suboxone vs. methadone

Suboxone vs. Methadone: Know the Difference

Suboxone and methadone are two drugs designed to guide individuals in recovering from addictions. The drugs serve as an aid in fighting opioid addiction, which is also known as opioid use disorder (OUD). 

OUD is a chronic, lifelong disorder with the potential to cause disability, relapse, and even death. 

Individuals recovering from addictions have the option to seek something called medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Sometimes paired with inpatient rehab, MAT involves the use of medication and behavioral therapy.

Suboxone and methadone are two medications commonly used during MAT. Continue reading to discover the differences between suboxone vs. methadone.

Suboxone vs. Methadone

As of 2019, only three drugs for addiction recovery have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. 

These names might sound confusing but don’t worry. We’re here to help you understand all of the differences between suboxone vs. methadone. 

Keep in mind that you or someone you know may be suffering from opioid addiction. Symptoms of OUD include:

  • Using more of the drug or for a period longer than intended
  • Unable to cut down or control usage
  • Spending lots of time trying to find more of the drug
  • Experiencing a strong desire or urge to use
  • Cutting back or completely stopping important daily activities
  • Using the drug despite evident physical or mental health issues
  • Becoming tolerant of the drug/needing to take more to achieve a certain feeling
  • Using it while doing something dangerous, like operating machinery or driving

Knowing the symptoms of OUD is extremely important when deciding between suboxone vs. methadone and finding the right addiction recovery drugs for you or someone you know. 

Suboxone: How It Works, Benefits, and More

Suboxone is a medicine containing both buprenorphine and naloxone. If you remember from earlier, naloxone was not included in the list as an FDA-approved substance for addiction recovery. 

However, naloxone is FDA-approved as a combination buprenorphine product.

Naloxone, also referred to as Narcan, is used as a rapid method to reverse opioid overdose. Since suboxone contains both buprenorphine and naloxone, its usage is approved for those recovering from addictions.

How Suboxone Works

Suboxone is part of a medication group known as opioid antagonists. To understand this more clearly, opioid agonists are what we know to be heroin, morphine, and oxycodone.

Opioid agonists release endorphins in the brain that mimic pleasure.

Drugs like the above-mentioned activate pain receptors in the brain and alter how an individual perceives pain. 

So, when someone introduces suboxone as part of their addiction treatment, the medication works to cancel out the effects of any opioids in the system. 

Suboxone does this by blocking the opioids from activating the pain receptors.

However, suboxone is only referred to as a partial agonist because it produces less of a response. Suboxone is an agonist because it activates the opioid receptors.

Benefits of Suboxone

While there are few benefits of taking suboxone for addiction recovery, it’s still important for you to know – either for yourself or to inform someone you know who is looking to recover.

The benefits of suboxone include:

  • A lower chance of forming abusive tendencies
  • Easy, ready accessibility
  • A high success rate in treating those with OUD

Understanding these benefits is crucial when finding the right medication for addiction recovery.

Side Effects of Suboxone

Equally as important is knowing the side effects of suboxone. Oftentimes, it can be easy for individuals with OUD to choose a treatment medication without knowing everything they can possibly know about it.

The side effects of suboxone include:

  • Numbness, redness, or pain in the mouth
  • Feeling drunk
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Numbness or tingling sensation

Understanding these side effects is absolutely important when deciding between suboxone vs. methadone. 

Methadone: How It Works, Benefits, and More

Methadone works very similarly to suboxone. It changes the way the brain responds to and perceives pain by lessening the euphoric effects of drugs like heroin, morphine, oxycodone, and codeine. 

Methadone binds to the receptors that drugs like heroin or oxycontin attach to.

Earlier, it was mentioned that suboxone is only known as a partial agonist because buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, and naloxone is a pure opioid antagonist. 

Methadone is a complete agonist because it solely activates opioid receptors.

Offered in a pill, liquid, or wafer form, methadone is more effective in higher doses.

Benefits of Methadone

Specific to this medication, something known as methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) has been commonly used in addiction recovery centers throughout the world. 

MMT is a common practice because of its high effectiveness in relieving pain and severe withdrawal symptoms.

Benefits of methadone use through MMT include:

  • Reduced risk of developing an infectious disease due to halting the use of opioids
  • Reduced risk of criminal activity
  • Overall betterment in quality of life
  • Improved social functioning
  • Greater chance of long-term recovery success
  • Daily visits to the treatment program 
  • Improved participation in recovery programs since there is no craving for opioid use
  • No withdrawal symptoms

With methadone, individuals are able to improve their concentration on the therapeutic aspect of receiving treatment because their withdrawal symptoms are nearly nonexistent.

Side Effects of Methadone

Just like suboxone, there are side effects of taking methadone. The side effects are similar to those associated with other addiction treatment medications.

Mild side effects of methadone include:

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Impaired cognition or confusion

Serious side effects of methadone include:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Itchy skin

If you or someone you know is currently taking methadone and experiencing any of these serious side effects, seek professional medical attention immediately. 

Drugs for Addiction Recovery

Finding the right medication for your addiction journey can be difficult. With this information about the differences between suboxone vs. methadone, we hope that it’s become a bit easier to choose which is best for you.

Feel free to pass along this information to someone you know if they are struggling with an OUD. A majorly important part of recovery is making sure opioid users feel supported.

Do you need assistance in seeking addiction treatment, choosing the best medication for you, or have any questions? Don’t hesitate. Contact us today at SoCal Sunrise Recovery Center. We are here to help you in every way we can.

Clinically Reviewed By

Dawn Masick, LMFT

Dawn has experience dealing with various relational, emotional, and psychological struggles. Dawn’s training has prepared her to work with children, teens, young adults, adults, couples, and families. She has undergone training in DBT, TF-CBT, and Family Therapy.  Other competencies include dealing with ADHD, mood/anxiety disorders, parenting challenges, addiction, PTSD, co- dependency, and relationship issues. I have experience in residential, school-based mental health, children’s community mental health, victims of crime (VOC), and private practice settings.

Dawn has been committed to guiding clients through their trauma, coming alongside them in their healing, and supporting them as they navigate life changes. Dawn’s passion is working with clients struggling with trauma in substance abuse and mental health.