Cravings for opioids don’t stem from your imagination. They originate in brain cells damaged by drug exposure, and they are hard to ignore.
Your treatment team, including your counselor and doctor, will decide what medication is best for you based on their professional expertise.
These drugs are made for different types of people. Knowing where you fit can help you understand your doctor’s choice of therapy.
Addictions are treatable, and medications are an accepted part of a recovery program. For some people, drug therapy means the difference between a long life and a relapse that leads to death.
Research from the National Institutes of Health suggests that overdose deaths drop 59 percent in those who take methadone, and they drop 38 percent in those taking buprenorphine.
Cravings are easier to manage when you have medications. When you don’t feel the urge to use, you are less likely to relapse. And a relapse has real risks for people in recovery.
When you move into treatment, your brain cells begin to heal. As they do, they become more susceptible to the impact of drugs. The next dose you take, even if it doesn’t seem big to you, could overwhelm your recovering body. That could lead to death.
This risk drives the use of medications in addiction recovery. Methadone and Suboxone are two medications your doctor could choose, and methadone could be the right choice if your addiction is severe.
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Of the drugs mentioned here, methadone is the oldest. It is considered an agonist medication, meaning that it blocks other opioids from latching to receptors. It does not produce euphoria, and it keeps other drugs from doing that too. People have taken methadone for years to help with opioid addiction.
Methadone is typically provided in a 24-hour dose you swallow in liquid form. Most people using this therapy have to go to special clinics to get it, and they may need to pass urine drug tests to stay in the treatment program.
Daily appointments can seem inconvenient, but for some people, it’s the only way to achieve recovery.
Researchers say methadone is much stronger than Suboxone. It has no point at which it stops working, so you can take large doses of it as needed to control cravings. If you’re accustomed to taking high opioid doses or your addiction has been in place for a long time, a weaker prescription may not help you. The full dose of methadone might.
Methadone might be the stronger medication, but not every addiction treatment program needs that strength. You could benefit from a therapy that fits neatly into your lifestyle, so you won’t be tempted to drop out of care too quickly. Suboxone could be right for you.
Suboxone contains two ingredients. One helps to soothe cravings, and the other blocks the action of other drugs.
When combined, you get a therapy that can help you to comply with your addiction treatment program. And it comes in a dosing program that’s easy for anyone to follow.
Suboxone can be prescribed and taken at home, and it’s recommended for that use. Rather than going to the clinic to take your medications, you’ll get the care you need in the comfort of your home. You won’t need to step away from work or social obligations for care.
If convenience is important to you and your addiction doesn’t require intense therapy, this could be a good choice for you.
Your addiction program should have flexibility built in, so you can change the plan to fit your needs. Your medication may be one area in which your doctor’s opinion takes precedence over yours.
Your doctor is required to follow guidelines about diversion and best practices. To choose a therapy for you, your doctor might ask about your:
No one but a doctor can make these decisions. Law enforcement officials, judges, and others can’t decide. An open discussion with your doctor can help make the choice a bit clearer.
That decision may shift with time. If you feel sick on an ongoing basis while taking Suboxone, you may need the strength of methadone. If you have taken methadone for a long time and you’re ready to wean away from these medications, you might choose to shift to Suboxone.
Your physician can help you understand your choices and make the recovery decision that’s right for you.
Regardless of the medication you take, remember that it’s not safe to quit cold turkey. Cravings for drugs will return, and they will be paired with a physical sickness that can leave you feeling miserable. If you’re tempted to stop your medication therapy, talk with your doctor first.
(June 2018). Methadone and Buprenorphine Reduce Risk of Death After Opioid Overdose. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/methadone-buprenorphine-reduce-risk-death-after-opioid-overdose
(January 2012). Buprenorphine vs. Methadone Treatment: A Review of Evidence in Both Developed and Developing Worlds. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3271614/
Dosing Guide: For Optimal Management of Opioid Dependence. The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment. Retrieved February 2019 from http://www.naabt.org/documents/Suboxone_Dosing_guide.pdf
(June 2018). Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Use Disorder. North Carolina Division of Social Services and the Family and Children's Resource Program. Retrieved February 2019 from http://www.practicenotes.org/v23n2/MAT.htm