Sublocade vs. Vivitrol: Which One is Right For You?

February 16, 2020 , Agape Treatment Center

sublocade and vivitrolYears ago, Suboxone and Methadone dominated medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. However, medical improvements mixed with a deeper understanding of opioid use disorder have led to the development of new medications. Sublocade and Vivitrol are two medications that are up and coming for the treatment of opioid addiction. 

Both Sublocade and Vivitrol perform much better than placebo medications or no medication at all. These two medications are both monthly injections that are gaining popularity in medication-assisted treatment programs. While these drugs have similarities, it’s important to understand what they are used for, how effective they are, and what the differences between the two are. After all, these are all important factors to consider when deciding if medication-assisted treatment is right for you. Here is what you need to know about Sublocade and Vivitrol.


What is Sublocade?

Sublocade is a brand-name prescription drug containing buprenorphine, a drug that is popular in the treatment of moderate to severe opioid use disorder. If you have heard of Suboxone, you may be familiar with the benefits of buprenorphine. However, Suboxone consists of both buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, so it has opioid-like properties but it doesn’t produce the euphoric effects as other opioids do. 

Sublocade is administered as a subcutaneous injection that must be given by a healthcare provider in a medical setting. The shot is given once a month and it comes in two different strengths: 100mg and 300mg. Before an individual can take Sublocade, he or she must undergo induction treatment. Induction treatment involves taking a sublingual form of buprenorphine during the height of opioid withdrawal symptoms. Then, after approximately 1 week, patients can switch to Sublocade for a long-term medication-assisted treatment program.[1]

The drug helps subdue withdrawal symptoms and prevent opioid cravings. After all, it is extremely hard to quit using opioids and cravings may persist for several months. The medication also blocks the effects of addictive opioids, preventing people from relapsing and/or overdosing. Although Sublocade is much newer than other medication-assisted treatment medications, it is effective in reducing opioid abuse and preventing relapse. One study demonstrated that 30% of Sublocade treatment participants didn’t use opioids longer than patients who received no medication-assisted treatment at all.[2]


What is Vivitrol?

Unlike Sublocade, Vivitrol treats both opioid and alcohol dependence. However, it does not treat any withdrawal symptoms. Instead, individuals must stop drinking or taking opioids and complete detox before starting Vivitrol treatment. Typically, patients must remain sober for 7-10 days before taking the drug.[3]

Vivitrol contains naltrexone – an opioid antagonist that is sometimes given in pill form. This form of naltrexone is an intramuscular injection given once monthly in the buttocks. Although Vivitrol doesn’t treat alcohol or opioid withdrawal symptoms, it supports recovery by reducing cravings and preventing relapse. In addition, when people drink alcohol or take opioids while on Vivitrol, naltrexone blocks the pleasurable effects of these substances. When a person knows they physiologically cannot get high or drunk, they are less likely to try and do so.

Recent studies prove the effectiveness of treating alcohol dependence with Vivitrol. For example, patients who received 380mg doses of the drug experienced a 25% decrease in heavy drinking. Furthermore, it is proven to increase treatment retention rates and significantly improve treatment outcomes.[4]

Similarly, one study found that Vivitrol patients who suffered from opioid use disorder were less likely to abuse opioids than those who did not receive medication-assisted treatment.[5] In addition, when people take opioids while on Vivitrol, they may experience sudden withdrawal symptoms. As a result, this further prevents opioid abuse and relapse.


Integrated Treatment

Some people have misconceptions about medication-assisted treatment. Individuals may see Sublocade or Vivitrol injections as the sole solution for treating their substance use disorder. Unfortunately, there is no single pill, injection, or medication that ultimately cures addiction or alcoholism. Instead, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration explains that medication-assisted treatment should combine the use of medications with behavioral therapies and counseling to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders.[6]

Integrated treatment programs offer a whole-patient approach to treating alcoholism and drug addiction. Extensive research shows that this delicate combination of treatment can successfully treat these disorders and help sustain long-term recovery. After all, medications help stabilize the mind and body by relieving psychological cravings and normalizing body functions that have been affected as a result of opioid or alcohol abuse. At the same time, counseling and behavioral therapies help individuals get to the root of their addictions, learn new coping skills, and lay the foundation for sustained recovery. 

If you or a loved one is interested in a safe alternative to traditional opioid or alcohol treatment programs, a monthly injection of Sublocade or Vivitrol may be right for you. However, it’s important to speak with an addiction specialist to determine which course of treatment is best for you. If you or a loved one is ready to get sober and is interested in medication-assisted treatment, contact an addiction specialist at Agape Treatment Center in Fort Lauderdale today.