Quitting opiates is difficult, but there's help available in the form of medication-assisted treatment. These treatment methods use another medication to help reduce opioid cravings while you work on your recovery, and they also give you another safety net by blocking the effects of recreational opioid drugs while you're on them.
Suboxone and Vivitrol are two medication-assisted treatments that have been very effective in helping people finally recover from opiate dependency, and both are widely available. However, they're quite different in how they work and how treatment begins and ends. To learn more about these differences and learn how to decide which one is best for your recovery, read on.
How They Work
First, you'll need to know a little bit about how opioid drugs work.
Recreational opioid drugs are full opioid agonists. Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist. While it binds to the same opioid receptors in your brain, it doesn't stimulate them nearly as much as recreational opioid drugs. This results in an effect where Suboxone provides no euphoria when it's taken in the dose prescribed by your provider. However, its ability to bind to the same receptors allows it to stave off opioid withdrawals.
Vivitrol, on the other hand, is an opioid antagonist. This means that it completely blocks any activity at the opioid receptors in your brain. Unfortunately, it also means that Vivitrol has no effect on withdrawal symptoms.
The first big difference between the two is what happens when you begin treatment. When you first begin Suboxone treatment, you need to stop using recreational opioid drugs the day before. This means you'll experience withdrawal symptoms for around a period of 24 hours. Once you receive your first dose at treatment, however, your withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside.
When you start Vivitrol, on the other hand, you need to first go through the full opioid withdrawal process before you can begin treatment. This can take up to ten days.
While you're taking them, Suboxone and Vivitrol are fairly similar. Both will help reduce your cravings for opioid drugs while you're taking them, and they'll also prevent any recreational opioid drugs from affecting you — Suboxone binds tightly to your opioid receptors so little else can affect them, and Vivitrol blocks activity at them entirely.
The main difference is in how they're dosed. Vivitrol is given as a shot once every four weeks. You'll schedule appointments with your provider to receive the shot. Suboxone, on the other hand, is taken daily at home. Your provider may request that you come into the clinic periodically for testing to ensure that you're still following the program.
After You've Recovered
The other major difference between these medications is in their withdrawals. Suboxone will cause opioid withdrawal if you stop taking it since it's still an opioid agonist. However, you can minimize withdrawal symptoms by asking your provider to slowly taper down your daily dose — you can come off of it slowly in order to give your body time to adjust.
Vivitrol, on the other hand, has no withdrawal symptoms at all.
Which Is the Superior Choice?
Suboxone therapy is often the better method for most people. The reason behind this is that Vivitrol requires you to fully go through opioid withdrawal first before you can even begin treatment. Many people who are addicted to opioid drugs continue to take them because the withdrawal symptoms are debilitating. With Suboxone treatment, you only have to go through withdrawals for a day before the medication begins to eliminate them.
Vivitrol is only preferable if you don't want to risk Suboxone withdrawals. When selecting your medication-assisted treatment, however, you should keep in mind that these withdrawals can be kept minimal if you work with a provider who will taper you down from the medication slowly.