Buprenorphine and methadone are two potential pharmacological treatment options for opioid dependence and addiction. But is buprenorphine really safer than methadone? If you or someone you love is struggling with an opioid addiction, don’t wait; call 800-442-6158 Who Answers? now for help finding treatment.
Buprenorphine vs. Methadone
Methadone is the most commonly utilized opioid dependency treatment medication. According to Harvard Medical School, in 2005, 100,000 American addicts were being maintained on this drug. Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) usually combines behavioral therapy and the medication in order to provide a well-rounded treatment program to patients. Methadone is very effective because it is a full opioid agonist and can help treat those with severe dependencies. However, it can still be misused like other opioid drugs.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which means it is not as strong as methadone. The drug is usually marketed with naloxone under the brand name Suboxone, although it is sometimes marketed on its own. Buprenorphine was released in 2002, while methadone maintenance has been around much longer (since the 1960s).
Which Is Safer: Buprenorphine or Methadone?
Buprenorphine actually has many safeguards that help protect it from misuse and that protect users from the side effects sometimes experience with opioid replacement therapies.
- Buprenorphine has a ceiling effect, which means that its effects increase with each dosage amount until they level off at higher amounts (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). This safeguard strongly protects users against the potential of overdose, although an individual can still overdose on this drug under certain circumstances.
- Methadone does not have a ceiling effect and, if taken in higher doses than prescribed, could easily cause an overdose.
- Naloxone is often marketed with buprenorphine as a combination drug in order to safely treat individuals being maintained on buprenorphine. If an individual tries to crush and snort the drug, naloxone will immediately precipitate withdrawal.
- Methadone does not have any built-in safeguards against abuse like naloxone.
- One can receive buprenorphine from a doctor’s office or clinic every couple of days. This allows patients to work on maintaining their life in recovery while not having to worry as much about getting their medication.
- One of the ways methadone is protected from abuse is that it can only be received through a government-approved clinic. Patients must go to the clinic daily to receive their medication.
In short, there are a number of safeguards buprenorphine has that methadone does not, and the former drug is considered to be safer in the cases of abuse, misuse, or overdose than the latter. However, some individuals need methadone because buprenorphine is not strong enough to treat those with severe dependencies. As such, it is important to talk to your doctor in order to decide which method of treatment will best suit your needs.
Seek Help Today
If you are still looking for a safe, effective rehab program that will help you put an end to your substance abuse, call 800-442-6158 Who Answers? now. We will match you with the best option for your needs and help you begin your journey of recovery.