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Addiction Behavior Glossary

Comparing Suboxone and Methadone for Opioid Addiction: Which One Is Safer?

1 year, 6 months ago

12050  0
Posted on Mar 14, 2022, 2 p.m.

With deadly drugs like fentanyl dominating the black market today, it appears the opioid epidemic is far from over. With this potent opioid finding its way into all varieties of illicit drug use because of drug cutting, addiction to opioids is no longer a question of whether someone explicitly uses the main culprits like heroin, Vicodin, or OxyContin. Now more than ever, opioid addiction is a complex issue that transcends all typical demographics. This means it is vital to understand the kind of treatment methods to combat opioid addiction. Here is a comparison of those two methods—Suboxone and methadone treatment—and which one is safer.

Detoxing with Methadone

For short-term transitional treatment, methadone is used for those undergoing opioid detox treatment. This drug is used to help people taper off opioids like heroin, but the most notable problem with it is the fact that it, too, is an opioid. While it can be an effective way to help people struggling with an addiction to potent opioids, it is not a one-stop solution because users could be replacing one opioid dependence with another. 

This does not mean that everyone who uses methadone will immediately become addicted to it. However, it does mean the medication needs to be used in a controlled environment with time to taper off methadone after it replaces other opioid addictions that made treatment necessary in the first place. While all drugs carry the risk of side effects and addiction, people can take steps to greatly increase their chances of detox while decreasing their chances of a relapse or even replacing one addiction with another. In the case of using methadone, the support of a professional treatment center can act as a strong checks and balances system to keep users from becoming addicted to methadone.

Detoxing with Suboxone

While methadone is considered a full agonist opioid used as part of a weaning process, Suboxone takes a different approach. Suboxone is a prescription drug made of two main ingredients: buprenorphine—a partial antagonist opioid, and naloxone—a drug that reverses and blocks opioid effects. While naloxone is used to combat opioid overdoses, giving the medication to someone addicted to opioids can run the risk of intensifying their withdrawal symptoms. But like methadone, merely giving people buprenorphine can result in replacing one addiction with another. Suboxone’s one-two punch is widely understood as a much safer treatment method compared to methadone for this reason. Because it does not introduce the same kind of euphoric effects to people during the detoxification process, the possibility of dependency is greatly decreased.

Choosing the Safe Option

It isn’t accurate to come away from this thinking that methadone is dangerous and Suboxone is safe. This issue is more complex than that. It is possible to come away from an opioid addiction successfully using methadone treatment while relapsing into an opioid addiction after using Suboxone treatment. However, by comparison, Suboxone is safer because it does not contain a full opioid agonist (like methadone) and has a lower chance of abuse. Methadone addiction is much more common than Suboxone addiction, but there are specific ways to taper off Suboxone because it is still an opioid drug. 

Overall, the research and history available for Suboxone use show that it generally is a tried and true option for treating opioid addiction. Like all treatment plans, results vary for each person. No one deals with opioid addiction in exactly the same way. Because of this, it is best to reach out to medical professionals and discover the different options available to find a treatment plan that will work best. While there is a legitimate place for methadone treatment, Suboxone should be recognized as a far better option overall.    

This article was written by Kevin Morris from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a dedicated family of facilities committed to offering individualized treatment for all levels of addiction working to treat it at its core to provide those suffering with the tools to start a journey of long-lasting recovery.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.

Content may be edited for style and length.

Materials provided by:

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NIH. (2018). The Ochsner Journal: Suboxone Rationale, Science, Misconceptions. Retrieved

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