Opioid addiction is a serious epidemic that affects the heath, social, and economic welfare of people all around the world. On an average day in the United States, more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed, and 3,900 people begin the nonmedical use of prescription opioids.

While recovery from opiate addiction is possible, many people are scared to take the next step toward recovery because they’re afraid of withdrawal. One of the many benefits of detoxing at a medical center is their ability to provide drugs, such as methadone or suboxone, to help ease withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone And Suboxone

Methadone and suboxone are synthetic opioids used to treat patients with opioid dependency or addiction. Both drugs block the effects of opiates, reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. Here are the differences and similarities between the two:


Methadone is the most common drug used for treating opioid addiction, and it’s considered a full mu-opioid receptor agonist. Methadone is an effective tool in opioid recovery because:

  • It’s effective when taken orally.
  • It has a long duration of action.
  • It continues to work even when taken for long periods of time.

Methadone was first used and marketed in Germany in the 1940s as a painkiller. In the 1950s, the use of methadone began in the United Staes as a treatment for patients detoxing from heroin, but the drug wasn’t approved by the FDA until 1972. It’s manufactured with more dosing options and formats than suboxone. Methadone can be administrated via a liquid (dropper, oral concentrate, or oral solution) or tablet.


Suboxone is another drug used for the treatment of opioid addiction, and it contains the active ingredients buprenorphine, a partial agonist that helps fight the symptoms of withdrawal, and naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses. The FDA approved the medication in October 2002.

Suboxone is found in the form of a pill and sublingual film. Since Suboxone is a partial agonist, it’s less potent than methadone and has less potential for abuse due to the fact it was engineered with a “ceiling effect.” This means that when taken in higher doses, a user will not derive an additional psychological euphoria for suboxone like they would from methadone.

The Risks Of Methadone And Suboxone

Although methadone and suboxone are effective at helping people get through opiate withdrawal and addiction, they don’t come without side effects and risks.

Common side effects of methadone and Suboxone include:

  • Constipation.
  • Dizziness.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Sweating.
  • Vomiting.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Abdominal pain.

Methadone is a full opiate agonist, and it produces greater feelings of euphoria than suboxone and has a higher risk of addiction. Since the potential for misuse or abuse is so high, doses must be carefully monitored by a physician to ensure a person isn’t taking too much or too little.

The major criticism of methadone is that it’s essentially replacing opioids with a drug that provides similar effects. Methadone is highly addictive, and when a person becomes dependent on the drug, withdrawal symptoms can be severe.

Overdose from methadone is a major concern and continues to be problematic. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), methadone contributed to nearly one in three prescription painkiller deaths in 2009, and about 5,000 people die every year of overdoses related to methadone.

Despite the presence of naloxone, which is designed to prevent the euphoric effect, suboxone still has a high potential for misuse and dependency. The risk of overdose is lower than that of methadone, but it’s still possible. Using other substances with suboxone, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, increases the risk of overdose.

Signs of addiction to methadone or Suboxone include:

  • Attempting to obtain multiple prescriptions from doctors.
  • Using the drug more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed.
  • Skipping scheduled doses to “stockpile” them for later use.
  • Obtaining the drug from alternative sources such as friends or acquaintances.
  • Neglecting other aspects of your life including school, work, family, or friends to continue use of methadone or suboxone.

Which Is Better For Opiate Addiction?

People who are interested in opioid replacement therapy often want to know whether methadone or suboxone is more effective. The answer depends largely on a number of factors including what drugs you’ve been using, how long you’ve been addicted to those drugs, your lifestyle, and more.

Suboxone is the safer of the two since it’s a partial agonist. The government allows it to be prescribed in doctor’s offices, while methadone is only available at methadone clinics or treatment facilities.

Since suboxone is safer and not as strong as methadone, it’s widely considered the preferred medication. However, it’s more expensive than methadone and doesn’t work for everyone. Only a doctor can determine whether methadone or suboxone is right for you.

Getting The Help You Need

If you’re struggling with opioid addiction and don’t know where to turn, just know that help is available. At The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, we offer a range of treatment programs to help you overcome your substance use disorder. To learn more about how our team can help and how you can live a fulfilled life in recovery, contact us today.


America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse. (2014, May 14). Retrieved January 26, 2017, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse

Methadone Overdose. (2015, October 14). Retrieved January 26, 2017, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002679.htm

Peddicord, A. N., Bush, C., & Cruze, C. (2015). A Comparison of Suboxone and Methadone in the Treatment of Opiate Addiction. Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, 06(04). doi:10.4172/2155-6105.1000248

Prescription Painkiller Overdoses. (2012, July 03). Retrieved January 26, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/methadoneoverdoses/

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.