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Suboxone vs. Methadone: Uses, Differences, and More

June 1, 2021


Suboxone (brand name) and methadone (generic) are both commonly used FDA-approved medications for the treatment of opioid addiction, including heroin, codeine, and morphine.

There are a few key differences between the two, why patients may take one or the other, and what treatment centers offer for options.

When it comes to medication-assisted treatment, IHAT is primarily a Suboxone treatment center. We also offer Vivitrol as an option for some patients, and methadone is not part of our medication-assisted treatment programs. Continue reading to learn about the uses and differences of each.


Suboxone is a partial agonist opioid. There are two primary ingredients in Suboxone: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine’s role is to block the effects of other opioid drugs by binding to receptors in the brain called mu receptors. Naloxone, on the other hand, helps prevent Suboxone itself from being abused: it is an opioid antagonist. 

Suboxone can be administered in an outpatient setting – meaning patients can take it in the center or be prescribed it for take-home use. This is called an Office-Based Opioid Treatment Program (OBOT), such as the one that IHAT offers.


Compared to Suboxone, methadone works by changing how the brain and nervous system responds to pain. Methadone is built up over time to avoid the risk of overdosing.

Whereas Suboxone is a partial agonist opioid, Methadone is a full agonist – on the same level as heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine. 

Methadone typically cannot be administered in an outpatient setting – patients must present themselves into a treatment center each day. The treatment schedule that methadone demands may create complications for those with a busy schedule or who cannot show up to a treatment center everyday. It can only be administered in Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP).

Main Differences

Methadone, being a full agonist, may be the most effective at initially getting patients off of other opioids – but as a Federally-labeled Schedule 2 drug, it is recognized as having the potential to create dependence on itself as well as causing a host of other problems. In other words, use of methadone to treat opioid dependence is almost like fighting fire with fire. While it may resolve the initial problem, it may create a new dependence in the user – which can take months or years to come off of.

On the contrary, as Suboxone is only a partial opioid agonist, it is more difficult for users to form a dependence on it, and this cause is further helped by naloxone.

While methadone works, it is an extreme that may be overkill in many situations and create further problems down the road. Suboxone is the effective middle ground between methadone and Vivitrol that can not only tackle heavy opioid addiction, but can do so in a way that doesn’t lead the user to form a new dependency.

To learn about IHAT’s comprehensive treatment programs, which include medically-assisted treatment, mental health counseling, and more, visit our Services page.

Doug Choate

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