How To Switch From Methadone To Suboxone

Suboxone (buprenorphine) and Methadone are the two most commonly used medications to treat an opioid addiction. Switching from a methadone maintenance program to Suboxone therapy can be extremely beneficial to a persons quality of life. Individuals generally must be at a daily dose of Methadone at or below 30 mg in order for a doctor to feel comfortable switching them over to Suboxone.

Switching From Methadone To Suboxone

Methadone and Suboxone are the two medications most commonly used to treat an addiction to opioids. Methadone can be very difficult to detox from. Even so, it is possible to switch from methadone to Suboxone treatment. Switching from methadone to Suboxone can be difficult but extremely beneficial.

Though they are both used to treat opioid addiction, methadone and Suboxone have different chemical formulas. These different chemicals can impact someone going through opioid addiction recovery in different ways .

Over 2.5 million Americans suffer from opioid use disorder, medically-assisted treatment using methadone or Suboxone has proven to be a more successful way of breaking away from opioid addiction in the long-run.

Methadone Vs. Suboxone: What’s The Difference?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid, designed to act more like other opioids like heroin or Vicodin. This similarity makes methadone better for treating chronic pain and opioid addiction. Methadone is only prescribed if the individual is suffering from a very severe addiction to opioids.

Suboxone treats only opioid addiction, and doesn’t produce the same opioid effects as methadone in the body. In some cases, the lack of opioid effects may be better suited for someone in the recovery process, depending on the severity of their addiction.

Buprenorphine, one of the active ingredients in Suboxone, has a higher affinity for opioid receptors in the central nervous system than methadone. This means that it sticks like glue to these receptors. If any methadone is still on someones opioid receptors, buprenorphine will toss it off, and produce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

People currently taking methadone must taper down their dose before starting Suboxone. The more methadone in someone’s system, the more severe the withdrawal once Suboxone medication taken.

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Once on a methadone treatment plan, it can sometimes be difficult to switch to Suboxone. But, if considered carefully, and closely monitored by healthcare professionals, then switching treatment plans can be beneficial to treat different levels of opioid addiction.

How To Switch From Methadone To Suboxone

When thinking about switching from methadone to Suboxone, it is best to first talk to the doctor currently prescribing your methadone treatment. Sometimes, Suboxone isn’t offered at a methadone clinic. If this is the case, a counselor can help find a treatment center that provides the Suboxone treatment to transfer to.

It is best to slowly reduce the dose of methadone. Most professionals recommend to drop to 30 mg of methadone, or less per day when planning a switch to Suboxone. Also, it is not recommended to reduce your methadone dose by more than 5 mg a week. Dramatically reducing doses of methadone within a one or two week period won’t give the body proper time to detox completely and makes the transition to Suboxone almost impossible.

Any more than 30 mg methadone tolerance, can make it much harder to switch to Suboxone treatment plan. Anybody going through the process of switching from methadone to Suboxone will also need to be in a state of moderate withdrawal before taking their first dose of Suboxone. It usually takes about 72 hours for most people to experience moderate withdrawal from methadone.

Detoxing from methadone is the more difficult part of the switching process, but when done correctly, can make a real difference in the success rate of treating with the Suboxone medication.

Reasons For Switching to From Methadone to Suboxone

Everybody has individual needs and circumstances to consider when deciding between methadone or Suboxone treatment.

A few of the reasons people give for considering switching to Suboxone from methadone include:

  • Feeling less medicated, as methadone is a “heavier” treatment drug than Suboxone.
  • Experiencing fewer side-effects on Suboxone compared to methadone.
  • Not having to “completely” come off methadone.
  • Wanting to avoid the negative stigma or family pressure associated with being on methadone.

Some people will feel better on methadone, while others will feel better on Suboxone. It all depends on the severity of the individuals opioid addiction, and what they need at that point in their recovery process.

Although Suboxone is a weaker medication than methadone, it can still be difficult to come off of. Another thing to consider when thinking about switching is that while taking methadone medication it is required to attend a daily clinic for the first several months of treatment to receive your medication. Suboxone, on the other hand, can be prescribed by a doctor for take-home use right away.

A few other benefits of transferring from Methadone to Suboxone include:

  • Lower risk of overdose or sedation
  • Lower risk of damage to the heart
  • Less severe withdrawal if a dose is missed.

Other Factors To Consider When Switching From Methadone To Suboxone

There is a misconception that withdrawing from buprenorphine drugs like Suboxone is less difficult than withdrawing from methadone. This is not always the true. Tapering off Suboxone is also recommended and can sometimes become very difficult. The difficulty faced here will mostly have to do with the severity of the opioid addiction, and how long they were abused.

Opioid abuse can cause permanent damage to structures in the brain, like the reward center and this can produce multiple complications when going through the recovery process. It is possible that some individuals may always need the treatment medication.

Suboxone is also designed to last longer than methadone, which can make it more likely to miss a dose. Suboxones slow-release formula makes it possible to take it in only three weekly doses, this can increase the likelihood of sticking with the treatment plan.

Many people still abuse opioids while on methadone. When someone switches to Suboxone they are less likely to abuse other opioids, because the naloxone component of the drug. Naloxone makes the effects of other opioids less potent.

Additionally, people can become concerned with the negative social stigma associated with receiving methadone treatment. There is also growing concern about having methadone bottles in the house, traveling with the methadone, and replacing the medication if it is misplaced or stolen while traveling.

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More On Medication-Assisted Treatment For Opioid Addiction

Detoxing from opioids is only the first step in the recovery process. Completely coming off opioids, including treatment medication can be a big step and shouldn’t be done unless the person is truly prepared to do so.

Medications like methadone and Suboxone should be combined with behavioral counseling for a whole patient approach, known as medication-assisted treatment. Both buprenorphine (Suboxone) and methadone have been declared “essential medicines,” in the treatment of opioid use disorders, according to the World Health Organization.

Starting a MAT program using methadone or Suboxone is not substituting one addiction for another, because these medications do not produce the same level of “high” that normal opioids would. Medications like Suboxone are used to treat opioid addiction because it reduces opioid cravings and lessens uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Find The Right Opioid Addiction Treatment Program Today

Finding a treatment program that will ease the process of switching from methadone to Suboxone doesn’t need to be difficult. Contact us today to find out more about opioid addiction treatment.

Making this switch can result in many positive outcomes including feeling less medicated and more able to enjoy life. It should also be noted that while tapering off either methadone or Suboxone it is important to find ways to naturally increase your endorphins in order to promote mental and physical well-being.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction

Providers Clinical Support System - Transfer from Methadone to Buprenorphine

The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment - Can someone switch from methadone to buprenorphine?

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