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Comparing Buprenorphine and Methadone

Buprenorphine and methadone are the two leading medications available for the treatment of opioid addiction. Their primary medical benefit is their ability to eliminate opioid withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, runny nose, chills, sweating, muscle ache, cramps, anxiety, agitation, and sleeplessness.

Buprenorphine and methadone are FDA-approved and have been in use for a combined 50+ years. Scientific research has proven the effectiveness of both medications, and they have been deemed a best practice treatment intervention by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Methadone is a full opioid agonist whereas buprenorphine is categorized as a partial opioid agonist. Because of this, buprenorphine has a better safety profile and has less potential for overdose than does methadone. Buprenorphine’s improved safety profile allows it to be offered by prescription from a physician’s office. Methadone is more highly regulated and must be administered every day in a clinic setting.

Being able to take buprenorphine products at home (like Suboxone) provides much more convenience for those individuals with daytime jobs and other pressing responsibilities. Patients receiving methadone must report in to a clinic each day and be observed taking their methadone medication. Buprenorphine-based products like Suboxone or Probuphine do not require the patient to report in daily to a clinic.

Buprenorphine is often taken orally as a tablet (Subutex) or thin film (Suboxone) where it is dissolved sublingually (under the tongue). Methadone is typically dispensed as a liquid that is swallowed. Probuphine (which contains buprenorphine) is a relatively new time-released medication that in inserted under the skin.

More information on this topic is available at SAMHSA and Methadone.US.