Advantages and Disadvantages of Suboxone and Methadone for Treating Opioid AddictionApril 25, 2017
Suboxone and Methadone are two medicine assisted treatment (MAT) options used to treat opioid and heroin addiction. While detox centers typically use one of these medications to minimize withdrawal and curb cravings during the first week of treatment at drug rehab facilities, both Methadone and Suboxone are used by outpatient facilities as maintenance medication and therapy. But beyond the initial treatment at a detox center, how effective are medicine assisted treatment options such as Suboxone and Methadone? What are the advantages and disadvantages? What are the risks?
The MAT Controversy Surrounding Methadone and Suboxone
Nothing is more controversial than Suboxone and Methadone when it comes to treating drug addiction. While some genuinely believe that Suboxone and/or Methadone has saved their lives, others believe it’s just “replacing one drug (or addiction) with another”.
It’s important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating addiction. Thus, like anything else, what works for some may not work for others. We genuinely believe that Suboxone and Methadone can be viable long-term treatment options for certain individuals but not for others. Below we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both MAT options.
Advantages of Suboxone and Methadone for Treating Heroin and Opioid Addiction
Both drugs work similarly and cultivate the same effects in MAT patients. Both Suboxone and Methadone bind to opioid receptors in the brain and reduce cravings, block the effects of other opiates (at the right dose) and practically eliminate withdrawal. When done right, Methadone and Suboxone patients don’t get high and they can live normal, productive lives.
Because both MAT options block the effects of other more potent opiates like oxycodone, morphine, heroin and even fentanyl, MAT patients typically avoid doing other opiates for the simple reason that they won’t be able to obtain that euphoric effect.
And despite what many think, Suboxone and Methadone don’t produce feelings of euphoria for those who are using them in a clinical setting. This is because A) the dose is regulated and B) they’ve already been using and addicted to more potent opiates. Thus, even at higher doses, neither medication produces a “high” or feeling of euphoria.
Another advantages is that compared to residential drug rehab, MAT is far less expensive and may even be covered by private and/or state insurance.
Disadvantages of Suboxone and Methadone for Treating Opioid and Heroin Addiction
Suboxone and Methadone when used in a clinical outpatient setting require a long-term commitment. While there’s no obligation to be or stay on either medication forever, it is advised to participate in either program for awhile to garner the mental and emotional help and support while the medication prevents withdrawal and stabilizes the body.
For those that eventually come off of Suboxone and Methadone, a slow taper is highly recommended. This is because the body becomes physically dependent on the medication, similar to how someone who suffers from depression and takes Zoloft can’t just quit taking it cold turkey. However, a slow and steady taper can be highly effective and significantly minimize and even eliminate any withdrawal they would have felt if they quit cold turkey or tapered too quickly.
It’s because of the dependency that the uneducated claim that MAT patients are just replacing one addiction for another. Because there are no feelings of euphoria or “high” from either Suboxone or Methadone in a clinical setting, patients don’t become “addicted” to their medication. However, withdrawal symptoms can be severe and elongated by quitting cold turkey or tapering too fast. Thus, a slow, carefully planned taper with your doctor is highly recommended.
Residential drug rehab and therapy at a top addiction treatment center is ideal for anyone who can afford it and/or have the right insurance that covers it. However, MAT such as Suboxone and Methadone may be a viable alternative for those who simply aren’t eligible or can’t go to drug rehab.
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Written and Published by William, Kill The Heroin Epidemic Nationwide, Heroin News and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)