Methadone vs. Suboxone for Heroin Addiction

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Treatment of heroin addiction involves a combination of medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapy.  The approach to the treatment matches the severity of addiction and the needs of every patient.  The most common medications for the treatment of heroin addiction are Methadone vs Suboxone.  But, which one is better?  The primary objective of this post is to compare these medications to determine the superior option.  If you need more detailed information about medication-assisted treatment or need to find treatment that actually works, please give us a call 24/7.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a medication prescribed for the treatment of Opioid use disorder (OUD). For decades Methadone has been used to treat addiction to heroin and narcotic pain medication as it helps patients sustain long-term success in the recovery process. Being an opioid as well, Methadone is a prescription drug, and a controlled substance meaning the use of this medication is strictly monitored by the doctor.

methadone for heroin addiction

Methadone comes in the forms of a tablet, orally dispersible tablet, oral solution, and oral concentrate solution. There is also an IV form of Methadone, but this form is only administered by a healthcare provider. The main aim of this drug is to alleviate severe pain. Doctors prescribe it for the treatment of heroin addiction because it can help relieve severe withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone works to decrease the craving for heroin and the severity of withdrawal symptoms but also blocks or blunts the effects of drugs. The medication acts on pain receptors in the body to reduce the intensity of pain a person feels. By producing similar effects as heroin, it can help a patient remain on the road to recovery through more effective management of withdrawal. 

When taken as prescribed, Methadone is safe and effective however, as an Opioid, it can also be habit forming and addictive. Patients may experience symptoms when they start taking Methadone for the first time or after the doctor increases the dosage. Some adverse reactions include slowed breathing, extreme drowsiness, constipation, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, and stomach pain.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a prescription drug created specifically to treat opioid addiction. It contains two ingredients: the opioid buprenorphine and the medication Naloxone. These two ingredients work together to help lower cravings for Fentanyl, Heroin, Codeine, and Oxycodone. Suboxone is usually taken during the period when a patient is going through detox from opioids, in this case, heroin. After the detox phase, they may still need to take Suboxone in order to control cravings and relieve symptoms of withdrawal while going through therapy and rehab.

This medication comes in the form of an oral film that a patient needs to place under the tongue or between the tongue and cheek. Then, the film dissolves in the mouth. Suboxone treatment works by acting on the same receptors as heroin (or other drugs of abuse), thus “convincing” the brain that its need for the drug has been fulfilled. Like other medications, Suboxone may cause mild or severe adverse reactions when a patient starts taking it for the first time or after the dosage has been changed. Inadequate use of the drug can also lead to side effects. Adverse reactions include headache, anxiety, sweating, depression, opioid withdrawal symptoms, nausea, fatigue, and others.

Methadone vs. Suboxone: How are They Different and Similar?

Methadone vs Suboxone

Methadone and Suboxone are used frequently to treat heroin addiction. These drugs have some similarities and differences as well. What they have in common is that both drugs  act on the brains Opioid receptors. Both Methadone and Suboxone are prescribed by the doctor and are considered successful in the treatment of addiction.

Although at first glance, they may seem like the same thing, these medications have a lot of differences. For example, Methadone treats both chronic pain and addiction, while Suboxone is only formulated to tackle addiction. Moreover, Methadone works by changing how the brain and the nervous system respond to the pain, while Suboxone doesn’t fully stimulate opioid receptors in the brain since it’s a partial agonist opioid.

Methadone, a full agonist, reduces severe withdrawal symptoms and blocks the euphoric effects of heroin and other opiate drugs. Suboxone, being partial agonist opioid, could be less effective at managing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

As mentioned above, Methadone is administered via tablets and solutions. The most common form of Suboxone is oral film. 

Methadone has been used for decades, while Suboxone is a relatively newer approach. A patient can only get Methadone for treatment of addiction from certified opioid treatment programs, which include methadone maintenance clinics. Before prescribing Methadone, the doctor examines and evaluates the patient in these clinics. Suboxone is different as the only prescription from the doctor is needed. If you would like Suboxone treatment for Opioid addiction, you can call us 24/7 to learn more about our treatment center and outpatient program.