By Janice Wright MPH, LCADC, CCS, Executive Director, Mount Pocono Medical, an opioid treatment program of Pinnacle Treatment Centers and a *Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Designated Center of Excellence. Janice is also Assistant Regional Director in Pennsylvania for Pinnacle Treatment Centers.
There is an opioid misuse and overdose epidemic in our nation. The rates of both opioid abuse and overdoses from opioids continue to increase. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017 there were 70,000 deaths from drug overdoses and 68% of those were from a prescription or illicit opioid.
And while many in the nation continue to perish, there are also those who are seeking help and overcoming their opioid use disorder (OUD). If you are someone you love is struggling with an addiction to an illicit or prescription opioid, there is help, and life can change for the better.
Effective Treatment for Opioid Addiction: Methadone Vs Suboxone
As research into causes of and effective treatment for addictions of all kinds, including those to opioids, increases, there are more options for overcoming an opioid use disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), when medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is used in combination with behavioral therapy, recovery is possible.
So what is MAT and what medications work best? Some of the most commonly prescribed medications for opioid addiction are methadone and Suboxone. And while these medications both work well, it’s essential to understand that medication alone is not the answer. However, when medication is used, patients in therapy are more likely to continue therapy than those who are not undergoing MAT.
For anyone who is struggling with an opioid addiction, one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to MAT is about Suboxone compared to methadone.
Is Suboxone the Same as Methadone?
Methadone has been used for decades to treat addiction to heroin and other opioids. It is on the list of schedule II-controlled medications and is a long-acting, full opioid agonist. This means it works on blocking the activation of opioid receptors. Not only does methadone block the effect of opioids, it also helps in reducing cravings and eases withdrawal symptoms. Methadone comes in liquid, diskettes, tablets, and powders.
When it’s initially prescribed, methadone must be taken under the supervision of a physician and through a SAMHSA-certified opioid treatment program (OTP). Once dosages are stabilized, patients may sometimes be able to take methadone at home in between visits to their OTP. The length of time on a methadone program varies from person to person and is determined with the help of a treatment team.
Suboxone, one of the buprenorphine MATs, is also widely used to treat opioid addiction along with behavioral therapy and social support group attendance. One of the key differences with Suboxone compared to methadone is that it’s safer to use than methadone; because of this, it is easier to prescribe and doesn’t require daily visits to special methadone clinics. This significantly increases the availability of it for those in need of treatment.
Suboxone is an opioid partial agonist. When taken, it produces similar euphoric effects as opioids but the effect is much less than with heroin or prescription opioids. It is also long-acting so patients may not have to take it on a daily basis. When treatment is stopped, buprenorphine, or Suboxone, causes milder withdrawal than methadone.
When used as prescribed, both Suboxone and methadone can be very helpful in treating opioid use disorders. The treatments allow the brain circuits connected with addiction to rewire and heal as they work towards long-lasting recovery. However, it’s important to be aware that when either of these MATs is being used to treat opioid addiction there is the potential for abuse. Still, MAT is considered the gold standard of treatment for OUD.
According to NIDA, less than one-half of private addiction treatment centers offer MAT despite the evidence showing how effective these medications can be when used in conjunction with therapy and support groups to help individuals overcome opioid addiction.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to an opioid, whether illicit or prescription, Pinnacle Treatment Centers can help you reclaim your life today. Contact us online or call 1-800-782-1520.
Headquartered in New Jersey, Pinnacle Treatment Centers is a recognized leader in comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment serving more than 29,000 patients daily in California, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. With more than 110 community-based locations, Pinnacle provides a full continuum of quality care for adult men and women which includes medically-monitored detoxification/withdrawal management, inpatient/residential treatment, partial hospitalization/care, sober living, intensive and general outpatient programming, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder.