Medical Treatments for Opioid Addiction: Suboxone vs. Methadone

Heroin, fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and Dilaudid are just a handful of the substances that fall into the opioid & opiate category. These substances are all highly addictive. In fact, there are approximately 2.1 million Americans that have an opioid use disorder. Due to the highly addictive nature of these substances, recovery rates from opioid addiction are low. Additionally, overdose rates have been climbing over the past couple of decades. In order to reduce overdose rates and help those struggling with opioid addiction, a few different pharmaceutical medications have been developed and approved by the FDA. Two of the most common medications used for opioid-related treatment include Suboxone and Methadone. 

Both methadone and Suboxone are Schedule II controlled substances. When used they carry a risk of withdrawal and a high potential for misuse. When starting these medications, their administration is closely monitored and controlled. In many cases, the medical professional administering the drug will require that the patient is only given it at their facility and they will even observe the patient take the medication. Over time, the individual may be given a few doses at a time to administer themselves.

Medications such as methadone and Suboxone can be used to manage withdrawal and cravings, but treatment for opioid use varies from one individual to another. As a part of a holistic treatment approach, any use of medication should be paired with continuing treatment programming and counseling.

Methadone for Opioid Addiction Treatment

Methadone has been available for opioid addiction treatment for several decades. It is used to help treat both chronic pain and opioid addiction. Methadone can only be administered via a SAMHSA-certified opioid treatment program, such as methadone maintenance clinics. 

There is no cure for any addiction, including opioid addiction. When it comes to addiction to drugs as dangerous as heroin, finding a treatment that could reduce overdose rates was a big deal. Methadone works by blocking the receptors that opioids effect and therefore reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that typically start shortly after an individual stops using opioids.

The use of methadone does come with an array of potential side effects. Some of the common side effects of Methadone use include lethargy, nausea, sweating, constipation, and stomach pain. The more severe symptoms that are possible with methadone use include heart rate and breathing irregularities, stomach pain, seizures, an allergic reaction, and addiction.

Suboxone for Opioid Addiction Treatment

The generic name for Suboxone is actually buprenorphine-naloxone and Suboxone is the brand name for the substance. Buprenorphine-naloxone was approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid addiction in 2002, alongside Subutex (buprenorphine). Suboxone does not have to be administered via a certified opioid program like methadone, but it does need to be prescribed and administered by a doctor under a controlled situation.

Similarly to methadone, buprenorphine binds with opioid receptors. By doing so, it curbs the cravings that heroin and fentanyl produce as the peak euphoria wears off. However, Suboxone also has naloxone in it. When taken sublingually, naloxone does very little. However, when injected directly into the bloodstream, it quickly starts to produce withdrawal symptoms. It is the addition of naloxone to buprenorphine that reduces the rates of abusing this substance. 

Buprenorphine also does offer some pain relief but there are limits. The substance has what is referred to as a ceiling effect. This means that even if additional doses are taken, the euphoric effects will not exceed a certain level.

Like methadone, Suboxone treatment does come with side effects. In addition to lethargy, nausea, sweating, and constipation, common side effects of Suboxone use include mouth numbness and redness, swelling of the tongue, attention difficulties, irregular heart rate, and blurred vision. More severe side effects may include irregular breathing, lack of coordination, decreased blood pressure, liver issues, withdrawal, an allergic reaction, and addiction.

Find the Right Treatment Plan

A trained addiction treatment professional is the best place to start in developing a treatment plan for yourself or a loved one. They can evaluate your needs to determine if methadone or Suboxone is a good medically assisted treatment option and develop a schedule for group therapy, individual therapy, and possibly alternative therapies. Get started on the road to recovery at Level Up Lake Worth.

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