Switching from Methadone to Suboxone During Opiate Withdrawal

If you are taking methadone for opiate withdrawal, it’s possible to switch to taking Suboxone instead. However, methadone is a more potent, longer-lasting opiate maintenance medication than Suboxone. So, making the switch from methadone to Suboxone can be tricky. It’s important to do it right.

Understand the Differences Between Methadone and Suboxone in Opiate Withdrawal

Though both methadone and Suboxone are used to treat opiate withdrawal in recovering addicts, they are very different. Suboxone, which contains the main ingredient buprenorphine, is a short-acting partial opiate agonist. Methadone, on the other hand, is a long-acting, full opiate agonist.

What this means is that methadone is much more potent than Suboxone. Because it is a full opiate agonist, methadone can continue to stimulate the opioid receptors in the brain, no matter how high of a dosage you take. This is why laws and regulations regarding the use of methadone to manage opiate withdrawal are so restrictive; methadone has a high potential for abuse, because taking more than your prescribed dose can get you high.

Suboxone, on the other hand, has a much lower potential for abuse, because its partial opiate agonist action means that it will only stimulate the brain’s opioid receptors so much; there’s a built-in limit to its effects. Once you’ve reached the dosage ceiling for Suboxone, you’re not going to feel any further effects, no matter how much more you take.

Methadone also stays in your system much longer than Suboxone. It takes at least 36 hours for methadone to leave your system, and in some cases could take as long as 96 hours.

Benefits of Switching from Methadone to Suboxone

Both methadone and Suboxone have their benefits and drawbacks, but for many recovering addicts, Suboxone is the preferable treatment. Because methadone is so potent, it’s a great option for recovering addicts who are accustomed to taking large doses of opiate drugs; for these recovering addicts, Suboxone may not provide enough relief from opiate withdrawal symptoms, at least not initially. However, many recovering opiate addicts on methadone maintenance eventually want to make the switch to Suboxone. The benefits of Suboxone for opiate withdrawal include:

  • No more methadone clinics – This can be especially helpful if you live far away from a clinic, or if you find that going to the clinic puts you under too much temptation to use the illegal opiate drugs or other drugs. Drug dealers like to hang out at methadone clinics, because they know that’s where the addicts are.
  • Privacy – Suboxone allows you to receive treatment for opiate addiction in your doctor’s office. You’ll no longer have to deal with the stigma of attending an opiate maintenance clinic, because no one will need to know that you’re in opiate maintenance treatment except you.
  • Convenience – Since Suboxone has a much lower potential for abuse, you can more easily keep a supply of it in your home to treat your opiate withdrawal symptoms at the time and place that’s right for you. That means you can go out of town for work or a vacation, and free up time you would’ve otherwise spent traveling to and from a methadone clinic and receiving treatment there.
  • Dignity – Many recovering addicts using methadone to treat opiate withdrawal symptoms find the process of attending a methadone clinic to get their medication humiliating. Unfortunately, the authorities tend to treat opiate addicts like criminals. You won’t have to deal with that if you switch to taking Suboxone.

Making the Switch from Methadone to Suboxone

When you start taking Suboxone, it’s important that you be in full withdrawal before you take your first dose of the drug, or else you might experience a severe form of withdrawal known as “precipitated withdrawal.” Because methadone is so much more potent than many other opiate drugs, including heroin, you’ll have to wait longer after your last dose of methadone before you can start taking Suboxone. So, you might experience somewhat more discomfort when switching from methadone to Suboxone than you would if you were seeking treatment for prescription painkiller or heroin addiction.

Furthermore, you’ll have to taper down to low dose of methadone before you can begin taking Suboxone with any success. Opiate addiction specialists recommend that you taper down to a daily dose of 20 to 30 mg of methadone before you begin taking Suboxone. This way, your transition to buprenorphine can be as comfortable as possible.

Do not attempt to transition from methadone to Suboxone without speaking to your doctor first. If your withdrawal symptoms become too severe, it could put you at risk of relapse.

You don’t have to take methadone for the rest of your life; now there’s a better option.

Call us today at 888-415-0708 to learn more about switching from methadone to Suboxone for opiate maintenance. 

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