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Methadone and Suboxone

Methadone and Suboxone are drugs that are often used to treat someone with an opioid addiction.

Methadone is an opioid that activates the same brain, spinal cord and internal organs receptors as other opioids, but it does not create the same euphoric feeling and is longer-acting. 

Suboxone, which is a mixture of the opioids buprenorphine and naloxone, is a newer treatment similar to methadone, except its effect on the body's opioid receptors is even more muted.

Opioid addiction is a complex health problem that needs to be treated carefully, over time. The intent with the use of a substitute drug is to help someone with an opioid addiction avoid the factors that are most likely to cause a relapse – withdrawal symptoms and cravings – as they stop using. The substitutes help a person transition out of physical dependence and when the person is ready the process of tapering off the substitute drug can begin.

Quick facts

  • Methadone and suboxone have been found to improve the quality of life, social functioning, physical health, mental health and pregnancy outcomes for people addicted to opioids.
  • The drug naloxone, which causes powerful withdrawal symptoms when it enters the blood stream but is inactive when ingested orally, is added to Suboxone to prevent people from crushing and injecting Suboxone to achieve a "high" from the buprenorphine.
  • In Canada only physicians who have received an exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are allowed to prescribe methadone.
  • Pregnant women should take methadone, not Suboxone. A woman already on Suboxone who becomes pregnant has the option of switching to methadone or having Health Canada apply for Subutex, a drug similar to Suboxone without the naloxone. While Subutex is not commercially available in Canada at this time, it can still be accessed in special circumstances.[1]

How is it taken

Methadone comes in a powder form that is usually dissolved in juice or a fruit-flavoured drink and is taken orally.

Suboxone comes in pill form and is dissolved under the tongue (sublingually). Once dissolved the buprenorphine is absorbed into the blood stream, leaving the naloxone behind in the mouth to be swallowed or spit out.

When first starting to take take Suboxone, it is important to make sure that you present in a mild to moderate state of withdrawal, as using the drugs when you are under the influence of a more powerful opiate can cause "precipitated withdrawal" where a sudden, steep onset of withdrawal symptoms are experienced.

Methadone and Suboxone treatments at ASYR

ASYR offers methadone and Suboxone treatment as part of our Community Opioid Treatment Program.

We take a holistic approach to treatment, which means that in additional to the medical assistance our treatment includes other programs and services to help our clients address the psychological, social and spiritual factors impacting their addiction.

For a list of our treatment programs, click here
To contact our intake department, click here or fill out our pre-intake form


[1] What is OATC’s Methadone Maintenance Program? http://www.oatc.ca/services/opioid-agonist-program/suboxone/