Fighting Fire with Fire: How anti-withdrawal medications work

Treating Addiction with Anti-Withdrawal
Medication Suboxone


A National Epidemic

Drug addiction in the United States has risen to nearly epidemic levels, spurred on by an ever-expanding range of opioides (addictive drugs) available on the street or obtained through prescription misuse. The behavioral health professionals at St. Vincent’s bring a compassionate, multidisciplinary approach to treating persons seeking to free themselves from addiction. In addition to counseling and supportive group therapy, patients benefit from medications that help them to hold their own through the rigors of rehabilitation. 

Suboxone Vs. Methadone

Magid_Mikhail“One medication incorporated into the treatment of patients is suboxone, which is capable of blocking the harsh symptoms of drug withdrawal in addicted individuals,” said Dr. Mikhail Magid, MD, a psychiatrist at St. Vincent’s. “Suboxone is somewhat similar to methadone in that it is given to patients in lieu of the substance to which they are addicted.”  

Suboxone is made up of a combination of two medications, buprenophine and naloxone. “Buprenophine is what is called a ‘partial opioid agonist,’ meaning it will produce mild euphoria in an addicted patient whose system has no opioides in it,” Dr. Magid explained. “The naloxone meanwhile is able to block the withdrawal symptoms that the patient will develop without his or her drugs.” 

Like methadone, suboxone is effective whether the patient’s drug of choice has been heroin, codeine, morphine, Vicodin or OxyContin.

“But methadone can be abused to the point of death, whereas suboxone can’t be,” the doctor said. “Except in the case of very small children, if ingested accidentally.”

Another difference between the two is that methadone patients must obtain their single dose daily at a methadone center or clinic. With suboxone, after an initial period of three-day prescriptions, patients can be prescribed a monthly supply.  

First Step: Withdrawal

“In addition, suboxone cannot be taken by anyone who is high,” Dr. Magid noted. “That’s simply for the reason that it will have no effect. The patient has to be in withdrawal before we prescribe the medication. We are easily able to determine if an individual is high and if so, he or she goes back home.” 

As tools to help an addict reverse his or her dependency on opioids, both suboxone and methadone can be highly effective. “But ultimately the person involved must be committed to the goal of a future free of addiction,” Dr. Magid said.   St. Vincent’s continuum of care with behavioral health addresses all aspects of addiction, providing clinical treatment along with emotional support for long-term success.   

To learn more about behavioral health services at St. Vincent’s, visit



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