A recent study published in The Lancet has revealed that Vivitrol and Suboxone are equally as safe and effective as each other once they are fully initiated. To see the comparative rate of relapse, the study gathered 570 people from various treatment centers around the country. Of those who started the treatment during the study (some dropped out before even beginning and were registered as having relapsed), about half of each group experienced a relapse. The rates of overdoses were similar with both treatment methods as well, indicating that they are just as safe and effective as each other.
Both medications have their benefits and their drawbacks. Vivitrol, which contains no opioids, is administered once monthly, making it an ideal treatment for those who live in rural areas, are prone to forgetting medications, or have busy lifestyles. However, treatment with Vivitrol cannot begin until a patient has fully detoxed, which takes roughly a week, or it can bring on sudden and intense withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, individuals relapse during that seven-day waiting period.
Suboxone, on the other hand, can be taken during detox with only mild withdrawal symptoms occurring. However, it must be taken daily, which can be difficult for some to remember to do. Suboxone contains buprenorphine, a mild opioid, which may discourage those who would like to be completely opioid free.
The largest takeaway from the study is that while each drug is technically just as effective and safe, it is up to patients and their doctors to discuss and find which treatment will be right for them in the long term. The choice of treatment is just as important as the treatment itself. If the wrong one is chosen, it might be difficult for a patient to stick with it in the long-term, which would lessen the effectiveness of the chosen treatment. While there is more work to be done with the development of treatments, this is an important step in the right direction that shows that there is more than one option for medically-assisted treatment and those struggling with opioid addiction.