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Suboxone vs. Vivitrol vs. Sublocade: Difference Between, Uses, Administration, & More

Choosing between Suboxone, Vivitrol, and Sublocade medication may be an important piece of a client’s opiate addiction recovery.

Physical cravings and withdrawals are a major burden on the journey to sobriety.  Medications help to control and stabilize a client’s biology back to a healthy state.

Both medications are used to eliminate addiction on a chemical level and guide clients closer to a sober life.

What this article will cover:

  • What are Vivitrol, Suboxone, and Sublocade?
  • How do opiate addiction medications work?
  • What are the active ingredients in Vivitrol, Suboxone, and Sublocade?
  • How do Vivitrol, Suboxone, and Sublocade help addiction clients detox?
  • Which opiate detox medication should I choose?
  • What are the risks of detox medications?

Before we dive deep, we always like to start you off with the basics.

Vivitrol vs Suboxone vs Sublocade: The Basics

Vivitrol, Suboxone, and Sublocade are branded medications for opiate addiction.  These detox treatments differ in risks, function, and how they are taken.  Vivitrol is a monthly opioid blocker injection given by trained providers.  Suboxone is a self-administered, controlled opioid dose as a daily under-the-tongue film.  Sublocade is a monthly injection opioid variant.

Medical detoxification is an important first step when on the road to recovery.

If someone suffers an opiate addiction, medications can be a powerful recovery tool.  Opiate addiction medications come in many forms and brand name options.

Three popular pharmaceutical treatments for opioid addiction include:

  • Vivitrol is an injection-based brand containing naltrexone.
  • Suboxone is an oral-based brand containing buprenorphine and naloxone.
  • Sublocade is an injection-based brand containing buprenorphine.

Options are made available because no single detox medication is right for everyone.  When entering a medication plan, clients should carefully weigh benefits and risks.

To explain these prescriptions further, we’ll discuss each in detail.

Vivitrol Explained

Vivitrol is a brand name naltrexone designed to detox clients with opioid addiction.

Naltrexone as a monthly long-term release injection is also offered as ReVia or Depade.  Currently, there is no generic version of this shot in the United States.

Naltrexone is known as an opioid antagonist or blocker.  By blocking the receptors that opiates would stimulate, opioid users cannot get the euphoria of getting “high.”

Delivered as an extended-release shot, naltrexone is a passive deterrent against opioid abuse.  With time, naltrexone lowers the rate and intensity of opiate cravings.

Suboxone Explained

Suboxone is a brand name buprenorphine-naloxone for opiate addiction detox.

Buprenorphine-naloxone as a sublingual film—i.e. taken beneath the tongue— is only offered as Suboxone or generic.  However, sublingual tablets exist as Zubsolv.

Buprenorphine is itself an opioid designed to only partially stimulate the user’s receptors.  This ingredient doesn’t allow the user the desired effect of getting “high.”

Naloxone is known as an opioid antagonist, which can remove and replace opioids in receptors without activating them.  It guards against an overdose of buprenorphine.

Together, the ingredients reduce a user’s desire for opiate addiction and minimize risks of misuse.  Also, reduced withdrawal symptoms help ease clients through detox.

Sublocade Explained

Sublocade is a brand name buprenorphine that helps clients through opioid detox.

Buprenorphine in an extended-release monthly injection only comes under the brand Sublocade.  There is no generic option of this form factor available in the US.

Buprenorphine is an opiate that works similar to Suboxone to activate receptors of a user up to a controlled limit.  This prevents the euphoria that creates opiate cravings.

Buprenorphine as a monthly shot does not contain any naloxone to prevent misuse.  It can only be legally given by qualified staff, eliminating self-administration risks.

After the monthly beneath-the-skin injection, buprenorphine distributes slowly to prevent withdrawal while reducing a user’s cravings.

What to Know Before Starting an Opiate Detox Medication

Opioid detox treatment should be customized to the client’s unique needs.

Before starting, clients should always have a basic understanding of what a detox medication entails.

Detox medication is not a cure.  Clients must face the underlying mental challenges that led to opioid addiction.  Without behavior change, triggers may lead to relapse.

Medication does not guarantee detox.  In a study by Dr. Joshua D Lee and other colleagues in 2017, Suboxone and Vivitrol success rates were compared.  Unfortunately, over half of the clients relapsed in the six months regardless of medication type.  Even with the best detox programs, relapse is always a possibility.

All medication should be taken responsibly.  When prescribed, clients must be sure they take treatments as planned.  They must take them in the proper dosage, in the designed format, and must stop taking when deemed appropriate.

Medications can lead to addictions.  Clients need to monitor their own symptoms and behaviors.  Be sure to report addiction warning signs to a medical professional.

Despite risks, medication is the ideal route to begin detoxification and recovery.

How to Choose Between Suboxone, Vivitrol, and Sublocade

To choose the right opiate detox medication, one should weigh the benefits and risks carefully.

What are the medication abuse and addiction risks?  There are no addiction risks with an opioid antagonist like Vivitrol.  However, buprenorphine is an opiate in Suboxone and Sublocade that can lead to addiction.  The naloxone in Suboxone prevents drug abuse if taken properly, but will cause rapid withdrawal if smoked or injected.  Sublocade has no naloxone since self-administered misuse usually cannot occur.

How do regulations affect medication availability?  Vivitrol has no extra federal regulation to limit prescriptions, increasing accessibility for clients.  Suboxone and Sublocade as opioids can only be prescribed by authorized providers due to federal regulations.

Are there generics available?  This may be important if clients can’t afford brand name markups.  Suboxone has generic versions available, while Vivitrol and Sublocade do not.

Do I have to abstain from substance use before detox?  Clients on Vivitrol cannot take any opiates for over a week before starting the medication.  Suboxone clients can start treatment at any point in their continuum of care with no full detox. Sublocade clients must enter sublingual (Suboxone) or buccal (Belbuca) treatment before moving to the injection.

What are the withdrawal effects?  Suboxone and Sublocade reduce symptoms of opiate withdrawal during treatment.  But Suboxone and Sublocade may cause medication withdrawal in post-treatment.  Vivitrol may actually lead to withdrawal symptoms during the client’s pre-medication abstinence.

Are there overdose risks during and post-treatment?  Vivitrol completely blocks overdose during treatment.  However, Vivitrol increases post-treatment overdose risks.  This is due to lower tolerance and increased opioid sensitivity.  Suboxone and Sublocade actually lower future risks of overdoses.

Regardless, all considerations should be made before making a final medication choice.

Responsible Use of Opiate Addiction Medication

With any medication, clients should be sure they get their treatments as intended.

Abuse or lapses in treatment may expose clients to major health risks.  These can include new addictions, relapse, overdose, or worse.

There are two common ways clients get their detox medication:

  • Managed medication clients visit a facility to get controlled treatment.
  • Self-administered medication gives clients the option to take doses at home.

In outpatient use, Suboxone helps clients get their treatments on-time without a treatment center visit.  This is used in programs like sober living and IOP.

For inpatient use, Vivitrol, Suboxone, and Sublocade are relatively equal with how they’re delivered.  All medications are given in measured doses by professionally trained staff.

Beyond these basics, clients must also be aware of the following:

  • Administration should always be done as prescribed.  Trained staff should administer any managed medications.  Self-administration clients must follow all instructions exactly as written.
  • Fraudulent or illegally-obtained medications should not be taken.  This means taking unmodified, professionally-prescribed, and distributed treatment only.
  • Ending medication regimens as planned is essential if deemed complete.  Failure to end treatment as planned can result in addiction or overdose.

By taking precautions, clients can navigate the risks and step safely into sobriety.

Takeaways on the Differences Between Vivitrol, Sublocade, & Suboxone

In summary, all three of these treatments can help halt a client’s physical dependence on opiates.

After reading this article, you’ve learned:

  • Vivitrol, Suboxone, and Sublocade are opiate addiction medications for detoxification.
  • Opiate addiction medications change how the body processes opiates.
  • Vivitrol contains naltrexone, and Suboxone has buprenorphine-naloxone. Sublocade includes only buprenorphine without naloxone.
  • Clients should check with a qualified provider to determine a treatment plan.
  • Careful use of detox medications will prevent overdose, treatment addiction, and more.

Ultimately, Suboxone, Vivitrol, and Sublocade can each help clients move closer to recovery.

Know someone who might benefit from this post?  Please like and share it with them. Or, if you have questions or comments, please leave them below!  We’re always looking for ways to keep the conversation about recovery going.  Education is one the most powerful tools we have combat addiction.

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