Suboxone vs Methadone Treatments for Opiate AddictionsAnna Ciulla
Many people trying to quit their addiction to opiates experience serious withdrawal symptoms. Coping with withdrawal symptoms is frequently the most difficult part of quitting and detox. Withdrawal symptoms are so intense that many relapse and return to the very drugs they’re trying to quit.
For this reason among others, it is highly recommended that those trying to quit an opiate (or opioid) addiction do so under the care of medically-trained professionals who can monitor the withdrawal process and help manage the symptoms to make the individual as comfortable as a process in an effort to prevent relapse.
Using Medication to Help with Addiction Treatment
One technique frequently used by medical professionals to help those addicted to heroin or other opiates such as Dilaudid, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl includes using another medication to help addicts stay sober and ween off the more powerful drugs. This is called a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) approach or maintenance medication.
Using the MAT approach, other medications such as methadone or Suboxone mimic the effects of the opiates that the addicts are trying to quit. This helps to relieve some of their uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Medications may be prescribed as part of an in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation program. Doctors monitor the effects of these medications and may have to adjust the dosage in an effort to help the individual have the best chance of recovery.
The Difference Between Methadone and Suboxone
The most frequently prescribed maintenance medications used by medical professionals are methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone). Each medication works differently and has its own risks and benefits. Regardless of their differences, it is critical that these medications be used under the counsel of a professional in order to make sure they’re used and monitored properly as both of these drugs have the potential for misuse.
A Brief History
The chemical structure of methadone has been around since the 1930s. In the 1960s, with a resurgence of heroin addiction, researchers started to look for something that could help reduce drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and methadone was more closely examined. In the 1970s, the Federal Government published regulations for using methadone to treat heroin addiction, and in 2001, regulations were modified so that healthcare professionals could provide the drug more effectively.
How Methadone Works to Treat Opiate Addiction
Methadone takes over the opioid receptors sites in the brain so that it reduces cravings for other, more dangerous opiates like heroin; and as an effective pain killer, it helps to reduce the discomfort associated with the withdrawal symptoms that often cause individuals to relapse. When withdrawal symptoms are managed and cravings are reduced, the individual can focus on the other important aspects of quitting such as counseling and addressing any underlying issues.
Appropriately using methadone as a replacement drug for more serious opiates frees the individual from the disruptive and unrestrained behavior associated with heroin addiction.
The Dangers of Using Methadone to Treat Addiction
Like any drug, methadone has side effects. They range to include more mild effects such as dry mouth and lightheadedness to more severe symptoms such as respiratory issues, liver injury, and reduced attention span. Women may experience changes in their menstrual cycle; pregnant women may experience complications if users reduce dosage levels during pregnancy.
The most severe danger is misuse and eventually developing an addiction to Methadone. As an opioid drug itself, methadone can be addictive. Although methadone has been very successful in helping many people overcome their addiction to heroin, it has increasingly become an abused drug in and of itself. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one-third of prescription painkiller deaths involve methadone.
Methadone is an extremely addictive drug. In addition, users can develop a tolerance to it. However, addiction and tolerance are both less likely under the supervision of a doctor.
For those who use methadone as part of their MAT, it’s common to stay on the drug for at least 12 months. However, the doctor will make this determination, and depending on the situation, treatment may continue for years.
Introducing Suboxone to the Opiate Addiction Market
Approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 2002, Suboxone was introduced to the market specifically to treat opiate addiction. Suboxone is a synthetically produced mix of buprenorphine with naloxone. The naloxone is added to help reduce the potential for abusing the drug.
Advertised as a replacement to methadone, Suboxone is intended to offer individuals the same benefits as methadone as an opiate replacement without the risk of abuse or the potential for addiction. It’s important to note that unlike methadone which was originally created to help with management, Suboxone was specifically made to fight addiction.
Using Suboxone to Treat Addiction
Eighty percent of Suboxone is buprenorphine. Buprenorphine binds to opiate receptors in the brain and helps to reduce the cravings for the problem drug such as heroin. It also helps the patient avoid withdrawal symptoms. As an opioid, buprenorphine on its own can be misused. However, when compared with methadone in regards to the potential for overdose, it is way less risky.
To help reduce the potential for misuse, the other 20% of Suboxone is naloxone. Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids which keeps the body from experiencing any kind of high.
A study published by the Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives found that Suboxone is a sensible treatment option for heroin treatment in a monitored doctor-patient relationship. Benefits of using Suboxone to treat addiction include less risk of developing dependence and/or tolerance to the drug, less risk of a fatal overdose, milder withdrawal symptoms, and longer-lasting action.
Potential Downside to Using Suboxone to Treat Addiction
No drug is completely free of side effects. Suboxone is no exception. The side effects, however, are mild and include headache, insomnia, vomiting, and dizziness.
Even though there is a possibility of developing an addiction to Suboxone, it’s very low.
Overall, Suboxone is a safer, less addictive option for treating heroin or other opioid addiction.
Deciding Between Methadone or Suboxone
Although it’s important to do your homework and familiarize yourself with the benefits of both using either methadone and/or Suboxone as part of a recovery plan, it’s critical to work with a medically-trained professional. Every patient is different, and any plans to use a medication, change the dosage, or change medications should be discussed with the doctor.
In order to fully benefit from MAT, individualized addiction treatment plans and counseling must be implemented.