What’s the Difference Between Methadone, Naltrexone, and Buprenorphine for Heroin Addiction?

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Heroin addiction can be highly difficult to overcome on your own due to the way this opioid triggers severe cravings and withdrawal symptoms upon quitting. Addiction to heroin and other opioids is commonly treated with prescription medications that relieve these symptoms and offer a more comfortable recovery. These medications include methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine — all of which have different effects, but can successfully help you stop using heroin for good.

If you’re suffering from heroin addiction, understand that drug rehab centers offer medication-assisted treatments that help relieve cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-442-6158 Who Answers? to speak with a drug abuse counselor about your options for nearby drug rehab centers devoted to helping you achieve sobriety.

Not sure which heroin addiction treatment is best for you? Here’s a closer look at the difference between methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine.


Heroin Addiction

Medication-assisted treatments alleviate withdrawal so you can focus on recovery.

Methadone is a synthetic opiate that occupies the same receptors in the brain as heroin without producing the same effects of euphoria and pain relief. This allows recovering addicts to quit using heroin without suffering pain and discomfort associated with cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Methadone maintenance treatment is most ideal for those overcoming heavy and/or long-term addictions to heroin.

Methadone is generally administered by physicians once per day at methadone clinics. If you’re using methadone, you can visit the clinic briefly to receive your daily dose, then resume your normal daily activities. Methadone has been used for several decades to help heroin users successfully achieve sobriety from heroin.


Naltrexone is a partial agonist that prevents heroin users from feeling the euphoric effects of heroin and other opioids. Naltrexone therapy is most ideal for those who have used heroin for a brief period of time, and/or those who are highly motivated to quit using. Naltrexone offers minimal side effects, and poses a low risk for addiction compared to a full agonist like methadone.

Naltrexone users can usually take the drug at home without being under direct medical supervision.

Pros of Choosing Buprenorphine Over Methadone for Heroin Addiction Treatment


Like naltrexone, buprenorphine is a partial agonist that offers a lower risk for addiction than methadone. This synthetic opioid is proven more effective than naltrexone at minimizing heroin cravings so you can avoid extreme physical discomfort while trying to overcome addiction. Buprenorphine can be taken at home in low doses every two days.

Recovering heroin addicts who relapse while taking buprenorphine will not experience euphoria or pain relief due to the way this medication blocks the effects of heroin and other opioids.

Your physician and drug rehab staff can recommend the best possible addiction treatment for you based on your unique addiction status and health needs. All three medications can be administered at both inpatient and outpatient rehab centers that specialize in treating heroin and opioid addiction.

If you’re struggling with heroin addiction, understand that you’re not alone, and that help is available and nearby. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-442-6158 Who Answers? to learn more about available options for heroin addiction treatments at nearby drug rehab centers.

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