When you’re seeking help for addiction, one of the main treatment methods is medication. Understanding opioid addiction meds can be confusing, however. To help clear things up a little, this post will focus on two common treatment medications: Vivitrol® and Suboxone®.
What is Vivitrol®?
Vivitrol® is what is known as an “antagonist,” or blocking medication, that is delivered via injection. Antagonist medications work by binding to the same opioid receptors in your brain that a drug would, but it does not give you the same feeling of a high. Because your opioid receptors are already bound to the Vivitrol®, taking a drug will not give you the feeling of a high.
Vivitrol® is able to create a barrier between the opioid and the receptors for one month, which means that patients only need one injection every 30 days.
What are the Pros of Vivitrol®?
One major benefit of Vivitrol® is that it only requires a single injection once each month. Since there is no daily dosage to remember, there is a better chance of sticking with recovery. Vivitrol® can be especially helpful in the early stages of recovery because it’s common for a person’s willpower to experience serious ups and downs during this time.
Another benefit of Vivitrol® is that it does not contain any sort of opioid, which is a common issue cited with Suboxone®. It also makes opioids unappealing since your brain doesn’t get the benefit of a high.
What are the Drawbacks to Vivitrol®?
As with any medication, there are potential side effects and drawbacks that you should take into consideration.
The biggest downside to Vivitrol® is that you have to go through a full detox before you can begin the medication. This usually means at least a full week sober, which can be hard on anyone who isn’t in a qualified detox and rehab facility.
Another thing to consider is that you have to be willing to keep monthly appointments at a doctor’s office or outpatient facility in order to get your injection. Skipping shots almost always leads to relapse.
Finally, the last major drawback to Vivitrol® is that it can be extremely dangerous to take drugs while on the shot. Since you won’t feel the effects of the drugs like normal, it can be easy to overdose or cause serious harm to your health without realizing it.
One additional thing to look into before beginning Vivitrol® is the cost. The injections tend to be more expensive than some other drugs, and your insurance may or may not help cover the cost.
What is Suboxone®?
Unlike Vivitrol®, Suboxone® is a mixture of two drugs. The first is called buprenorphine, which is a mild “agonist” drug, and the second is naloxone, which is an opioid antagonist. This might sound counterproductive, but the two medications work together to help patients overcome addiction.
Buprenorphine is a partial agonist, which means that it can provide a similar feeling of a high. However, the feeling is very subtle compared to the stronger opioids that patients are typically addicted to, so it allows the person to be gradually tapered off of the stronger opioid without subjecting him or her to the full brunt of opioid withdrawals. This is beneficial for initial detox especially.
The second component of Suboxone® is naltrexone, which is an antagonist like Vivitrol®. Unlike Vivitrol®, naloxone is too powerful by itself to be given to someone addicted to strong opioids. It can trigger a variety of serious and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms when given on its own, so combining a lower dose of it with buprenorphine allows patients to gradually wean themselves off of their drug of choice.
What are the Pros of Suboxone®?
One of the main appeals of Suboxone® is that it makes withdrawal much easier to endure while you’re detoxing. Because it limits the painful symptoms of withdrawal, it can make short-term recovery more successful, and it lowers the chances of an overdose-related death.
Suboxone® is relatively affordable, and some insurance companies will cover a part of the cost. It’s also easier to obtain than other similar medications because it can be prescribed by any general physician. You also do not have to go through detox first like you would before starting Vivitrol®.
While it’s true that there is a small dose of opioid in Suboxone®, the fact is that as long as it is used correctly during treatment, it is able to diminish the feelings of cravings and give you a sense of control over your body.
What are the Drawbacks to Suboxone®?
Unfortunately, there are still risks and concerns that go along with taking Suboxone®.
First, many people are concerned that patients are simply substituting one addiction for another by taking a recovery drug that contains a low-dose opioid. However, if used correctly and with proper supervision, patients should eventually stop needing the drug.
Second, this is a medication that must be taken every day in order to be effective. Remembering to take the proper dose every day can be difficult for a recovering addict, especially if there is any temptation to use.
Finally, this is a drug that must be used carefully and as prescribed, otherwise it can cause withdrawal symptoms and unpleasant side effects.
Vivitrol® vs. Suboxone® – Is One Better Than the Other?
There is no clear-cut answer when it comes to deciding if one treatment method is better than the other. Each of these opioid addiction meds has its own pros and cons, and it is ultimately up to your healthcare provider to determine which would be best to help you on your journey to recovery.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions and share what you know about each drug. It’s important for you to be an active participant in your treatment. You can take control back, and utilizing medication therapy is a great place to start for some people.
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.