From a less restrictive environment to a more normal and balanced feeling, there are many reasons why individuals consider moving to Suboxone and away from methadone.
So, can a patient make the switch? Yes, switching from methadone to Suboxone is possible. But it requires careful planning and the watchful eye of an experienced physician. To learn more about the methadone to Suboxone process, keep reading.
Why Patients Consider Switching From Methadone to Suboxone
We get lots of questions from people who are looking to switch from methadone to Suboxone. Patients want to make the transition for many reasons. Methadone programs are typically very restrictive, making patients come in daily, making it difficult when patients have jobs and families and lives.
Patients also say they want to switch to Suboxone because they get tired of the methadone feeling. They say they get a heavy feeling from being on methadone that they don’t get from Suboxone. Methadone is a full agonist. It activates the patient’s opioid receptors at 100% and can give patients a euphoric effect. Suboxone, on the other hand, is a partial agonist. It activates the receptor only partially, and patients report feeling “normal” when taking it.
Suboxone has a "ceiling" effect on respiratory depression, so it is relatively safe when taken properly. Methadone has no ceiling effect on respiratory depression, so it can be a dangerous medication if taken in too high a dose, which is why it is much more tightly regulated. Suboxone can become dangerous when combined with other medications, but it has been shown to be relatively safe by itself. Suboxone has been formulated with naloxone in it to lessen its abuse potential. Both medications are highly diverted, making prescribers' and clinics' jobs of monitoring these medications challenging.
Suboxone after Methadone: Increased Freedom For Patients
From the get-go, Suboxone, in an outpatient treatment program, allows patients more freedom. Patients can obtain a prescription from their doctor, fill it at a pharmacy, and take the medication in the privacy of their homes. They usually only need to check in with their doctor weekly, initially, then eventually as they stabilize, monthly.
Some patients need more monitoring, and methadone programs can be better suited for their recovery. Often, that is true when patients are at the initial stages of their recovery. Many patients, however, quickly find themselves in a restrictive methadone program, with no clear exit.
How Long After Taking Methadone Can You Take Suboxone?
If you are considering switching from methadone to Suboxone, it’s important to understand that the process takes time. You can’t simply stop taking methadone and start your Suboxone treatment the next day. Because methadone forms a strong attachment to opioid receptors, it is a medication that you must gradually taper off of.
Research from the Journal of American Medicine revealed that transferring patients who were taking less than fifty milligrams of methadone a day is possible in an outpatient setting. However, this does not mean that making the switch is easy, and many clinicians recommend lowering the dose below the fifty milligrams mark for the best possible results.
Developing a plan with your doctor and your recovery support system is the best way to move from methadone to Suboxone. Unique factors, including your metabolism, drug use history, other medications you may be taking, and more, will play into the timeline. In short, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to switching from methadone to Suboxone.
Is it Hard to Switch from Methadone to Suboxone?
Patients find it very challenging to transfer from methadone to Suboxone as a result of methadone’s long half-life and strong attachment to the opioid receptors.
Patients need to reduce their dose down to thirty to forty milligrams of methadone then take their last dose 72 hours before taking Suboxone. Both of these tasks can be difficult for a methadone patient. Seventy-two hours can feel like a very long time to go without any opiate replacement therapy. Thirty to forty milligrams of methadone can feel like a very low dose.
The patient who successfully makes the switch from methadone to Suboxone is a highly motivated patient. We are here to help and provide support, but it’s likely that you will need significant counseling support during the gap between your methadone and Suboxone therapies.
Have Questions? Need Support? MATClinics is Here to Help
Understanding your treatment options is a crucial component on the path to healing from addiction. If you or a loved one is hoping to begin Suboxone treatment, the skilled team at MATClinics is here to help. With outpatient treatment centers across Maryland, we’re dedicated to helping patients find freedom and healing.