Methadone v. Buprenorphine (Suboxone)

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What is it?

Methadone is a drug used to help people withdraw from heroin and narcotic pain medications called opiate analgesics. Methadone can also be prescribed on an ongoing basis for people who have opioid addictions and need help managing powerful drug cravings. This is called methadone maintenance therapy or medication assisted therapy (MAT).

Brand names for methadone include: Amidone, Methadose, Westadone and Dolophine.

What is it?

Buprenorphine is a drug used to treat addiction to opioid drugs such as heroin and prescription painkillers like OxyContin. Buprenorphine helps control drug cravings and seeking. According to SAMHSA, buprenorphine is just as effective as moderate doses of methadone. However, because buprenorphine is unlikely to be as effective as higher doses of methadone, it may not be the treatment of choice for those with high levels of physical dependency.

How does it work? 

Methadone helps normalize brain function. It is an opioid itself and activates the same area of the brain as other opioids but doesn’t give the same high or euphoric effect that someone would get when abusing opioids like heroin. Methadone helps people maintain recovery and stop seeking out and taking illegal drugs.

How does it work? 

Known as a partial opioid agonist, stimulates the addicted brain in the same way that it craves, but the individual will not experience the same euphoria or “high.” There’s also a ceiling with buprenorphine so that no matter how much you take, there’s no gain of a bigger high.

Buprenorphine is sometimes combined with naltrexone to make it “tamper proof.” Naltrexone blocks the high altogether if someone tries to inject the combination drug. Drugs that combine buprenorphine and naltrexone are sold under these brand names: Suboxone, Subutex, Bunavail, and Zubslov.

When did it come about?

Introduced to the U.S. in 1947

When did it originate?

2002

Where is it available? 

Methadone is only available through an opioid treatment program (OTP) certified by SAMHSA. For methadone treatment, these often referred to as “methadone clinics,” which are very structured programs.

Where is it available? 

Only through SAMHSA-accredited Opioid Treatment Programs by providers who have been approved to dispense it

How often do you use it?

Daily or every eight to 12 hour as prescribed in your treatment plan

How often do you use it?

Every day or every-other day, depending on the patient

How do you take it?

Methadone is administered under the supervision of a doctor either orally in pill form or in a liquid solution.

How do you take it?

It’s taken orally pill form or a tablet taken under the tongue (sublingually).

Controversy:

Critics claim that methadone replaces one addiction with another because methadone is often taken long-term for years or over the course of a lifetime. Proponents consider methadone to be instrumental in keeping those with opioid addiction in treatment longer, from committing crimes or spreading infectious diseases like HIV.

Controversy:

For people who do not need or cannot travel to a highly structured methadone clinic and for people who do not have high levels of dependency, buprenorphine may be prescribed. Buprenorphine treatment is more convenient and dignified, and since it’s also more expensive, it may point to socioeconomic inequality which is why Suboxone has been dubbed the “rich man’s methadone.”

Precautions:

Do not combine with alcohol or barbiturates and follow your doctor’s instructions.

Precautions:

Store this drug properly especially if there are children in the home, according to Poison Control. Children have mistaken the drug in film or tablet form for candy as both are “pleasantly flavored.” The results are increased heart rate, vomiting, coma and even death when children ingest even a few licks of these drugs.

For yourself, be sure to follow your doctor’s instruction and do not mix this drug with other substance unless directed by your physician due to a risk of respiratory distress.

Source: DEA, Drugs.com, SAMHSA, Medscape, Poison Control

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2 Responses to Methadone v. Buprenorphine (Suboxone)

  1. LINDA November 1, 2015 at 11:25 pm #

    I am a opiate/oxy/heroin addict in recovery for over 6 years. I survive sobriety due to suboxone. I used a lot…eventually I would be dead…no doubt…I didn’t care. If if was not for subs I would be taking methadone. The only thing is I used to use that to get high…I used to buy it too…you are controlled going to a clinic so its better than being out using street drugs….and you can function for the day. I am not knocking either one…I agree some of us need either of the two or we would be out using….back to no control. I don’t care what people in NA say …when subs came out they said I wasn’t clean…ok..but guess what I was as clean as I am ever gonna get…I was a hopeless addict. The drug had given me my life back..I care about more than me and my drugs every minute…and planning for wakeup. So thank you whomever came up with these drugs to keep a lot of us addicts alive..I have been on it for over 6 years…and don’t plan to stop anytime soon…or I may not make it. I used hard…so I need this suboxone to take daily for my disease…like medicine for any ailment. Don’t let anyone judge you…find a new dr if they cut you off after a few months. I think its gotten much more accepted by drs to keep my ass in maitenence ….or I AM JUST A STEP AWAY FROM USING AGAIN. I HOPE THIS HELPS SOMEONE WHO THINKS YOU CANT DO IT WITHOUT MEDS…SOME CAN….AND GOD BLESS THEM. I AM NOT THIER DR…BUT I KNOW I NEED IT FOR LONG TIME…OR MY JUNKIE ASS WILL LOOSE HER LIFE FOR REAL THIS TIME..peace..I am starting a new addiction…exercise…because I want to feel good on feeling physically good mentally, and just good…I am slow to start…but I want to live life…not just get by…good luck to you all…god bless.

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