Benefits & Risks of methadone to combat opiate addiction

Methadone vs Suboxone: Important Differences to Know

suboxone or methadone

Statistics report that 1.9 million Americans are addicted to opioid drugs. While the medical industry offers no magic cure, they do offer a variety of treatment options. The main treatments for opioid addiction include Methadone and Suboxone.

Addiction sufferers take Methadone and Suboxone to combat harmful opiates such as heroin and prescription opioids such as OxyContin.

Individuals take these two drugs to stop chemical dependency on these dangerous habit-forming drugs.

Methadone and Suboxone have helped people gain a better quality of life they may have once had before getting addicted to heroin and prescription opioids.

Methadone and Suboxone help fight withdrawal symptoms and can manage to avoid relapse.

But there sometimes lies a problem. Although Suboxone and Methadone have been successful when not taken as prescribed, some users who attempt to detox on their own have formed an addiction to these drugs as well and abused them.

In fact, many skeptics view the use of exchanging these drugs for opioids or heroin as a replacement for one addictive drug over another. That’s why it’s important to take these drugs under medical supervision.

When taken as directed, Methadone and Suboxone have helped people who battle opioid abuse.

But there lies a difference between the two drugs.

This article will discuss these differences.

Methadone Vs Suboxone: Essential Differences To Know

Here’s what you need to know.

1. The History: Old Vs. New

Methadone became available to the American market in the 1960s. However, it was used to treat addiction in Germany in the late 1930s. Methadone has been used in medical facilities to fight heroin addiction since this time.

On the other hand, Suboxone is a newer treatment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the drug the green light in the year 2002 for opioid dependency treatment.

2. How Does Methadone Work?

During detox, methadone minimizes and eliminates uncomfortable and painful withdrawal symptoms. The treatment actually alters the manner in which pain affects the nervous system and brain.

Methadone comes in three forms: by tablet, liquid or in Diskets.

Tablets are swallowed and taken with water. Methadone Diskets need to be dissolved in a liquid before people ingest them. Methadone comes in liquid form as well. Individuals can drink it or dissolve it in a glass of water or a beverage.

3. How Does Suboxone Work?

Suboxone comes in two forms: a tablet form or a film that’s placed beneath the tongue. dissolves in the mouth and enters the body. Suboxone is combined with two drugs: buprenorphine, a synthetic opioid and naloxone.

The drug does produce euphoric effects, however, they are not as strong as the euphoric effects of Methadone.

Similar to Methadone, Suboxone helps individuals by reducing, or possibly even eliminating withdrawal symptoms.

Another benefit occurs when using a buprenorphine-based drug (Suboxone) because the risk of overdosing is lower compared to using Methadone.

However, when injected, the naloxone contained in Suboxone can cause extremely unpleasant withdrawal effects. This makes people want to stop using Suboxone.

4. The Benefit of Medicated-Assisted Treatment

Although people believe Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is substituting one habit-forming drug for another, the treatment of Methadone and Suboxone has been successful.

When taken under the supervision of a doctor and with the combination of behavioral therapies.

Individuals can function in daily life and end criminal and sexually promiscuous behaviors. MAT also minimizes the risk of contracting HIV through the use of infected needles.

5. How To Access Methadone or Suboxone

Methadone can only be prescribed by a physician and must be taken under the physician’s care. Methadone is given at opioid treatment programs.

The programs must be certified by SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The facility needs to register with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The facility must also hold a license and meet the DEA methadone regulations. Since Methadone is a schedule II drug, the Methadone treatment needs to be held in a SAMHSA-certified clinic.

Unlike the distribution of Methadone, Suboxone can be prescribed in a doctors office. Physicians can also prescribe it to patients in hospitals, prisons, and health departments.

6. How Long Do People Need To Take Methadone Or Suboxone?

SAMHSA recommends individuals to take Methadone for at least one year. But some patients take the drug for years. This is decided between a doctor and a patient on a case-by-case basis.

When individuals wish to end treatment, they will gradually decrease the drug consumption. But this should be done under the supervision of a doctor.

Patients taking Suboxone may not need to take it for one year. The amount of time they take the drug depends on the decision between the treatment facility and the patient’s medical history.

7. Can Pregnant Women Take Methadone And Suboxone?

Expectant mothers have taken Methadone while pregnant. Although risks can be present, the advantages of Methadone can outweigh the disadvantages of heroin and opioids.

Methadone use and birth defects have not been severe, although some newborns may have brief withdrawal symptoms immediately following the birth.

Buprenorphine has not delivered severe effects during pregnancy according to SAMHSA. But there have not been many studies conducted.

8. Which Drug Is Safer: Methadone or Suboxone?

People can get addicted to Methadone. This occurs because when it is distributed on the black market. People also take Methadone for pain management and deaths have been reported.

To add, Methadone lasts longer and its effects can build up its effects in the body. The CDC reported that Methadone accounted for 30% of painkiller deaths. That’s double the number of overdoses caused by other painkillers.

Suboxone is not altogether safe from overdoses either, however they are smaller in number.

In a six-year study comparing Methadone to Buprenorphine overdoses with subjects in England and Wales, researchers concluded Suboxone was 6x safer than Methadone.

They reported 52 deaths caused by Buprenorphine and 2,366 as a result of Methadone.

Methadone vs Suboxone: The Conclusion

Now you know more information about the differences between Methadone and Suboxone. Both treatment drugs offer benefits to fight addiction and have their unique effects.

Whichever treatment you choose, the most important thing is to be treated under medical supervision.

Our website provides educational articles and referrals to Methadone treatment for addiction sufferers and their families. Visit our blog today or call us at  855-976-2092 and learn how you can begin the journey of recovery.


[1] Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs | SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019, 30). Retrieved from

[2] Drug Scheduling. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[3] The relative risk of fatal poisoning by methadone or buprenorphine within the wider population of England and Wales. (2015, May 1). Retrieved from


About the author

Dr. Michael Carlton, MD.

Leading addictionologist, Michael Carlton, M.D. has over 25 years of experience as a medical practitioner. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and returned for his MD from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1990. He completed his dual residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and his Fellowship in Toxicology at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

He has published articles in the fields of toxicology and biomedicine, crafted articles for WebMD, and lectured to his peers on medication-assisted treatment. Dr. Carlton was a medical director of Community Bridges and medically supervised the medical detoxification of over 30,000 chemically dependent patients annually.

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