Methadone vs Suboxone vs Vivitrol: A Quick Overview
The treatments for substance use disorder vary widely, from pharmacological to therapeutic responses. The needs of every patient are different, so it’s essential to be open to numerous treatments. Methadone, Suboxone, and Vivitrol are all commonly used and effective medications for managing substance use disorder, but they have some key differences.
In this guide, we will take you through everything you need to know about the three treatments, from affordability to potential side effects and more. By the end, you will be more informed than ever on what your next best step should look like. Let’s take a closer look.
What are the Differences in Cost Between Methadone, Suboxone, & Vivitrol?
Cost is a significant factor when deciding which treatment is the best for you. Your budget may only extend so far, especially if your insurance plan doesn’t cover your chosen treatment. Listed below are further details about how much you can expect to pay, comparatively, for each medication.
We won’t get into specific numbers in this section, as this can vary enormously depending on your particular situation, the treatment plan you opt for, and the conditions of your insurance (if applicable).
We will, however, provide you with an overview of which may cost you the most and which should be the most affordable.
Generally speaking, methadone is the most affordable of the three treatment options we are going to discuss.
It can often cost as little as a few dollars per dose. However, it is essential to bear in mind that additional costs associated with the use of methadone may build up.
These primarily relate to continued case management, counseling, and the cost of daily visits to retrieve your medication.
The cost of Suboxone or its subsequent generic forms varies widely.
The expense largely depends on the dose prescribed and the prescription you use. Brand name Suboxone is significantly more expensive than its generic form, but you may only be able to claim the brand name on your particular insurance plan.
A controversial aspect of Suboxone prescription is that the high associated administrative costs often result in higher patient fees.
Out of the three treatment options we are discussing here, Vivitrol is the most expensive by quite a significant measure, especially compared to Methadone.
However, it does remain a popular option in some circumstances due to the considerably lower prescription duration when compared to Suboxone or methadone.
The pill form, naltrexone, is much more affordable and must be taken daily. It is often only used in cases where the motivation to be sober is comparatively high.
What are the Differences in Effectiveness Between Methadone, Suboxone, & Vivitrol?
While all three of these treatments seek to achieve the same outcome, they all work differently.
Though these differences may seem small from an outside perspective, they culminate significantly. Before starting your personalized treatment plan, knowing what to expect can help it proceed more smoothly, minimizing unexpected side effects.
Listed below are brief overviews of what each treatment is made up of and its differences in efficacy. Remember, it is difficult to outright state which treatment is the most effective. We have qualitative data from previous studies to guide us, but everyone reacts to medication differently. What works well for someone else may not have the same effect on you.
Without further explanation, let’s take a closer look at your potential treatment options.
Methadone is a full opioid agonist, meaning that it directly interacts with receptors in your brain, activating them and producing a similar response to other opiates. The result is the potential alleviation of withdrawal symptoms. This could allow the user to better navigate their lives without dealing with significant cravings that could result in relapse.
In terms of efficiency, methadone is considered a highly effective addiction treatment. It is ordinarily used to treat substance use disorder in those who wish to be sober but suffer from severe withdrawal. However, it may also be used before withdrawal symptoms set in as a preventative measure.
Suboxone is made from a combination of both buprenorphine and naloxone to treat substance use disorder.
Unlike methadone, a full opioid agonist, buprenorphine is only a partial opioid agonist. This means that it still stimulates the same areas of the brain that other opiates do, but not to the fullest extent. Despite the lesser degree of its receptor interactions, it can still provide feelings of euphoria and, therefore, may reduce the prevalence of withdrawal symptoms.
However, compared to methadone, its effects are much weaker as it does not trigger the patient’s brain to the same extent.
For this reason, it is not often used in more severe cases where withdrawal symptoms have reached an overwhelming point. Essentially, the two-pronged approach of Suboxone is what makes it so effective in early treatment. The buprenorphine reacts with your opioid receptors, but the naloxone prevents a pleasurable response.
This may help to reverse the effects of prolonged opioid use.
Vivitrol operates entirely differently from Suboxone and methadone. Suboxone and methadone are partial and full opioid agonists, respectively. Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist.
An opioid antagonist still interacts with the opioid receptors in your brain but works to block them entirely rather than incurring any form of pleasurable stimulation.
This approach is especially effective in patients where relapse seems to be a likely possibility. As Vivitrol seeks to remove all desirable effects of opiate consumption, any relapse will prove entirely unrewarding and minimize the likelihood of continued use.
Each of these treatments’ efficacy depends on the individual patient and the extent of their substance use disorder. It is impossible to state the most effective method overall as that largely depends on individual factors. Methadone is the most frequently used, mainly due to its extensive history and lower associated costs.
Your doctor will explain these differences in more detail during your appointment to find the best possible treatment for you. You may find that you try one treatment and need to move on to another.
Try not to become frustrated by this. It’s quite common for rehabilitation to require a multi-faceted approach. Make sure to ask your relevant medical professional any questions you may have before proceeding. They are there to reassure you and address any concerns you might have.
What are the Differences in Side Effects Between Methadone, Suboxone, & Vivitrol?
One key concern many patients have before proceeding with any medication or treatment is the possible side effects. No medication is entirely free from them, but that doesn’t make them ineffective or too risky to take. Side effects are often rare and usually don’t significantly hinder recovery.
However, it’s still important to be aware of them and how they could potentially affect your body’s response to your chosen treatment. Listed below are breakdowns of both the potential short-term and long-term side effects of each treatment.
It is imperative to note that these are just potential side effects; they are not guaranteed. Don’t make any concrete decisions until you have adequately discussed them with your relevant medical professional.
The potential short-term effects of methadone include:
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Slowed breathing
- Nausea or an upset stomach
- Itchy skin
- Weight gain
- Changes in appetite
- Alterations to sleep patterns
- Mood changes
The potential long-term side effects of methadone include:
- Cardiac problems
- Menstrual problems
- Respiratory issues
- Stomach pains or cramps
- Facial swelling
- Cognitive impairment
The potential short-term side effects of Suboxone include:
- Diarrhea during the initial withdrawal
- Reduced stress
- Sleepiness or drowsiness
- Respiratory difficulties
The potential long-term side effects of Suboxone include:
- Disorientation or confusion
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Gastrointestinal issues
The potential short-term side effects of Vivitrol include:
- Change in energy levels, either reduced or heightened
- Alteration to appetite
- Muscle or joint pain
- Disrupted sleep patterns
The potential long-term side effects of Vivitrol include:
- Allergic pneumonia
- Blurred vision
- Skin damage or infections
- Liver damage
- Severe vomiting
- Extreme confusion
We stated this before, but it is crucial to reiterate that these side effects are not guaranteed.
It can be daunting to look at a list like this, and you may even feel discouraged by the side effects listed, but none of this means that the treatment won’t work for you.
Discuss everything with your doctor and, if you find the treatment to be problematic, inform a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
The Pros and Cons of Methadone, Suboxone, & Vivitrol?
All medications and treatments come with their own set of pros and cons. In pursuit of transparency, we will walk you through some of the critical benefits and downfalls of each of the three treatments.
The biggest pro associated with using methadone to treat substance use disorder is that it can significantly reduce opiate cravings in patients, making their recovery a lot easier to navigate.
It can bring stability into a patient’s life, increasing the likelihood of long-term recovery. Reducing cravings allows patients to put their full attention on therapy, which can often get to the root cause of the original addiction.
If the patient isn’t currently employed, ongoing methadone treatment can also help patients find a job by helping minimize distraction and other hindrances caused by opiate use. A study completed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that those who used methadone were four times less likely to relapse than those who didn’t, demonstrating its efficiency.
One of the more significant cons surrounding methadone use is the requirement to visit a clinic daily in some states. This can be a substantial commitment and highly time-consuming, which is counterintuitive to the idea of helping a patient with rebalancing their lives.
Thankfully, not all states require this. Additionally, a significant con is that patients may become dependent on methadone instead. Misuse of methadone is often where the more substantial side effects will arise.
This treatment is most effective when combined with non-pharmacological treatments, such as 12-step programs or therapy.
Suboxone can be prescribed from a doctor’s office or via an addiction clinic, so accessibility is relatively high. The biggest pro to Suboxone is its ability to prevent users from deriving pleasure from opiate use — significantly reducing the appeal of the substance.
Though Suboxone treatment does feature some withdrawal symptoms, your doctor will gradually lower your dose over time to combat this. This will make quitting entirely much more straightforward, until eventually, you may be able to cease treatment altogether.
The predominant downside of Suboxone is the length of time patients will need to use it. Patients will need to stick to the treatment for an extended period for total efficiency, only dropping the dosage once positive results are shown.
As the effects of this drug are desirable, some patients may develop a dependency. It will require continued assessment by a medical professional to mitigate these outcomes.
Significantly, especially when compared to methadone and Suboxone, Vivitrol is not a narcotic and is therefore not considered addictive.
This means the risk of patients developing any form of dependence on Vivitrol is much lower. Additionally, patients who used Vivitrol to overcome their addiction to alcohol found a 90% reduction in cravings, with a 55% reduction in cravings for opiates.
The biggest con to Vivitrol is how long the patient must wait before being administered their very first dose.
For Vivitrol to be effective, the patient must be free of all opioids for a full 1-2 weeks. This includes opiate pain medication. For someone suffering from substance use disorder, this is a significant challenge, and they may require additional medical assistance to overcome it.
Treatments for substance use disorder are constantly evolving to meet the needs of patients, mainly due to how prevalent the condition remains. Substance disorder is, unfortunately, a common affliction. You aren’t alone.
Reaching out to a medical professional is your first step to recovery, and you have options.
The Master Center is standing by to help you begin your recovery journey.
Reach out today!