Suboxone vs. Vivitrol - Suboxone Treatment Clinic in Palm Beach, FL

Suboxone and Vivitrol are two widely used medications in the treatment of opioid use disorder. While both medications work better than placebos, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. Understanding how each medication works, what the side effects are, and the key differences between the two can help you make an informed decision regarding your recovery.

What is Suboxone and How is it Used?

Suboxone is a combination medication containing buprenorphine and naloxone. It was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of opioid use disorder in 2002.[1] Since then, it has helped thousands of people recover from opioid addiction.

Both buprenorphine and naloxone play unique roles in the medication. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist-antagonist that can reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal and drug cravings, assisting people in recovery from opioid dependence. Naloxone, on the other hand, is an opiate antagonist that blocks the euphoric effects of opioids. It is added to the medication to prevent patients from abusing it, getting high on it, or overdosing on it. Naloxone is used alone in the form of a nasal spray or injection that can reverse opioid overdose.

Suboxone comes in the form of a sublingual or buccal film. This means it can be placed under the tongue (sublingual) or between the cheek and gums (buccal) where it dissolves in the mouth and into the bloodstream. It must be taken on a daily basis.

Patients may begin taking Suboxone 12-24 hours after their last dose of opioids. Individuals should be in withdrawal before taking Suboxone, otherwise, it can cause worsened withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone can be continued throughout a person’s treatment plan and recovery or for as long as their doctor recommends. The medication is intended to be used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapy.

Suboxone is a Schedule III controlled substance.[2] Schedule III controlled substances have an accepted medical use but also carry a low to moderate risk for dependence or abuse.

Suboxone Side Effects and Precautions

Most of the side effects of Suboxone are caused by buprenorphine. Naloxone normally doesn’t have many side effects. However, the side effects are generally mild, and the benefits of the medication outweigh the risks.

Common side effects of Suboxone include:[3]

  • Numbness, redness, pain, or tingling in the mouth that usually goes away shortly after the film dissolves
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Sleep problems or insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slowed breathing

Suboxone may interact with certain medications such as benzodiazepines, HIV protease inhibitors, and erythromycin. It is also not recommended to use opioids or drink alcohol while taking Suboxone.

What is Vivitrol and How is it Used?

Vivitrol is a once-monthly injection containing naltrexone. It was approved by the FDA in 2006 to treat alcohol use disorder and the approval was later extended to 2010 to treat opioid use disorder.[4] Like Suboxone, Vivitrol has helped many people stop using opioids–but it has also helped people stop drinking alcohol.

Vivitrol’s active ingredient, naltrexone, is an opioid antagonist that blocks the euphoric effects of heroin and other opioids. It does this by occupying opioid receptors in the brain. The medication helps treat opioid use disorder by reducing drug cravings and helping decrease the motivation to use opioids. While researchers are not certain as to why it helps treat alcohol use disorder, they hypothesize it is because naltrexone helps normalize brain chemistry and balance opioid receptors, thereby reducing alcohol cravings.

Vivitrol comes in the form of an intramuscular injection that is administered once every 28-30 days. The injection is given in the buttocks and provides the body with a steady dose of naltrexone that lasts all month long. This is ideal for people who struggle with adhering to a medication dosing schedule.

Vivitrol is only administered in medical settings by licensed physicians. It is currently the only opioid use disorder treatment medication that is not considered a controlled substance by the DEA. This is because Vivitrol is not addictive, non-habit forming, and does not produce a high. As a result, there is no risk for abuse.[5]

Vivitrol Side Effects and Precautions

The most common side effects of Vivitrol are injection site reactions. Redness, pain, itching, bruising, and discomfort at the injection site are completely normal reactions. These may appear hours after receiving the injection and can last for a few days. However, they generally subside after about a week with no problems.

Other potential side effects include:[6]

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

These side effects are also usually mild and subside after a few days.

Key Differences Between Suboxone and Vivitrol

Suboxone and Vivitrol are two very different medications. A few key differences are:

  • Suboxone is a daily medication; Vivitrol is a monthly medication
  • Suboxone is taken by mouth; Vivitrol is taken via intramuscular injection
  • Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone; Vivitrol contains naltrexone
  • Suboxone is approved to treat opioid use disorder; Vivitrol is used to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders
  • Suboxone may cause physical dependence and minor withdrawal symptoms upon cessation; Vivitrol is not habit-forming and will not cause physical dependence

Both medications are safe and effective ways to treat opioid addiction.

Find out if Suboxone or Vivitrol is Right for You

Suboxone and Vivitrol are two powerful tools that can help fight the ongoing opioid crisis. If you or a loved one are struggling with opioid addiction, there is help available and treatments that work. Withdrawal doesn’t have to be painful and cravings don’t have to hold you back from living your life to the fullest.

Pick up the phone and speak with one of our dedicated addiction specialists today to find the right medication-assisted treatment program for you.