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Are Suboxone Programs the New Methadone Maintenance?

by | Last updated Oct 2, 2020 at 4:07PM | Published on Oct 27, 2014 | Rehab Programs

Suboxone Programs

Recovery from active addiction is troublesome. Evidence-based addiction treatment programs include anywhere from group meetings to cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, treatment centers sometimes look into medical-assisted treatment (MAT) to help those detoxing from heavy drugs have a more comfortable and safer detox process. Enter suboxone programs. 

Methadone and suboxone are both opioids. One helps treat chronic pain; the other one helps treat opioid use disorder. Keep reading to understand how these opioids are the new maintenance plan for drug addicts. 

What is Methadone?

Methadone is one of the longest acting opioids. In general, this makes it hard to abuse. Methadone saturates the brain’s opioid receptors slowly over an extended period rather than getting people high. However, it doesn’t mean that methadone is abuse-proof.

Methadone is one of those go-to medications for heroin addiction and narcotic pain medication treatment. When used correctly, it can help people sustain long-term sobriety and reclaim their healthy lives. 

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is the brand name of buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is an opioid medication, while naloxone blocks the effects of opioid medications, including the feelings of well-being that often lead to abuse. Suboxone is also a conventional treatment for narcotic addiction.

Differences between Methadone and Suboxone

At their core, methadone and suboxone are very similar. They’re both Schedule II controlled substances. Plus, they both have the potential for misuse and cause withdrawal symptoms. However, methadone treatment must be delivered through a methadone clinic versus suboxone treatment that can be done at home.


Methadone is a standard treatment for opiate addiction, and the body absorbs it gradually and slowly, which helps prevent addiction. Additionally, close to 100,000 Americans use methadone as a maintenance program to treat their addiction.

  • It’s available in pill, liquid, and water forms
  • The effects of methadone last anywhere between 4 to 8 hours
  • Can only be obtained through an opioid treatment program certified clinic


Similarly to methadone, suboxone helps taper off opioids’ effects, reduce cravings, and prevent withdrawal symptoms. However, suboxone has many differences with methadone.

  • It’s only available in sublingual form
  • Can be obtained through a physician prescription
  • Can cause withdrawal symptoms when discontinued abruptly 

Learning about Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT)

Opioid Replacement Therapy, also known as opioid agonist therapy, or medication-assisted treatment, is an evidence-based treatment option for addiction. The treatment involves using opioid agonists like methadone or suboxone to prevent withdrawal and reduce opioid cravings. 

Suboxone Maintenance Program

While someone can receive a prescription for suboxone, the drug still has the potential for misuse. The suboxone maintenance program, in particular, is best approached at a clinic under medical supervision, and it often follows a few stages.

Induction Phase: Individuals must have no opiates in their system and show moderate withdrawal symptoms, this stage generally lasts one week

Stabilization Phase: Here individuals move into either a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or an intensive outpatient program (IOP) to receive an adjustment of their suboxone dose, generally anywhere between two days and a month

Maintenance Phase: By now, the suboxone dose starts to go down weekly, until patients no longer need them, usually a couple of months to a year

Pros and Cons of Suboxone Replacement Therapy

For addicts with difficulties in their recovery process, suboxone replacement therapy can help. Additionally, by helping people experience milder withdrawal symptoms and a more comfortable transition into sober living, people are less likely to relapse. Suboxone replacement therapy is legal in almost every state, and many physicians and drug addiction treatments use it to help recovering addicts. 


  • Over 30 years of research and evidence in how it can help treat opiate addiction
  • Extremely effective when paired with other treatments such as group therapy 
  • Very accessible through prescription by a licensed physician
  • Has a high success rate for treating addiction
  • People experience lower side effects than with other treatment options
  • Helps reduce or eliminate painful withdrawal symptoms


  • People must take the drug for months or years
  • Can cause dependencies in some people
  • Some people might experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping
  • There’s some risk of overdose
  • Some people develop tolerances looking for higher doses
  • There’s some risk of drug misuse without supervision

Getting Help for Drug Addiction 

Suboxone programs aren’t the only treatment for opioid addiction. However, undoubtedly these medication-assisted programs can help many people ward off their opiate addictions and move towards recovery. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and learn more about our comprehensive addiction treatment programs that adjust to your individual needs.

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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