For people struggling with an opiate addiction, quitting cold turkey can be difficult, often futile, and occasionally dangerous. Drug replacement therapy, when combined with other addiction treatment strategies like counseling, can often be safer and more effective. Methadone and Suboxone are two drugs that are commonly used to help opiate addicts beat their addiction. But which one is right for you? Take a look at some of the features of each.
Methadone treatment has been around for decades and is usually associated with heroin addicts, though it is also used to treat people addicted to other opioids, like prescription painkillers. Methadone is an opioid drug itself, which is why it's effective at eliminating the cravings that drive addicts to relapse. It simply produces less of a high than other opioids and is dispensed in controlled doses. As users break their dependence on their drug of choice, they can begin to receive smaller doses of methadone, tapering off until they can give that up as well.
Methadone can be abused, and users can build up a dependence to the drug, making it difficult to quit. Methadone is also especially dangerous when misused. Analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that methadone was responsible for more than 30% of prescription painkiller overdose deaths – even though the drug only accounted for 2% of painkillers prescribed.
Methadone can also be inconvenient for patients – in most locations, methadone clinics must dispense only one dose at a time, so users must visit the clinic daily. While this can be helpful for some addicts who need a more structured routine, it can be disruptive for others.
Suboxone is a combination of two different drugs, buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine affects the opioid receptors, but only partially, not fully the way that heroin or prescription painkillers do. Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids, so if someone taking suboxone relapses, the naloxone will prevent their drug of choice from working, which may help them reconsider.
Suboxone is more difficult to abuse than methadone, and it may also be easier to taper off of later. While patients can build a tolerance to suboxone, the withdrawal symptoms when going off the drug are not as intense and are easier to manage. Suboxone is also more difficult to overdose on.
Unlike methadone, doctors can dispense a weekly or monthly supply of suboxone, which can be more convenient and less disruptive for the patient than visiting a clinic daily. However, finding a suboxone doctor can be difficult. Doctors must be specially licensed to dispense the drug and doctors who are licensed can only take on a limited amount of suboxone patients.
The right addiction treatment for you will depend on your individual needs and local resources. If you're struggling with addiction, talk to your doctor about your medication options or contact facilities like the Brightside Clinic to learn more about the above treatments.