphine is the active ingredient in Suboxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, made to latch to receptors used by drugs like heroin and oxycodone. This ingredient helps to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings, so you can focus on your recovery.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist. When taken under the tongue as directed, Naloxone is not absorbed by the body. The only time this medication becomes active is if the medication is injected intravenously, in which case it will enter the blood stream along with Buprenorphine and block its effects, preventing an overdose. For this reason, it is included in Suboxone as a safety mechanism in case the medication is misused.
Benefits of Suboxone
Suboxone has several benefits over methadone, including the following:
- Ease of Prescription: Unlike methadone which can only be dispensed as specialized facilities, Suboxone can be prescribed by any doctor with a license.
- Ceiling effect: Buprenorphine is a weak opioid that can’t trigger a full high. The medication’s “ceiling effect” ensures that the drug can’t be misused by people with a history of opioid misuse.
- Multiple forms: Some people dislike the taste of methadone, which is usually given as a liquid. Suboxone comes in several formats, allowing you to find one that works for you and your taste buds.
- Lower misuse potential: Buprenorphine is a Schedule III narcotic, where methadone is a Schedule II. Suboxone has a lower misuse potential.
Suboxone vs. Methadone: What’s the Difference?
Both Suboxone and methadone can be used to help people recover from OUD, but important differences exist.
|Medication classification||Schedule II||Schedule III (less misuse potential than methadone)|
|Forms available||Tablet, liquid||Tablet, dissolving film, injection, implant, patch|
|Dosages available||5 mg to 40 mg in tablet form||2 mg to 36 mg of buprenorphine|
|Where to take it||Dispensed at a licensed clinic only||Can be prescribed by a doctor in an office visit|
In general, the medical community seems to believe that methadone and Suboxone are equally efficacious in their ability to treat OUD: In studies of people with OUD who had tried both medications, people reported feeling increased mental clarity, more confidence, and less stigma while taking Suboxone.[3, 4]. However, individual patients may prefer one to the other for the reasons discussed above.
Talking to Your Doctor About Suboxone
If you’re struggling with opioid use disorder and methadone isn’t right for you, talk with your doctor. Explain your symptoms, and ask if you can try Suboxone. Together, you can decide if this therapy is right for you.
If you’re ready to stop misusing opioids and to enter an addiction treatment program, reach out to us today here at Bicycle Health. We can help you determine if Suboxone might be right for you.
Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH
Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where ... Read More
- How Do Medications to Treat Opioid Use Disorder Work? National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction/how-do-medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction-work. December 2021. Accessed January 2023.
- Methadone. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682134.html. February 2021. Accessed January 2023.
- Comparing Methadone and Suboxone in Applied Treatment Settings: The Experience of Maintenance Patients in Lanarkshire. Journal of Substance Use. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/14659891.2010.526480. December 2010. Accessed January 2023.
- Medically Assisted Recovery from Opiate Dependence Within the Context of the UK Drug Strategy: Methadone and Suboxone Patients Compared. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740547212000803. January 2013. Accessed January 2023.