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Methadone vs Suboxone: Comparing the Differences

Opioid addiction is a common but increasingly concerning problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Over 75% of the nearly 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved an opioid.”[1]

Because opioid addiction often leads to life-threatening overdoses, recovery experts have begun using a more aggressive approach to treating the condition. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs combine traditional addiction recovery services with the use of FDA-approved medications that limit withdrawal symptoms and prevent cravings. This form of program significantly reduces a person’s risk of relapsing in early recovery while improving treatment retention at the same time.

Two of the most commonly used medications in MAT programs are methadone and Suboxone. While these substances are used to elicit similar results, they have many differences to be aware of. The main difference between these medications is that methadone has a moderate risk for abuse, while Suboxone contains naloxone, a substance that prevents people from being able to experience an opioid high.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a long-acting full opioid agonist that is approved by the FDA to treat opioid use disorder.[2] By activating opioid receptors in the brain, methadone can prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings by making your body think it’s received the substance it is addicted to. It is important to note that methadone is only dispensed by licensed health professionals to prevent people from abusing it.

The side effects of methadone include:[3]

  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Stomach aches
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore tongue
  • Flushing
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Mood changes
  • Vision problems
  • Difficulting falling or staying asleep

While methadone can be incredibly helpful in the fight against opioid addiction, it is addictive when abused. As a result, medication-assisted treatment programs will not dispense more than one dose at a time to ensure their clients cannot misuse the substance. However, people may get their hands on methadone off of the street, allowing them to use the medication in large doses or in combination with other drugs.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist that is approved by the FDA to treat opioid use disorder. This medication contains two substances: buprenorphine and naloxone. While buprenorphine binds to opioid receptors to limit withdrawal symptoms and cravings, naloxone blocks them to prevent people from being able to get high.[4]

Since Suboxone contains naloxone, it has an extremely low risk of being abused. However, like any medication, Suboxone can cause side effects.

The common side effects of Suboxone include:[4]

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Pain
  • Increased sweating
  • Insomnia

How are Methadone and Suboxone Similar?

Methadone and Suboxone are both medications approved by the FDA to treat opioid use disorder. This means both of them are used during MAT programs to lessen opioid withdrawal symptoms, prevent cravings, and decrease a person’s risk of relapsing.

Other similarities between Suboxone and methadone include:

  • Both medications contain a synthetic opioid
  • Both substances can ease symptoms of opioid withdrawal
  • Suboxone and methadone are only available by prescription
  • Both medications are safe for long-term use to assist recovery from opioids
  • Each medication increases the likelihood of achieving treatment goals

The Main Differences Between Methadone and Suboxone

The main difference between methadone and Suboxone is their ingredients. While methadone only contains one substance, Suboxone is a combination medication containing both buprenorphine and naloxone.

Other differences between methadone and Suboxone include:

  • Methadone is a full opioid agonist while Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist
  • Methadone comes with a higher risk of abuse than Suboxone
  • Suboxone has a ceiling effect, which means it has less of a risk of causing overdose
  • Suboxone is considered to be the safe option for pregnant people
  • The recommended dosing is different between Suboxone and methadone as is the tapering schedule

Whether you are taking Suboxone or methadone to treat your opioid use disorder, you should also engage in therapy, group counseling, and relapse prevention planning. While these medications treat the physical aspect of opioid addiction, traditional addiction treatment methods are necessary to heal from the behavioral and psychological aspects.

Get Connected to a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Program

If you or a loved one suffers from an opioid use disorder, it’s time to seek help. Medication-assisted treatment programs can provide you with the extra support you need to avoid relapse, focus on your recovery, and build a strong foundation of sobriety.

At Mandala Healing Center, we use an integrated approach, combining psychotherapy and counseling with medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and holistic care. Whether you’d like to learn more about our programs or are ready to get started with a confidential, risk-free assessment, please contact Mandala Healing Center today.


  1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Understanding the Opioid Overdose Epidemic, Retrieved December 2023 From
  2. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): What is Methadone, Retrieved December 2023 From
  3. Medline Plus: Methadone, Retrieved December 2023 From
  4. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Suboxone Label, Retrieved December 2023 From