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What is the Main Difference Between Suboxone and Methadone

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What is the Main Difference Between Suboxone and Methadone

For most people who depend on opiate and opioid-based painkillers to manage chronic pain, there is no better feeling than popping that pill and receiving instant pain relief. However, what may have started out as a genuine means of pain management can easily develop into something else when such drugs are misused. Addiction to opiate painkillers is responsible for a number of health issues that continue to plague millions of Americans.

Methadone and suboxone are opioid-based painkillers that are prescribed to manage mild to moderate pain. These drugs are also used to reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms when detoxing from more potent opiates such as heroin and morphine. In today’s post, we take a deeper look into methadone and suboxone and how they are used to manage opiate addiction.

Methadone is a synthetic analgesic that is chiefly used to treat the symptoms of withdrawal from other opiates. It is also commonly prescribed to manage moderate to extreme chronic pain for first-time opiate users. Methadone is a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S., which means that a prescription is necessary before methadone-containing drugs can be dispensed.

Methadone as a Painkiller
Recent studies have found that methadone is a longer-acting painkiller compared with other opioids. As such, longer doses can be prescribed, which helps prevent tolerance and addiction to the drug. This is also the reason why methadone is increasingly being prescribed as an alternative to shorter-acting opioids such as morphine.

Methadone for Treating Opiate Addiction
People looking to stop opioid and opiate use are usually prescribed methadone to help cope with withdrawal symptoms. The use of methadone to treat opiate addiction is tightly regulated because of the drug’s potential to cause addiction.

Like other opioids in its class, methadone works by inhibiting the brain’s perception of pain, which can cause addiction when misused. Therefore, despite its beneficial use when detoxing from harder opiates, methadone can be potentially abused by anyone looking to get high.

Suboxone is a popular combination drug that first hit medicine cabinets in 2002 after FDA approval. Suboxone is a trade name that refers to a drug with two active ingredients, namely naloxone and buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is an opioid analgesic that, when taken in moderate to high doses, causes symptoms similar to heroin, hydrocodone, morphine, and other high-end opioids.

In low doses, however, buprenorphine can be used to manage the symptoms of withdrawal by allowing opioid and opiate-addicted individuals to come off harder opioids without painful withdrawals.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that works against opioid chemicals that are in circulation in the body. Large concentrations of naloxone in the body induce withdrawal symptom by blocking or reversing the effect of opioids. As such, drugs containing naloxone, including Narcan, are normally used in emergencies involving opioid overdose.

Suboxone and Maintenance Therapy
Like Methadone, suboxone is used by individuals who are addicted to harder opiates but are not willing to endure the terrible withdrawals. Suboxone has become extremely popular because of its supposed curative effect against PAWS, including depression and anxiety. Suboxone is also good for long-term management therapy since the naloxone component keeps users away from other hard opioids.

Differences between Methadone and Suboxone
While both methadone and suboxone have been used for years to manage opiate addiction, these two drugs have some glaring differences that set them apart. Most of the differences between these two drugs stem from the effect each drug has on opioid receptors on nerve cells. Opiate and opioid-based drugs confer their painkilling (and addictive) effects on nerve cells by activating opioid receptors.

Full and Partial Agonists
Methadone, as a full agonist, acts by completely infiltrating all receptors until they are fully sensitized or maximum effects have been achieved. On the other hand, buprenorphine is a partial agonist, which means that instead of activating receptors completely, such receptors are only activated until the effect levels off (the ceiling effect). At this point, the individual does not experience more “high” even when they increase the dosage.

While both drugs have the potential of causing respiratory distress and arrhythmias, buprenorphine is less likely to produce such symptoms compared with full agonists such as methadone. As such, suboxone is usually hailed as the safer option of the two and is also less likely to fuel addiction and abuse among opiate users.

As a full agonist, methadone is usually preferred for treating people who are addicted to higher opiate doses. People who are hooked up on higher doses of opioids normally have a higher concentration of opioid chemicals on opioid receptors on nerve cells. Methadone, which does not have a ceiling effect, is normally prescribed for such individuals.

As a partial agonist, suboxone exerts its effects on these receptors up to a certain level before leveling out. Therefore, users whose receptors are highly stimulated will respond poorly to suboxone, with little to no therapeutic effect on the body.

Opioid Half-life
Another major difference between the two drugs is their respective half-lives. A drug’s half-life is the amount of time required for half the concentration of the drug to be broken down and removed from the body. This figure is important when determining dosage and drug concentrations when making drug formulations.

Methadone has a half-life of between 8 to 59 hours while buprenorphine has a slightly longer half-life that starts from 24 to 60 hours. This means that one needs to take doses with shorter intervals between doses for methadone compared with suboxone. This also means one can take a single dose of suboxone every 4-7 days compared with methadone whose doses must be taken every 2-5 days to avoid withdrawals and to maintain the therapy.

This further helps reduce the chances for ill effects from taking suboxone, since one will be taking less frequent doses compared with methadone.

If you are planning to come off an opiate addiction, methadone and suboxone present good options if you are looking to avoid terrible withdrawal symptoms. While both have their advantages and disadvantages, it is always important to seek medical advice before beginning a regimen with either of them.

CalmSupport As A Final Option
If you are planning to quit using all opioid medications and are worried about the prolonged withdrawal effects it will benefit you greatly to learn more about CalmSupport. CalmSupport is an opiate withdrawal aid that is all natural and non -habit forming. It is comprised of organic herbs, amino acids, minerals and active vitamins. Each ingredient was selected for it's specific benefits in relieving withdrawal symptoms from opiates. When the time comes to take the final leap off of everything and live a happy, healthy, medication free life, CalmSupport will be here to help.

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