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Vivitrol vs Other Anti-Addiction Medications

Should I Use Vivitrol or Other Medications?

There are numerous medication options for people in recovery from addiction. Depending on your drug of abuse, you might be able to pick from options like Vivitrol, methadone, buprenorphine, or others. Choosing the medication that’s right for you requires a comparison of these drugs, their benefits and their side effects.

If you’ve made the decision to get clean and sober, a doctor may recommend medication assisted therapy as part of your treatment plan.

Medications like Vivitrol, Antabuse, Suboxone and Campral won’t get you sober on their own.

Nor will they altogether prevent withdrawal.

But these drugs may curb the cravings or withdrawal symptoms that make recovery such a challenging journey.

How Medication Supports Recovery

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) is meant to be only one part of an integrated addiction treatment program. Medications may be used to:

  1. Ease withdrawal symptoms during detox (Suboxone).
  2. Help those recovering from addiction prevent drug use and relapse (Vivitrol, Antabuse, Campral).

Vivitrol vs other medications

Depending on your current stage in recovery, most individuals will want to begin their journey to sobriety by first detoxing their body of any remaining substance.

After detox has occurred, your body will better be able to handle the medications that are designed to help keep you away from further drug use.

How Does Vivitrol Compare to Other Addiction Recovery Medications?

Our comparison begins by first taking a closer look at how Vivitrol and other medications may help prevent drug use and relapse.

Medications That Prevent Drug Use and Relapse

Vivitrol, Antabuse and Campral are all drugs that help prevent drug use and relapse. Vivitrol has been used to help treat both alcohol and opioid drug dependence – while Antabuse and Campral are only used for helping manage chronic alcoholism.

Each drug has its pros and cons, with each drug demonstrating differing levels of effectiveness, depending on the individual.

Vivitrol

Vivitrol medicationVivitrol is an extended-release, injectable form of naltrexone. It is a non-addictive opiate antagonist that has helped many individuals remain drug-free during their initial recovery period. It has been used to treat both alcohol and opioid drug dependence. Because Vivitrol is given as a monthly injection, it’s considered to be one of the most convenient ways to remember to take the drug.

According to research published in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, this injectable suspension of naltrexone may have less severe adverse effects compared to the oral forms of naltrexone.1

Benefits of Vivitrol

If you’re thinking about taking Vivitrol, consider the following benefits that come with it:

  • Vivitrol can make opiate drugs or alcohol much less desirable, which can help you avoid a relapse.
  • You don’t have to remember to take a pill every day, which may make it easier to comply with your treatment plan.
  • Blood levels of Vivitrol may remain more stable than levels of oral naltrexone.
  • Vivitrol can help you break your dependence on habit-forming drugs – without running the risk that you’ll develop a secondary addiction to naltrexone.

Before Taking Vivitrol – What You Need to Know

Until you’ve been sober or clean from opioid drugs and medications for 7 to 10 days, you can’t take Vivitrol.

As any individual who’s tried to recover from an addiction knows, fighting cravings during that first week may be the most difficult part of recovery. You might consider discussing with your healthcare provider what other options you can consider to help get you through this 7- to 10-day period before starting Vivitrol.

Not everyone can take Vivitrol, however. And you should consider with your healthcare provider the possible drawbacks of taking Vivitrol that may affect you2:

  • Vivitrol may not be safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Vivitrol can cause severe liver damage if it’s taken in more than the recommended dose.
  • Some patients who’ve taken Vivitrol have experienced intense pain, irritation, swelling, lumps, redness or even tissue death at the injection site.
  • You have to be willing to see a doctor or nurse monthly for a shot. Skipping a shot could jeopardize your recovery.
  • Vivitrol can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches, dizziness, joint pain, depressed mood, pneumonia and allergic reactions.
  • Vivitrol is typically more expensive than oral forms of the medication such as ReVia.
  • Fatal drug overdose while on Vivitrol is still possible. Since users don’t feel the effects of the drugs they take for pleasure, they sometimes take more of the drug just to feel the effects. This may be attempted to overwhelm the naltrexone opioid receptor blockade, but can place the user at risk of severe respiratory depression and death.

Antabuse

Antabuse medication
Vivitrol isn’t the only drug on the market that can help an alcoholic stay sober. Antabuse is the brand name for the drug known as disulfiram. Antabuse is one of the most widely prescribed drugs for alcohol dependence.

Unlike Vivitrol – which suppresses the effects of alcohol – Antabuse blocks the breakdown of alcohol by the body, producing extremely unpleasant side effects if the user drinks alcohol.

About 10 minutes after taking a drink while using Antabuse, the individual may experience:

  • Sweating.
  • Flushing.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea.
  • Weakness.
  • Chest pain.
  • Breathing problems.

These side effects typically last for about 1 hour after taking a drink.

How Does Antabuse Compare to Vivitrol?

A side-by-side comparison between Antabuse and Vivitrol can help highlight some of the differences between the 2 medications:

Antabuse

  • For alcohol addiction.
  • Oral medication.
  • Taken every day.
  • Discourages drinking by creating unpleasant to life-threatening side effects.
  • Can be taken after you’ve been off alcohol for 12 hours.
  • Produces severe physical reactions with simultaneous consumption of alcohol-containing substances.3

Vivitrol

  • For alcohol or opioid drug dependence.
  • Injection.
  • Taken every few weeks.
  • Minimizes relapse risk by diminishing some of the pleasurable effects of alcohol and opioid drugs.
  • Can be taken after you’ve been clean and sober for 7 to 10 days.
  • Only affects the way your body responds to alcoholic beverages or narcotic drugs.4

Both Vivitrol and Antabuse can have serious side effects, including liver damage. Both of these medications must be taken under a doctor’s supervision, and both must be incorporated in a comprehensive treatment plan in order to produce long-lasting results.

Campral

Campral Medication
Acamprosate, sold under the brand name Campral, is an oral medication that can be taken daily in tablet form to help with alcohol abstinence.

The way that Campral works is still a bit of a mystery to scientists and doctors, although Campral is believed to reduce alcohol intake via a re-balancing of your brain’s inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters – respectively, GABA and glutamate. These neurotransmitters are often out of balance in those who are dependent on alcohol.

Like Vivitrol and Antabuse, Campral must be taken as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program.

How Does Campral Compare to Vivitrol?

Campral differs from Vivitrol in several important ways:

Campral

  • For alcohol addiction.
  • Oral medication.
  • Taken 3 times daily.
  • Minimizes relapse by balancing neurotransmitters, decreasing positive reinforcement of alcohol intake.
  • Can be taken after 5 days of being sober.5

Vivitrol

  • For alcohol or opioid drug dependence.
  • Injection.
  • Taken every few weeks.
  • Prevents relapse by turning off the brain’s receptivity to the effects of alcohol and opioid drugs.
  • Can be taken after you’ve been clean and sober for 7 to 10 days.4

American Family Physician reports that Campral may be as effective as Vivitrol (and oral naltrexone), but it seems to produce fewer adverse reactions.6 Like Vivitrol, Campral should be started after you’ve been alcohol-free for a number of days. Campral may be even more effective when it’s taken in combination with Antabuse or naltrexone under a doctor’s supervision.

Medications That Ease Withdrawal Symptoms

Suboxone can help ease the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms you will experience as your body comes off opioid drugs during detox.

As is also true for most medications used to manage substance dependence, Suboxone has its own benefits and risks. Some individuals will find Suboxone more helpful than others in helping ease withdrawal symptoms.

Suboxone

Suboxone medication
Suboxone is a medication that combines two drugs: buprenorphine and naloxone.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that helps relieve cravings for narcotic drugs like heroin, morphine and codeine. Suboxone produces similar effects to narcotics, but with a less intense, gradual onset of action. As a result, the user doesn’t experience the full euphoric high that makes heroin or morphine so addictive.

Suboxone is unique in that it also contains naloxone, an opioid antagonist (or blocker) that blocks the pleasurable effects of narcotic drugs. The benefit of this combination is in minimizing the incentive to use excessive amounts of any opioid drug and, further, in limiting any risk of overdose while it is being taken.

How Does Suboxone Compare to Vivitrol?

Comparing Suboxone with Vivitrol will show you how these drugs stack up:

Suboxone

  • For opioid dependence.
  • Oral medication.
  • Taken daily.
  • Helps ease the withdrawal symptoms experienced during detox.
  • Can be taken before you attain abstinence to help you through withdrawal.
  • Suboxone can potentially cause drug dependence and withdrawal symptoms if it’s not taken exactly as directed.7

Vivitrol

  • For alcohol or opioid drug dependence.
  • Injection.
  • Taken every few weeks.
  • Prevents relapse by turning off the brain’s receptivity to the effects of alcohol and opioid drugs.
  • Can be taken after you’ve been clean and sober for 7 to 10 days.
  • Only affects the way your body responds to alcoholic beverages or narcotic drugs.4

Benefits of Medication Therapy

The choice to incorporate medications as part of a substance abuse treatment strategy will be up to the recovering individual as well as their specific treatment team. Not all treatment programs utilize medication assisted techniques. Still, there are a number of benefits to medication therapy that are worth considering as you weigh your treatment options with your healthcare provider.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that medication therapy may8:

  • Increase patient retention in addiction treatment programs.
  • Decrease the rate of relapse among alcoholics or individuals recovering from addiction.
  • Lower the rate of drug-related criminal activity.
  • Reduce the rate of drug-related disease transmission.

When you’re trying to create a new life free from drugs or alcohol, you need all the tools you can get your hands on.

Medications like Vivitrol – which block the receptors in your brain that respond favorably to narcotic drugs or alcohol – aren’t intended to be a cure-all for alcoholism or drug addiction.

These meds must be used as part of a treatment program that also includes individual therapy, group therapy and medical supervision. Talk with your doctor or therapist about how pharmacological tools can help you build the sober life you want.

How Medication Therapy Can Make a Difference

Those who believe that “quitting cold turkey” or “white-knuckling it” through sobriety are the only valid ways to recover should consider the realities of addiction’s stronghold and consequences.

  • 746,000 individuals ages 12 and older received treatment for opioid prescription abuse in 2013 – more than twice the amount as was reported in 2002.9
  • In 2013, there were 8,257 deaths in the U.S. from heroin overdose.10
  • Deaths from opioid abuse have more than tripled from 1999 to 2006.11
  • Roughly 88,000 people die every year from alcohol-related causes.12

While there may be those rare individuals who can work through addiction on their own without the help of medications, there are many other individuals who benefit from the extra pharmacologic support as they build and maintain their recovery.

Choosing the Right Recovery Medication and Treatment Program

Doctor medication and treatment consultation
When it comes to choosing the anti-addiction medication and treatment plan that’s best for you, you shouldn’t be left to make the choice alone. Consult your doctor or therapist about the pros and cons of the most commonly prescribed medications for alcohol or drug addiction. No matter which prescription drug you and your doctor choose, participating in individual counseling, group therapy and a behavioral modification plan are just as important to your recovery as taking meds.

Addiction Treatment Facility Types

As you search for the right addiction treatment program, you will find there are a few different facility types available to you:

  • Luxury rehab facilities offer addiction treatment in a 24/7 care setting that additionally offers a wide array of extra resort-like amenities to help make your recovery period more comfortable.
  • Executive rehab facilities also offer 24/7 residential addiction care with similar high-end amenities. Additionally, these facilities provide busy professionals with the opportunity to maintain an active involvement at their workplace throughout their recovery.
  • Traditional or standard rehab programs may be offered via either inpatient (residential) or outpatient (nonresidential) addiction treatment settings. These programs offer the same quality of addiction treatment care but without the addition of extra, high-end amenities. As a result, they may be more accessible to those on a tighter budget, or for those who can’t afford luxury treatment.

Learn More and Get Help

If you’d like to learn more about your addiction or your options for finding the right treatment for you, call 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers? to speak with one of our recovery advisors. We’d love to help you explore your options so you can get started on your best personal road for recovery.

Sources

  1. Johnson, B. A. (2007). Naltrexone long-acting formulation in the treatment of alcohol dependence. Ther Clin Risk Manag., 3(5), 741-9.
  2. Vivitrol. FDA.
  3. Disulfiram. Mayo Clinic.
  4. Vivitrol [prescribing information]. (2015). Alkermes.
  5. Campral [prescibing information]. (2004). Merck.
  6. Hunter, K., Ochoa, R. (2006). Acamprosate (Campral) for treatment of alcoholism. American Family Physician, 74(4), 645-6.
  7. Suboxone [prescribing information]. (2002). Indivior Inc.
  8. Medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. (2012). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  9. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2012 national survey on drug use and health: summary of national findings, NSDUH series H-46, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4795. (2013). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  10. Compressed mortality file 1999-2013 on CDC WONDER Online Database. (2014). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.
  11. Warner, et al. (2009). Increase in fatal poisonings involving opioid analgesics in the United States, 1999-2006. NCHS data brief, no 22. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.
  12. Alcohol use and health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.