Vivitrol vs Other Anti-Addiction Medications



If you’ve made the decision to get clean or sober, a doctor may recommend medication therapy as part of your treatment plan. Medications like Vivitrol, Antabuse, Suboxone and Campral won’t get you sober or prevent withdrawal, but these drugs may curb the cravings or withdrawal symptoms that make recovery such a challenging journey. Choosing the medication that’s right for you requires a comparison of these drugs, their benefits and their side effects.

How Medication Supports Recovery

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a strong supporter of medication therapy as part of an integrated addiction treatment program. According to the NIDA, medication may be used either to minimize withdrawal symptoms during detox or to help recovering addicts avoid the compulsive behavior that drives them to seek out drugs or alcohol. The NIDA notes that medication therapy may also:

  • Increase patient retention in addiction treatment programs

  • Decrease the rate of relapse among alcoholics or addicts in recovery

  • 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 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.

*Why Medication Therapy for Addiction Isn’t a Luxury

Those who believe that “quitting cold turkey” or “white-knuckling it” through sobriety are the only valid ways to recover should consider these U.S. statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • In 2010, about 1.9 million people were addicted to opioid painkillers.

  • Also in 2010, 359,000 people were addicted to heroin.

  • The number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain meds has quadrupled since 1999

  • For every dollar spent on methadone treatment, a return of $4 to $5 is generated for the American healthcare system


Vivitrol, the injectable form of naltrexone, is an opiate antagonist that has helped many addicts avoid their drug of choice during the initial recovery period. Because Vivitrol is given is 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, the injectable suspension may be even more effective than the oral forms of naltrexone. If you’re thinking about taking Vivitrol, consider these benefits of using injectable naltrexone:

  • 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, but unlike methadone, naltrexone itself isn’t addictive.

Until you’ve been sober or clean for seven to 10 days, you can’t take Vivitrol. As any alcoholic or addict who’s tried to recover knows, fighting cravings during that first week may be the most difficult part of recovery. In addition, the medication may not be safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Not everyone can take Vivitrol, and the drug has a number of drawbacks:

  • 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, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  • You have to be willing to see a doctor or nurse monthly for a shot; skipping the shot could jeopardize your recovery.

  • Vivitrol may be more expensive than oral forms of the medication, like ReVia.

  • Vivitrol can cause side effects, like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, anxiety, thirst, muscle pain, mood swings, light-headedness, unusual bleeding, wheezing, vision disturbances and a rapid heart rate, cautions


Vivitrol isn’t the only drug on the market that can help an alcoholic stay sober. Disulfirm, or 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. About 10 minutes after taking a drink, an alcoholic on Antabuse may experience sweating, flushing, headaches, nausea, weakness, chest pain and breathing problems. These side effects typically last for about one hour after taking a drink.

How does Antabuse measure up to Vivitrol?

  • Antabuse is an oral medication that must be taken every day; Vivitrol can be taken as an injection every few weeks.

  • Antabuse is prescribed primarily for alcohol addiction; Vivitrol may be taken for alcohol or opiate drug dependence.

  • Antabuse discourages drinking by creating side effects that range from unpleasant to life threatening; Vivitrol helps prevent relapse by altering the way the brain responds to alcohol or opiate drugs.

  • You can start taking Antabuse after you’ve been off alcohol for 12 hours; you can’t start taking Vivitrol until you’ve been clean and sober for seven to 10 days.

  • When you’re taking Antabuse, exposure to any substance that contains alcohol, including medications, foods or household products, may produce a severe reaction; Vivitrol only affects the way your body responds to alcoholic beverages or narcotic drugs.

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.


While drugs like Vivitrol and Antabuse discourage alcohol or drug use, opioid agonists like buprenorphine minimize withdrawal symptoms so you can get clean. Suboxone, a medication that combines buprenorphine and naloxone, is a partial opioid agonist that helps relieve cravings for narcotic drugs like heroin, morphine and codeine. Suboxone produces similar effects to narcotics, but at a lower, more gradual level, so that the user doesn’t get the euphoric high that makes heroin or morphine so addictive.

Suboxone is unique in that it also contains naloxone, an opioid antagonist that blocks the pleasurable effects of narcotic drugs. Unlike methadone, which may be injected into the bloodstream to create a euphoric high, Suboxone doesn’t produce any euphoric effects when it’s taken intravenously, notes the NIDA. Comparing Suboxone with Vivitrol will show you how these drugs stack up:

  • Suboxone can cause drug dependence and withdrawal symptoms if it’s not taken exactly as directed; Vivitrol is non-habit-forming and does not produce withdrawal-like side effects if you don’t take it as prescribed.

  • Suboxone is used mainly to treat opiate drug addiction; Vivitrol is prescribed for alcohol or opiate drug addiction.

  • Suboxone must be taken every day by mouth; Vivitrol can be taken as a monthly shot.

Suboxone and Vivitrol both pose a risk of death by overdose, but for different reasons. Because Vivitrol keeps alcoholics and drug users from feeling the effects of these chemicals, some users deliberately overdose in order to get those pleasurable sensations. Suboxone can cause a fatal opioid overdose if it’s injected, particularly if it’s injected with a tranquilizer, warns

*Buprenorphine in Addiction Treatment History

In the past, addicts seeking treatment had to go to specialized treatment centers to get a prescription for buprenorphine, a component of the anti-addiction drug Suboxone. The Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 made it possible for physicians with certification in addiction treatment to prescribe opioid medications for the management of opiate dependence. Approved by the FDA in 2002, buprenorphine was the first drug eligible to be prescribed under this new law. The Drug Addiction Treatment Act made it easier to get effective pharmacological therapy from a wider range of sources.


Acamprosate, sold under the brand name Campral, is an oral medication that can be taken daily in tablet form to assist in alcohol recovery. Campral may minimize the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal by altering your brain’s release of the neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate, notes the NIDA. By helping you through the roughest phases of alcohol detox and withdrawal, Campral may help you reach your recovery goals. Like Vivitrol and Suboxone, Campral must be taken as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program. Campral differs from Vivitrol in several important ways:

  • Campral helps alcoholics recover by relieving long-term withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and depression; Vivitrol helps recovering alcoholics avoid a relapse by making alcohol consumption less enjoyable.

  • The primary purpose of Campral is to help recovering alcoholics remain abstinent; Vivitrol may help both alcoholics and narcotic drug addicts stay clean and sober.

  • Campral must be taken by mouth every day, typically three times daily; Vivitrol is taken only once every few weeks via injection.

American Family Physician reports that Campral may be as effective as naltrexone/Vivitrol, but it tends to produce fewer adverse reactions. 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.

Choosing the Right Recovery Medication

When it comes to choosing the anti-addiction medication 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.

We are here to share our experience with drug addiction how it affects both the addict and their families along with their friends. Bringing awareness about the war on drugs an how it has failed in many ways. You are welcome to comment even if you might disagree with the post, we here are a free speech zone. We will post it as long it's constructive towards solutions rather then being to harsh and judgmental causing it to be part of the problem. If you want to learn more about Angel Face Foundation you can click here! Thank you :-)

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