As the pharmaceutical industry and medical community continue to tackle heroin and painkiller misuse, new synthetic analgesics are emerging on the market, offering safer ways to recreate or suppress artificial highs. Methadone has long been the most common choice among opioid users, and it's still the most widely used. However, buprenorphine is a newer drug that has some benefits methadone can't offer.
Analgesics are appealing alternatives to heroin because they mimic some of its physical and psychological effects without posing the same health and safety risks. However, that doesn't mean they're completely safe. Learn more about the drugs' differences and similarities before making a decision to incorporate them into your own life.
Both drugs, if consumed in high enough quantities, can lead to fatal overdoses. However, buprenorphine was designed to prevent misuse and overdose. It doesn't produce a heroin-like "high" when you use it nor does it depress the respiratory system like methadone. It also has a "ceiling effect", unlike methadone, which means its effects don't continue to increase forever. Methadone's lack of a ceiling effect makes it more prone to the risk of overdose as opioid users are used to taking higher and higher amounts to recreate the same effects and death by respiratory failure.
Buprenorphine users are more likely to snort or inject their medication, possibly because it comes in pill form instead of a liquid form. However, mixing it with naloxone will block the high and make buprenorphine less desirable to misuse. Divergence, the illegal distribution of a prescribed medication, is also more likely among buprenorphine users. Of course, that doesn't mean this or any substance is inherently more "addictive" than any other. Because methadone is more affordable and accessible, more people can legally obtain it regardless of their drug use habits. No legal status or ingestion method can tell you whether someone's drug use is productive or destructive.
At Saint Jude Retreats, we don't believe that any drug use can lead to a disease called addiction. We encourage our guests to rely on their own choices instead of assuming that drugs have control over them. However, we're well aware that some drugs cause an actual physical dependence. Heroin and prescription painkillers are opioids that change the way your brain functions, and many people continue to use them simply to avoid withdrawal symptoms and detox.
If you want to rid your body of opioids after long-term use, your medical detox facility may administer methadone. This softens or prevents side effects, but long-term use is a different story. Buprenorphine is only prescribed to moderate users, or to methadone users who want to switch after reaching 30 to 60 milligrams of daily use.
Ultimately, we believe that everyone has the right to choose what they do. Whether you want to continue using opioids recreationally, substitute them with an analgesic like buprenorphine or methadone, or live a completely drug-free life, no one can or should tell you which option is the best one for you. However, if your goal is to stop seeking relief in mind-altering chemicals and take responsibility for your decisions, that's difficult to achieve that while you're dependent on any drug.
If you are seeking detox, methadone and buprenorphine are best used as short term detox methods rather than long term maintenance. Once you are on long term maintenance with either of them, you have simply changed your dependence from an illegal drug like heroin or a misuse of prescription opioids to a medication that maintains you but doesn't free you. In fact, in some cases, the medical detox for methadone or buprenorphine can be longer than for the heroin or the prescription opioids you were originally on to begin with.
Once you are free of drug influences — heroin, opioids, methadone, buprenorphine or anything else — consider staying free and unimpaired for a time to consider your next options. After detox, an effective program can help people feel confident to leave substance use behind and empowered with a plan to move forward in life. If you'd like to learn more, call us today.