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Suboxone Withdrawal: Is it Worse than Methadone?

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Prior to 2002, methadone existed as the only available medication treatment for opiate addiction. Since the mid-1960s, methadone has remained the standard by which newly developed opiate addiction medications are measured.

First approved as an opiate addiction treatment medication in 2002, Suboxone was designed to make up for methadone’s short-comings while still providing needed relief from opiate withdrawal symptoms. According to the Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice, Suboxone improvements brought about a lower addiction potential than methadone, and naloxone, an added ingredient that acts as a relapse prevention safeguard.

While both medications are effective in their own right, a certain degree of withdrawal discomfort does arise when it comes time to discontinue treatment. Considering that these two medications interact with the brain and body in different ways, which withdrawal syndrome is worse, Suboxone withdrawal or withdrawal from methadone?

Understanding the workings behind methadone and Suboxone withdrawal can help shed some light on whether Suboxone withdrawal is really that much worse.

For more information on Suboxone and methadone treatment options, call our toll-free helpline at 800-662-8079.

Suboxone Effects vs. Methadone Effects

Suboxone Withdrawal

Suboxone withdrawal symptoms may persist longer than methadone.

According to the Journal of Psychiatry, like methadone, buprenorphine works to restore a normal chemical balance in the brain. In turn, these effects provide relief from uncomfortable withdrawal and drug cravings effects.

Both drugs interact with the same brain cell receptor sites as addictive opiates like heroin and fentanyl. Rather than over-stimulate neurotransmitter chemical production rates, Suboxone and methadone help the brain return to its normal chemical production levels.

Suboxone’s added ingredient, naloxone, only comes into play when a person tries to abuse Suboxone by snorting or injecting the drug. In the event of abuse, the body goes into full withdrawal, which works as a type of negative reinforcement mechanism.

Factors That Affect Withdrawal

When comparing methadone versus Suboxone withdrawal, two factors that greatly affect withdrawal outcomes are rate of metabolism and elimination half-life times.

Both methadone and Suboxone metabolism takes place in the liver. The two drugs differ in that Suboxone is fat soluble, so it tends to build up in fat cells throughout the body.

In terms of elimination half-life times, half-life has to do with length of time it takes for half of a drug dose to be excreted by the body. Whereas methadone has an average half-life time of 22 hours, Suboxone’s is 37 hours.

In effect, Suboxone’s ability to build-up inside the body’s fat cells combined with its longer half-life makes for a longer Suboxone withdrawal period than methadone. This means someone coming off Suboxone stands to experience withdrawal symptoms for a longer time than if he or she were discontinuing methadone treatment.

What Happens During Suboxone Withdrawal

Treatment Considerations

Ultimately, the choice between Suboxone and methadone boils down to which drug provides the level of support you need to maintain abstinence on an ongoing basis. While Suboxone withdrawal may indeed last longer than methadone’s withdrawal period, both lines of treatment include support measures for when you’re ready to come off the drug.

If you’re considering Suboxone or methadone treatment and need help finding a program that suits your needs, feel free to call our helpline at 800-662-8079 to speak with one of our addiction specialists.

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