Methadone vs. Buprenorphine: What is the Best Therapy for Opiate Addicts?

Opiates such as heroin and many prescription painkillers are very effective in relieving pain; however, they are also highly addictive.  When a patient slides from pain management to addiction, life can take dangerous twists and turns.  Learning to live without opiates is difficult, but battling the physical addiction can be managed by certain classes of pharmacological therapies.

To learn about your opiate addiction treatment options, call 800-994-1867Who Answers?.

What are Opiates?

Opiates are a class of drugs used for pain management.  They work by scrambling messages produced by mµ receptors in the brain.  Some common opiates are oxycodone, hydrocodone and heroin.  The National Institute of Health states, “Opiate dependency is a brain-related medical disorder, which can be treated.”

Pharmacology to Help Kick Opiate Addiction

Methadone vs. Buprenorphine

Opioid maintenance medications help manage cravings and withdrawal.

Because of the way opiates work in the brain, chemical changes take place that can make recovery exceedingly difficulty.  In helping addicts manage cravings and withdrawal, several types of medications are available.

Choosing the right option is dependent on the specifics of each case.

Two Treatment Paths

In seeking a life free from opiate addiction, the first step is to seek medical advice and choose one of two treatment options:  1. Detoxification or 2. Opioid Maintenance Treatment.  A review of the literature clearly outlines a greater chance of long-term recovery with the opioid maintenance path.  Recovering from opioid dependency is complex and requires ongoing treatment and management for success.


Methadone is an opioid agonist that releases as a longer acting compound, stabilizing mµ receptors, extinguishing drug cravings and blocking opioid intoxication and withdrawal.  The drug is prescribed on a schedule beginning at 30 mg and building up to as high as 120 mg, depending on individual patient need.  Tapering schedules are set by doctors.  Dose reduction can take between two weeks and six months, depending on patient reaction to recovery.


Buprenorphine is a partial agonist, allowing for intermittent dosing schedules.  Buprenorphine is taken sublingually, under the tongue, and helps reduce drug craving and drug sickness.  It is generally administered in doses of 24 – 32 mg.  Patients are less likely to accidently overdose.  Tapering schedules are usually quicker and prescription of buprenorphine is less tightly controlled than methadone.

Which is Right for Me?

The only way to truly know which recovery path to choose is to keep the counsel of addiction experts.  Be completely honest with your history of drug abuse, dependency and addiction.  Talk about whether or not illicit and illegal activities are a part of your addiction story.  Recovery experts want to help people minimize the risk of arrest, HIV and other co-morbid diseases related to addiction.  These professionals will help personally design a program of recovery for individuals seeking to get off the nightmarish merry-go-round.

Desperation and Hopelessness

If feelings of desperation, hopelessness and loneliness are predominant, this is good news.  Addicts who have reached this state of despair have a true chance at working with addiction recovery specialists toward lasting recovery.  Opiate addiction can beat a person into a state of submission.  Reaching out and choosing a path of recovery allows the light to shine and small glimmers of hope gradually illumine the way to drug-free living.

Start your addiction recovery journey today by calling 800-994-1867Who Answers?.


CESAR (2016). Methadone. Center for Substance Abuse Research. The University of Maryland.  Retrieved from:

Giovonitti, J., Thoms, S., & Crawford, J. (2015). Alpha-2 adrenergic receptor agonists: A review of current clinical applications. Anesthesia Progress. 62(1): 31-38. Retrieved from:

Joseph, H., Stancliff, S. & Langrod, J. (2000). Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT):  A review of historical and clinical issues. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine. 67 (5-6): 347-364.  Retrieved from:

SAMHSA (2015).  Methadone. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from:

Stotts, A., Dodrill, C. & Kosten, T. (2009). Opioid dependence treatment:  Options in pharmacotherapy. Expert Opinion Pharmacotherapy, 10(11): 1727-1740.  Retrieved from:

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