Suboxone vs Vivitrol: Similarities and Differences

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Suboxone vs Vivitrol Similarities and Differences

Addiction is a complex disease that often requires a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. Medications are a key aspect of many addiction treatment programs, especially when dealing with addictions to opioids and/or alcohol. Two of the most widely used medications in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) are Suboxone and Vivitrol.

This article discusses the similarities and differences between Vivitrol and Suboxone. You will learn:

  • What Suboxone is and how it works
  • What Vivitrol is and how it works
  • Each medication’s uses, side effects, and administration information
  • How the medications are similar
  • Key differences when comparing Suboxone vs Vivitrol

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and interested in learning about your treatment options, please contact our team at Archstone Behavioral Health today.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a prescription medication that is used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapy to help treat opioid addiction. It comes in the form of a sublingual tablet or film that dissolves under the tongue. Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone.[1]

Suboxone is prescribed during detox to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. It can also be taken long-term as a part of an addiction treatment and recovery program. People must take Suboxone every day under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

What is Vivitrol?

Vivitrol is a prescription medication that is used to treat both alcohol dependence and opioid use disorders.[2] Like Suboxone, it is intended to be used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapy and can reduce opioid cravings as well as alcohol cravings.

Vivitrol contains naltrexone and is a monthly injection that is given intramuscularly, usually in the buttocks/glute muscles. It is administered in the office by a licensed medical provider.

Key Differences: Suboxone vs. Vivitrol

There are several differences between Suboxone and Vivitrol.

Active Ingredient

The active ingredient in Vivitrol is naltrexone, an opioid antagonist. Naltrexone also comes in tablet form. Naltrexone works by occupying the opioid receptors in the brain, thereby blocking the effects of opioids and alcohol. This action helps in preventing the rewarding effects of these substances, which can aid in managing addiction and dependence.[2]

Suboxone is a combination medication that contains two active ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that binds to and activates opioid receptors without producing the same euphoric high that other opioids do. It alleviates withdrawal symptoms and reduces drug cravings.[3]

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that is also used to reverse opioid overdose. In Suboxone, naloxone acts as a deterrent. When used as directed, naloxone doesn’t produce any effects. But if people inject or abuse Suboxone, the naloxone can cause sudden onset withdrawal symptoms.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Suboxone in October 2002 for the treatment of opioid dependence.[4] It is only indicated to help people who are struggling with opioid use disorder to detox comfortably and sustain recovery.

Vivitrol was approved by the FDA in April 2006 for the treatment of alcohol use disorder, but in October 2006 the FDA extended its approval for the treatment of opioid use disorder, as well.[5] Today, Vivitrol is widely used to treat both alcohol and opioid addiction. However, unlike Suboxone, Vivitrol does not treat withdrawal symptoms. Individuals must detox completely and abstain from opioids and alcohol for 7-14 days before receiving their first injection.

Side Effects

Suboxone and Vivitrol share many similar side effects, however, Suboxone is more likely to cause mouth irritation and Vivitrol is more likely to cause injection site reactions.[1,4]

Many people report Suboxone having a strong, bitter, and unpleasant taste. For some, it causes a tingling or burning sensation. Although not dangerous, these symptoms can turn patients away from the medication.

Other side effects of Suboxone are:[1,4]

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Numb mouth
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Back pain
  • Drowsiness

Vivitrol is an injection. Like many other injections, reactions such as irritation, itching, pain, mild swelling, and redness may occur. These symptoms often subside after a couple of days.

Additional reported side effects of Vivitrol are:[5]

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle cramps
  • Stomach pain

Method of Administration

Suboxone is an oral film or tablet that is taken by mouth. It is administered under the tongue or between the cheek and gums where it is left to dissolve and absorb into the bloodstream. Suboxone must be taken daily. Missing a dose of Suboxone can result in increased drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Vivitrol is an intramuscular injection that is given once every month. Its extended-release formulation is a convenient option for people who aren’t good at taking daily medication. Additionally, since it is only administered in the doctor’s office, it carries no risk of misuse.

Physical Dependence

The buprenorphine in Suboxone can be physically habit-forming. To avoid withdrawal symptoms, individuals must take Suboxone daily or taper off it slowly under the guidance of a medical professional.[3]

Vivitrol is not habit-forming. Withdrawal symptoms do not occur when stopping the medication.

Similarities Between Suboxone and Vivitrol

Suboxone and Vivitrol are both medications used in the treatment of opioid dependence, but they differ in their mechanisms of action and formulations.

Similarities include:

  • Both Suboxone and Vivitrol are used as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid dependence.
  • They both help reduce cravings for opioids, which can aid in preventing relapse.
  • Both medications typically require medical supervision and are often used in conjunction with counseling and behavioral therapies.
  • Both medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

Find Treatment Now

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may not be right for everyone. You should never take any of the medications used in MAT without a prescription from a licensed physician.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and wondering if MAT is right for you, please contact Archstone Behavioral Health today. Our team of admissions counselors can verify your insurance, assess your needs, and help you choose the right treatment program for you. Call now to get started!

  1. National Institute of Health: Suboxone: Rationale, Science, Misconceptions
  2. UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute: What is Vivitrol?
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): What is Buprenorphine?
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Suboxone Highlights of Prescribing Information
  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Vivitrol Highlights of Prescribing Information