What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a prescribed combination medication used to treat patients with opioid use disorder (OUD). The ingredients in Suboxone include buprenorphine and naloxone. Suboxone is a partial agonist that is ingested sublingually.
Are Methadone and Suboxone the same?
Suboxone is not the same as methadone. Suboxone retails as a strip that is placed under the tongue or inside the cheek and absorbed into the bloodstream. Methadone is administered orally and swallowed. Suboxone can be picked up in pharmacies, while methadone must be taken in person at opioid treatment programs.
These medications are also different in how they work. The primary differentiating component of methadone and Suboxone is the way in which the drugs stimulate the mu opioid receptor. The buprenorphine in Suboxone is a partial agonist of the mu receptor which means it partially occupies the mu-opioid receptor. Methadone is a fully agonist, similar to other opioids like heroin or morphine. This means methadone fully occupies the mu-opioid receptor. Unlike other opioids, methadone is long-acting which is what allows it to help people live stable lives without the ups and downs of cravings.
Suboxone significantly reduces the possibility of respiratory depression or sedation because there is a limit to the level at which the opioid receptors in the brain can be activated by the buprenorphine in the drug, which is only a partial agonist. Heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl, and methadone are all examples of full agonists with much greater side effects than Suboxone.