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Suboxone vs. Vivitrol: A Look Inside Two Opioid Treatment Medications and Their Benefits

Suboxone vs VivitrolIn 2019 alone, nearly 10.1 million people aged 12 or older abused opioid medications. Up to 745,000 people used heroin or synthetic opioids like fentanyl.[1] Unfortunately, opioids are extremely powerful and addictive drugs that are difficult to stop using once a person is hooked. The good news is there are various medications and advanced treatment solutions that can successfully treat opioid addiction.

Suboxone and Vivitrol are two medications that are used to treat opioid use disorder. Although both medications have similar effects on the brain, they are administered in different ways and vary in terms of their treatment method. Both Suboxone and Vivitrol are intended to be used in combination with behavioral therapy, counseling, and peer support–a widely renowned approach to addiction treatment called medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a medication containing buprenorphine and naloxone. It is approved by the FDA to treat opioid dependence and addiction. Suboxone comes in the form of a sublingual or buccal film that is placed under the tongue, or between the cheek and gums, and dissolves into the bloodstream.

How Does Suboxone Help Treat Opioid Addiction?

Suboxone contains two medications: buprenorphine and naloxone.

Buprenorphine is a long-acting, partial opioid agonist that has some of the same effects as other opioid drugs. It binds to opioid receptors in the brain and activates them to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.

Naloxone, however, is a full opioid agonist. That means it blocks the effects of opioid drugs so that people who are taking Suboxone cannot get high or feel the euphoric effects of opioid drugs. As a result, Naloxone helps prevent abuse of Suboxone and other opioid drugs.[2]

These two medications work together to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms, prevent severe complications during withdrawal, and alleviate drug cravings. When combined with a comprehensive treatment program involving behavioral therapy and individualized counseling, Suboxone can be highly effective.

Opioid-dependent patients may begin taking Suboxone 12-24 hours after stopping opioid drugs. While some patients may take Suboxone only during detox, others continue taking Suboxone for several months as a part of their addiction treatment program.

Benefits of Suboxone Treatment

Unlike Vivitrol, another opioid treatment medication, Suboxone can be used during opioid detox.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms are typically not life-threatening, but they are excruciatingly painful. The intense, flu-like symptoms can make it difficult to stop taking opioids and avoid relapse. With the help of Suboxone, however, patients can find some relief from their physical and psychological symptoms.

Many people continue to benefit from Suboxone treatment after detox is over. They continue taking Suboxone on a daily basis, while participating in therapy, so they can keep their drug cravings under control. By alleviating cravings and withdrawal symptoms, Suboxone allows patients to place all of their focus and energy on their therapy sessions.

Researchers have found that Suboxone is highly effective at reducing opioid misuse in formerly dependent individuals. Patients who are prescribed daily buprenorphine are more likely to stay in treatment for the duration of their care and are less likely to provide opioid-positive drug tests.[3]

What is Vivitrol?

Vivitrol is a once-monthly intramuscular injection that contains an extended-release formulation of naltrexone. It is administered one time every 28-30 days in the buttocks by a certified medical provider. Vivitrol is approved by the FDA to treat both opioid and alcohol addiction.

How Does Vivitrol Help Treat Opioid Addiction?

Vivitrol only contains one medication: naltrexone.

In the Vivitrol shot, naltrexone is formulated into an extended-release medication that lasts for up to one month. Naltrexone helps treat opioid addiction by blocking the effect of opioid receptors and decreasing drug cravings.[4]

Patients who are taking Vivitrol go to a monthly doctor’s appointment where they receive the injection. Although injection site reactions (redness, itching, and irritation) are common after Vivitrol, the medication has few other side effects and is relatively safe.

Unlike Suboxone, Vivitrol does not prevent withdrawal symptoms. In fact, patients must remain sober for at least 7-10 days before starting Vivitrol treatment.[5] Vivitrol is solely meant to be used, in combination with an addiction treatment program, to help alleviate cravings.

Benefits of Vivitrol Treatment

One of the primary reasons why many people prefer Vivitrol over Suboxone is because Vivitrol is a once-monthly medication. Individuals do not have to take medication every day and their providers do not have to worry about medication adherence.

At the same time, Vivitrol contains naltrexone, and naltrexone is not an opioid. Unlike buprenorphine (the medication found in Suboxone), naltrexone is not habit-forming and will not result in physical dependence. As a result, individuals typically have little to no trouble when it comes to getting off of Vivitrol and stopping the medication.

FDA trials have found that patients taking Vivitrol are more likely to stay in treatment and refrain from abusing opioids and other drugs.[6]

Find Out if Suboxone or Vivitrol Are Right For You

Vivitrol and Suboxone are not for everyone. If you or a loved one are struggling with opioid addiction, our team at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment can help. Our opioid rehab program in Massachusetts utilizes the latest medications and approaches to addiction treatment, and it can help you overcome your addiction. To learn more about opioid addiction treatment or to find out if Suboxone or Vivitrol are right for you, give us a call today.



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