Suboxone vs. Methadone in Treating Opioid Addiction
Suboxone and methadone are two examples of opioid replacement therapy, used to help treat opiate and heroin withdrawal symptoms. Both drugs are used to wean individuals off opioids, and can be very successful. However, there are downsides to both. You may go through withdrawal from Suboxone or methadone, you may become addicted and need detox, and the drugs may have some unpleasant side effects.
What is Methadone?
Methadone was invented in the 1930’s in Germany and it was approved in the United States in the late 1940’s. It grew in popularity as opioid abuse rose, especially heroin. Methadone is a synthetic opioid, and can help ease symptoms of opioid withdrawal. It may be used for relatively rapid detox (under one month), while some people take methadone for months or years. People generally take methadone at a clinic for a period, and after successful treatment for some time are permitted to take the methadone home to use. Methadone works by giving the brain enough opioids to ease withdrawal symptoms, but not enough to achieve a full high.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone® is the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is an semisynthetic opioid derived from thebaine, and helps ease symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Naloxone is an opioid blocker, preventing the person from achieving a high from abusing opioids. Buprenorphine was first approved in 1981, and has grown in popularity with the introduction of the mix with naloxone. Individuals may take the drug for a few days, or they may stay on it for months or years. Suboxone works by providing the brain some opioids, and by preventing the person from being able to achieve a high through further opioid abuse.
Suboxone vs. Methadone High
One of the main differences between Suboxone and methadone lies in the effects produced. Methadone may not produce effects quite the same as heroin or other opioids, but it does indeed cause some euphoria and sedation that is characteristic of opioid abuse. Suboxone, on the other hand, produces much weaker euphoria and sedation. As such, methadone is much more likely to be abused. The high is much stronger, there is no opioid blocker present, and it is relatively cheap.
Both Suboxone and methadone will produce effects of withdrawal upon the cessation of use. Methadone withdrawal is generally much more severe than Suboxone withdrawal, but both can be quite uncomfortable. Because both buprenorphine and methadone are relatively long-acting opioids, the withdrawal process may take a few weeks.
Suboxone has a much longer half-life than methadone, and withdrawal symptoms are likely to last a bit longer. Methadone, however, is generally stronger. Of course it depends on the dose of each drug, but methadone withdrawal and Suboxone withdrawal can be quite similar in discomfort when it comes down to it.
The Efficacy in Treating Addiction
There is much disagreement in the addiction treatment community about the efficacy of both Suboxone and methadone. Some people believe one to be more effective than the other, while many in the recovery community are against the use of either drug. The research is mixed. For example, a 2013 meta-analysis found conflicting results.
Here are some of their findings:
- In one study, people using Suboxone were more likely to abuse opioids during treatment than the methadone users.
- In another study analyzed, Suboxone users were less likely to have used opioids during the previous 30 days than the methadone users.
- A different study found that methadone users were almost twice as likely as Suboxone users to have used opioids in the three months prior to the study.
- It was found that those taking methadone were significantly more likely to complete treatment than Suboxone users, and see their opioid addiction as a serious problem.
If these results seem confusing or conflicting, it’s because they are. Methadone may cause more euphoria and impairment in mental functioning, but otherwise is not empirically less effective. Although the perception commonly held is that Suboxone is way better than methadone, the science doesn’t really back this claim up yet. Perhaps further research will help us understand these two drugs more deeply.
If you or somebody you care about is struggling with opioid abuse or wants to get off Suboxone or methadone, it’s important to seek professional help. With proper care and help, your chances are much greater that you will find a lasting recovery. There are many benefits of going to detox when getting sober. A professional detox facility will help you go through the withdrawal process while keeping you safe, help manage symptoms to minimize discomfort, and offer you a safe place to go through the difficult moments.
Furthermore, extended treatment has proven to be effective in treating opioid addiction. Continuing on to residential treatment, outpatient treatment, and sober living can help give you the full opportunity to stay sober. There are people out there who know how to help, have years of training, and can provide the best care available. Don’t try to do it alone!