What is the difference between methadone and buprenorphine treatment?

MastHead Outline
October 7, 2021

Both buprenorphine and methadone are long-acting opioid medications that work by activating opioid receptors in the brain to help reduce withdrawal symptoms in those with opioid use disorder. There are significant differences to note between the two medications and how they’re used in MAT programs.

  • Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, while methadone is a full opioid agonist.
  • Buprenorphine stimulates opioid receptors in the brain at a much lower level than methadone due to its ceiling effect, meaning no matter how much of the medication is taken, a euphoric sensation cannot be achieved.
  • Medications used in MAT at AppleGate contain both buprenorphine and naloxone, an opioid antagonist which blocks other opioids entering the body.
  • Methadone has no ceiling effect and has higher rates of misuse

Methadone MAT requires patients to make daily visits to a clinic for medication dispensing. Patients taking buprenorphine and naloxone medications receive prescriptions from their medical providers and can self-dispense at home. Both methadone and medications combining buprenorphine and naloxone are safe and effective forms of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.