Suboxone is the product of a mixture of two different types of substances – Buprenorphine and Naloxone. The former is an opioid medication that is sometimes referred to as a narcotic, while the latter will help block the effects of opioid medications, particularly the health effects that can trigger the abuse of opioids.
Methadone is in a similar category, as it will also help in the treatment of narcotic addictions, and it is also an opioid-based medication. However, these two drugs are not the same in every way.
The purpose of this text is to identify the key features of Methadone vs Suboxone, reviewing health information about the treatment functions of both, while comparing and contrasting with some of the available alternative medications.
Methadone vs Suboxone: What Are They?
These two are opioid-based medications that help in the management and treatment of opioid and narcotic addictions. Both drugs are classified as essential medicines by the World Health Organization, underlining a crucial contribution to the field of medicine.
There is a lot of research-based information that shows the efficiency of drugs like this in the treatment of abuse of opioids and opioid use disorder-related symptoms.
Of the two, methadone has been in use for a much longer time, since 1947. Since then, there has been a lot of success in the treatment of opioid use-related disorders.
A particular study showed that the likelihood of having a patient on methadone stay in a treatment program was over 400% more than in comparison to controls. These patients also had 33 percent fewer opioid-positive substance tests.
Buprenorphine-naloxone has also proven to be very effective in the treatment of opioid use disorders. A Swedish study to confirm this fact revealed a 100% treatment failure rate for placebo compared to 25% for patients placed on buprenorphine-based drugs.
Further research was carried out by the National Institute for Health in 2018, revealing more positive information to support the use of these medications for opioid use-related disorders.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse also has a strong opinion on the use of these medications for the treatment of opioid use disorders. The organization stresses that a medication-assisted treatment program, which is the combination of substance treatment and behavioral counseling, is crucial for overall health in the cleansing of the overdose and abuse epidemic of opioids and alcohol.
Some evidence to back this is the 37% decrease in heroin overdose deaths after Buprenorphine became available in Baltimore.
Based on this research and results, it is no surprise that both drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) for the treatment of opioid use disorders (OUD).
Methadone vs Suboxone: What Are the Similarities?
To begin with, both these two are very similar types of drugs, starting with the fact that they are both narcotic analgesics. Both drugs help in the treatment of opioid use disorders and addiction – especially in the process of detoxification.
The drugs also share similar functions and side effects on the health of the user. These include headaches, light-headedness, dizziness, sweating, constipation, sleepiness, and nausea. These symptoms appear similar to alcohol side effects.
In some severe cases, using either one of these drugs can also trigger breathing problems and allergic reactions.
It is generally recommended that pregnant women be monitored by qualified doctors if there is a strong need to use opioid dependence and addiction treatment drugs, although it is considered to be safe with drugs that have a low risk for abuse.
However, a Pregnant Woman That Uses either One of These Drugs During Pregnancy Risks Having a Baby That Shows One or More of These Withdrawal Symptoms:
- Crying more than usual
- Hyperactive behaviors
- High-pitched cries
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble gaining weight
Methadone vs Suboxone: What Are the Differences?
There are a good number of similarities here, but both are also different in a number of ways – right from the branding of the medication in various countries, to the withdrawal symptoms and overdose side effects of each drug.
These Differences Are Detailed in the Table Below:
|Other Brand Names||Bunavail
Methadone HCl Intensol
|Approval Date||October 2002||August 1947|
|Treatment Function||Opioid dependence and addiction||Opioid dependence and addiction; chronic pain|
|Dosage Form||Suboxone sublingual film
|Methadone compounding powder
Oral tablet, dispersible
|Drug Class Information||Narcotic Analgesic Combinations||Narcotic Analgesic|
|Drug Schedule Information||Schedule III controlled substance||Schedule II controlled substance|
|Half-Life||37 hours||30 hours|
|Approved Age of Use||16+||18+ (exceptions available)|
|Treatment Length||At least 6 months||At least 12 months|
|Differing Side Effects||Fainting
Redness inside the mouth
Attention and coordination deficit
Low blood pressure
|Differing Withdrawal Side Effects||Fever
|Hot and cold flashes
However, these are only two of many factors that will determine which one of the two would be recommended by a doctor to a person in need of opioid dependence/addiction treatment.
Are There Any Alternatives to Suboxone?
Based on all the information provided above, it is clear that methadone is a popular substitute, and the reverse is the case sometimes (buprenorphine-naloxone acting as a substitute for methadone) depending on the exact needs of each person.
However, there are other medication-assisted treatments for dependence or addiction to opioids apart from these two. These include Sublocade, Subutex, Zubsolv, Belbuca, and Vivitrol. These drugs have varying risk levels to dependence and withdrawal.
These Alternatives to Suboxone Are Compared Below:
Sublocade vs Suboxone
In a Sublocade vs Suboxone comparison, one finds that both of these medications contain buprenorphine, however, where Sublocade contains only buprenorphine, the latter is a combination of that and naloxone. Another difference is that the latter is available as a sublingual film that is placed under the tongue or in the cheek, Sublocade is administered as an injection. Sublocade has only come onto the scene recently, gaining approval for prescription in 2017. Finally, there is a monthly dosage administration limit for Sublocade instead of daily doses.
Subutex vs Suboxone
In a Subutex vs Suboxone comparison, one finds that the former only contains buprenorphine, so it does not have the opioid-blocking effects that naloxone gives suboxone.
Another difference is that the former is a milder opioid and as a result, the risk of withdrawal symptoms, dependence, or addiction is less severe.
It can be argued that while these milder effects seem like a good thing, they also have the rebound effect that Subutex is less effective for managing opioid use disorders in comparison.
Zubsolv vs Suboxone
In a Zubsolv vs Suboxone comparison, one finds that Zubsolv is the most similar drug on this list – although it is a more recent product. This substance also has lower opioid content in comparison, but functions in the same way otherwise and shares similar withdrawal symptoms.
The key difference here is that the former comes in tablet form while the latter is a sublingual film.
Belbuca vs Suboxone
In a Belbuca vs Suboxone comparison, one finds that the former is also a schedule III controlled substance like the latter. The drug is usually prescribed for the management of pain that is severe enough to require round-the-clock monitoring and a long-term opioid treatment program.
However, a similarity shared in this comparison is that the former also contains the active ingredient Buprenorphine and is administered through a buccal film formulation absorbed through the inner lining of the cheek into the bloodstream.
Vivitrol vs Suboxone
Vivitrol is the brand name of naltrexone, a drug designed to help clients struggling with addiction to opioids. When comparing Vivitrol vs Suboxone, one finds that this indication is shared, but the methods of administration and the mechanism of action of both drugs differ.
Vivitrol is administered through a monthly long-term release injection and serves as a passive deterrent against the abuse of opioids.
This approach of detox is milder than the daily use that doses of buprenorphine-naloxone required to remain effective. It also contributes to the fact that there are no known abuse risks or overdose risks with Vivitrol use.
Finally, a major difference here is that, unlike the latter, Vivitrol is also useful in the detox process and treatment of alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction.
Natural and Over the Counter Alternatives to Suboxone
In some cases of abuse or dependence on opioids, natural and over-the-counter products can be effective for treatment and recovery. It is strongly advised that a visit to the doctor should be made before taking any treatment, especially with over-the-counter medication. However, knowledge about these alternatives to Suboxone medicine can come in handy.
Natural Alternatives to Suboxone for Opioid Dependence Recovery Include:
- Chinese herbal medicine (e.g Tai-Kang-Ning, Ginseng, U’finer)
Over-the-counter medication can also help with the recovery process, particularly by dealing with withdrawal symptoms.
Some of These Medications Are:
- Loperamide (for diarrhea)
- Meclizine or Dimenhydrinate (for nausea)
- Acetaminophen (for aches and pains)
It is important to note that the aforementioned alternative treatments must be accompanied by a proper specialized detox and rehab recovery program. Opioid withdrawal will be difficult, but the burden is greatly reduced with the intervention of a professional.
Choosing the Safe Alternative
Summarily, there are a good number of medication-assisted recovery options for people dealing with opioid dependence.
Natural and over-the-counter alternatives also help to avoid the risk of picking up another habit of abuse while still getting the treatment needed. However, making a choice must be done based on the approval and supervision of a qualified healthcare professional.
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- Polydrug abuse: A review of opioid and benzodiazepine combination use. Jermaine D. Jones, Shanthi Mogali, and Sandra D. Comer http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3454351/
- NIDA. 2021, April 13. How effective are medications to treat opioid use disorder?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction/efficacy-medications-opioid-use-disorder
- NIDA. 2016, November 1. Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/effective-treatments-opioid-addiction
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