There’s a belief among many clinicians that Suboxone works better than Vivitrol at keeping opioid addicts from relapsing. But is it true? We finally have the results of the first major head-to-head scientific study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The results? It’s easier to get patients started on Suboxone than Vivitrol, because Suboxone doesn’t require a detox period first. Many patients are unable to get through the detox in order to begin using Vivitrol. However, once patients start on the two drugs, they work about equally well.
Vivitrol is a monthly injection of naltrexone, designed to reduce cravings. Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine (which partially activates opioid receptors, reducing cravings without creating a “high”) and naloxone (designed to prevent the drug from being abused).
The findings are a surprise, according to Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the Institute. She says there is a widespread belief that Suboxone has better results, but the study found that roughly the same percentage of people treated with either drug were opioid-free six months later. In fact, relapse rates were slightly better for Vivitrol – only 52 percent, vs. 56 percent for Suboxone.
However, Suboxone still “wins” in the sense that far fewer people drop out of treatment before beginning the drug in the first place – only 6 percent for Suboxone, vs. 28 percent for Vivitrol.