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What Is the Difference between Suboxone® and Methadone?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 March 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Suboxone® and methadone are two medications that are often used in the treatment of opiate addiction. They are thought to both aid in opiate addiction by reducing the withdrawal symptoms that occur once a person completely stops taking opiates. These medications are able to be effective because they are similar to opiates, such as codeine, heroin, and morphine, but are not as addictive because they don’t produce the same intensity or type of high. Having a lesser type of opiate in the body allows the person’s system to gradually wean off the drugs instead of shocking the body by suddenly removing the addicted substance completely, preventing withdrawal symptoms. Although the medications are similar, they are not interchangeable and have some key differences that may make one medication safer and more effective for certain patients.

One main difference between Suboxone® and methadone is precisely what symptoms of opiate addiction and withdrawal that they treat and the process of how they are treated. Suboxone® primarily works by blocking any physical withdrawal symptoms from quitting opiates; however, it does not tend to produce any type of high. Methadone also blocks withdrawal symptoms, but it is stronger than Suboxone® and is often used for pain relief. Since Suboxone® does not provide pain relief, methadone is usually prescribed for patients who have more severe opiate addictions that may cause chronic pain during withdrawal.

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The method of administration also tends to be a key difference between Suboxone® and methadone. Suboxone® can only be taken orally through a dissolvable tablet or film that is placed under the tongue until it is absorbed in the mouth, while methadone can be taken orally or administrated intravenously with a needle. If Suboxone® is injected directly into the bloodstream, it loses its effectiveness and opiate withdrawal symptoms will quickly occur.

Suboxone® and methadone also have different types of side effects. Both of the medications can cause side effects such as slowed breathing, drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion; however, methadone tends to have other, more severe possible side effects. It can also cause hallucinations, chest pains, and abnormal heartbeat. If any side effects of these medications occur, it is generally recommended to seek immediate medical attention.

Although both of these medications are mainly designated to treat addiction to opiates, they can also both be habit-forming themselves and are recommended to only be administered following a doctor’s instructions. Methadone is thought to be much more likely to become addictive.

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