The Difference Between Vivitrol And Suboxone
Medically reviewed byJoseph Sitarik, DO
January 24, 2019
Vivitrol and Suboxone are two medications that are used in the treatment of opioid addiction. Both of these medications have similar effects on the brain but vary in how they are administered and the frequency of doses. Knowing the differences between these medications can help individuals find the treatment program that is right for them.
Overcoming heroin or other opioid addiction can be a challenging process for the strongest of individuals. Addiction to these substances often requires traditional therapy as well as a pharmacological intervention, which is the use of medications designed to reduce cravings and either partially or fully block the effects of opioid drugs, thereby reducing the motivation to relapse.
Vivitrol and Suboxone are two of the medications used in the battle against opioid addiction:
- Vivitrol (naltrexone) is administered via injection once a month. This extended-release medication blocks the pleasurable effects of opioids.
- Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) is a sublingual film placed under the tongue daily. Suboxone suppresses cravings and withdrawal symptoms and blocks the effects of opioids.
Medication-assisted treatment programs combine behavioral therapy and medications to support recovery. Behavioral therapy addresses the issues underlying the addiction and helps a person to learn healthier ways of thinking and behaving. Medications such as Suboxone and Vivitrol prevent withdrawal symptoms and suppress cravings.
This combination of medication and therapy helps both the body and the mind to heal from addiction. Medication alone is unlikely to consistently prevent relapse or enable successful long-term recovery.
Addiction professionals must evaluate individuals, case by case, to determine which medication is best suited for their situation. Costs, risks, benefits and the level of dedication a person has toward achieving long-term recovery will each play a role in determining the right course of treatment for an opioid-addicted individual.
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Effectiveness Of Vivitrol, Suboxone
Studies support the effectiveness of both Vivitrol and Suboxone in the treatment of opioid addiction. Both Suboxone and Vivitrol have been shown to dramatically decrease the risk of relapse for opioid-addicted individuals when combined with behavioral therapy.
Vivitrol And Suboxone: A Cost Comparison
Suboxone is less expensive to manufacture and is available at a lower cost to the individual. Suboxone is taken once or twice daily. Suboxone regimens can remain useful to patients for months at a time.
Some people choose to maintain Suboxone treatment for years, finding that it continues to support their sobriety by decreasing cravings and minimizing the motivation to relapse. Suboxone doses can be gradually decreased over time, allowing the patient to eventually discontinue use without experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.
Generally, costs for Vivitrol are higher than for Suboxone, with a single dose priced between $800 and $1,000. Vivitrol is administered once a month via injection, a convenience that not only makes use of the medication easier but also reinforces patient compliance by circumventing a daily regimen of pills or injections.
Comparing Side Effects From Vivitrol And Suboxone
Vivitrol and Suboxone have similar side effects, including:
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Changes in appetite
- Muscle cramping
- Joint stiffness or soreness
- Cold symptoms
- Increased opioid overdose risk
Because Vivitrol is administered via injection, there is a chance of a skin reaction at the injection site. Additionally, if the patient has used opioids within seven to 14 days of their first dose of Vivitrol, they may experience sudden opioid withdrawal. Someone taking Suboxone too soon after detox may also experience sudden opioid withdrawal, but it is not as likely.
What Is Sudden Opioid Withdrawal?
Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist, meaning the medication blocks the effects of opioid drugs. Someone who has only stopped taking opioid drugs within a week or two of starting Vivitrol may experience sudden withdrawal symptoms as the medication begins to block the brain’s receptor sites. This can be prevented by waiting a sufficient amount of time after stopping use of opioid drugs before starting Vivitrol treatment.
Symptoms of sudden opioid withdrawal include pronounced gastrointestinal upset, mood changes, fatigue and hallucinations, usually beginning within minutes of the first dose of the medication.
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