Is Buprenorphine Strong Enough for You?

You can manage an opiate addiction with either methadone or buprenorphine. Both medications, when administered appropriately, remove withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings, and both work very well to help people with opiate addictions move past their illicit use of opiates.

Although both medications work to provide the same type of relief, the way they work results in some functional differences between them:

  • Methadone can get you high. If you took a large enough dose of methadone, you would experience intoxication and some degree of euphoria.
  • Buprenorphine won’t provide much intoxication for someone with a high opiate tolerance. It's a much safer medication, is much more unlikely to lead to an overdose, and is considered an easier drug to eventually taper usage and withdraw from.                  

Buprenorphine is less likely than methadone to be abused or diverted, and so buprenorphine can be prescribed in month-long take home doses, whereas methadone patients need to go to a clinic each day to take their daily dose. This increased convenience and easier eventual dosage taper of buprenorphine treatment makes this newer type of medication management sound pretty attractive to a lot of people who are contemplating a choice between buprenorphine and methadone.

Unfortunately, some people who might prefer to take buprenorphine won't find the drug to be strong enough, and these people will have to take methadone to get full relief from their withdrawal symptoms.

Why Buprenorphine Might Not Work for You

Buprenorphine has a ceiling effect. Up to a certain dose, taking more of the medication results in a greater effect, but once a dosage ceiling is reached; continuing to take more of the medication has no increasing effect.

Methadone has no ceiling effect, and the dosage can be increased until appropriate symptoms relief is achieved.

Some people with heavy heroin habits find that even highest doses of buprenorphine don’t provide sufficient relief from withdrawal symptoms. Not surprisingly, people who are administered either methadone or buprenorphine at a dosage that doesn’t alleviate their withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings don’t do as well during treatment, and face an increased risk of relapse.

If you have a heavy heroin habit and you want to take buprenorphine for maintenance opiate addiction treatment, you might need to start out by taking methadone and then slowly taper your daily dosage of methadone down to about 30mgs per day before making the switch over to buprenorphine. Your doctor will want to talk with you about your daily drug use, the length of that use, and the severity of the withdrawal symptoms you are experiencing.

Breaking Free from Withdrawal Symptoms and Cravings Is Essential

Talk to your doctor about your drug habit and your likely eligibility for treatment with buprenorphine. If you can’t get relief from your withdrawal symptoms with buprenorphine, then start off with methadone and get full relief from the pains and cravings. As you get your life back on track and as you taper your dosage down, you can eventually switch over to buprenorphine.

What's most important, though, is finding what works for you, and using the clarity you gain from any medication to rebuild your life for the better.

To arrange a free, confidential consultation with a doctor to discuss your eligibility for either methadone or buprenorphine, call the treatment specialists at the National Resource Center at 888 471 0430.

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