There is no doubt an opioid epidemic that’s gripping the U.S., and along with that comes different options for people who are addicted to these drugs including medication. There are different medicines approved by the FDA that can help people on their road to recovery from opioid dependence and addiction.

Two such drugs are Subutex and methadone.

People often wonder how to compare Subutex vs. methadone, and what the similarities and differences are between the two.

What is Subutex?

First, before comparing Subutex vs. methadone, a brief rundown of Subutex on its own.

Subutex is available by prescription from doctors certified in its use. It’s a brand name drug with the active ingredient buprenorphine, and when people use it, it helps fend off withdrawal symptoms that occur when you stop using opioids.

Buprenorphine may create some feelings of well-being when a person takes it, but not a euphoric high.

The objective of someone taking Subutex is to help them remain safe and comfortable as they go through detox from opioids so that they can focus on treatment and recovery.

Subutex also has a ceiling effect, so if you take more than around 30 mg or so, the effects aren’t going to change.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is also a drug that can be used to help opioid-dependent people as they try to stop using drugs. Methadone is an opioid medication that has a similar chemical structure to morphine.

Methadone can make someone feel high, although at lower levels usually. It also takes longer for that effect to occur than with other opioids, and drugs with longer durations of onset are less likely to be abused.

Methadone can be given as a short-term treatment to help people stop using opioids altogether, but it can also be used as a long-term maintenance drug for the management of opioid addiction.

Subutex vs. Methadone

While the general objective of Subutex and methadone are similar to one another, there are many significant differences, which are detailed below.

  • Subutex is less tightly controlled than methadone, and this is largely because it’s seen as less addictive and dangerous. Methadone has to be given in clinics, while people can receive an at-home prescription for Subutex, as long as their doctor is certified to administer it.
  • Buprenorphine, which is the active ingredient in Subutex, creates less of a euphoric effect than methadone, which is one of the reasons it’s considered less addictive.
  • Methadone has more of a potential for abuse on its own than Subutex. There is a big concern with the use of methadone therapy that people are replacing the abuse of one opioid with another.
  • There is a risk of overdose with methadone, but the risk of overdose with Subutex is very low.
  • Methadone is a Schedule II drug in the U.S., which highlights the potential for its abuse, while Subutex is Schedule III.
  • Most people stay on methadone for a minimum of 12 months, but Subutex while the duration of use can vary, it tends to be more short-term.

Overall when looking at the differences between Subutex vs. methadone, both have benefits and downsides, but there is a lower possibility of abuse, addiction and overdose with Subutex as compared to methadone.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.