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Sublocade vs. Vivitrol: Which One is Right For You?


Getting sober isn’t easy and, sometimes, traditional treatment methods simply don’t cut it. People who struggle with opioid addiction may battle intense drug cravings for months after they get sober, making it difficult to stay on the right track. Fortunately, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs help these individuals by providing both medication management and therapeutic interventions.

Prescriptions like Suboxone, Methadone, and Subutex were the most popular medications previously used in MAT programs. However, Sublocade and Vivitrol are two additional medications that are up and coming for the treatment of opioid addiction. Both of these FDA approved medications, when included as part of a complete treatment program, can help people overcome opioid addiction. As monthly injections, Sublocade and Vivitrol are considered safer than other prescription drugs that carry the risk for abuse.

Both Sublocade and Vivitrol perform much better than placebo medications or no medication at all. These two medications are both monthly injections that are gaining popularity in medication-assisted treatment programs.

While these drugs have similarities, it’s important to understand what they are used for, how effective they are, and what the differences between the two are. After all, these are all important factors to consider when deciding if medication-assisted treatment is right for you. Here is what you need to know about Sublocade and Vivitrol.

What is Sublocade?

Sublocade (buprenorphine) is a brand-name prescription drug containing buprenorphine, a drug that is popular in the treatment of moderate to severe opioid use disorder. If you have heard of Suboxone, you may be familiar with the benefits of buprenorphine. However, Suboxone consists of both buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, so it has opioid-like properties but it doesn’t produce the euphoric effects as other opioids do.

Unlike Suboxone, Sublocade is administered as a subcutaneous injection that must be given by a healthcare provider in a medical setting. The extended-release shot is given every 26 days and it comes in two different strengths: 100 mg and 300 mg.

Before an individual can take Sublocade, he or she must undergo induction treatment. Induction treatment involves taking a sublingual form of buprenorphine during the height of opioid withdrawal symptoms. Then, after approximately 7 days, patients can switch to Sublocade for a long-term medication-assisted treatment program that includes counseling.[1] Induction treatment helps make sure that the individual can safely tolerate buprenorphine since the Sublocade injection is an extended-release medication.

Sublocade is a Schedule III controlled substance that indicates a high-risk potential for abuse. As a result, there are strict prescribing guidelines around the medication. For example, doctors must complete special training and certifications in order to prescribe and administer the injection.

Furthermore, people who take the medication for an extended period of time may become physically dependent on it and experience mild withdrawal symptoms when stopping the medication. Sublocade withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of Suboxone and other opioids. However, they tend to be far less severe. If you do experience difficult withdrawal symptoms after stopping Sublocade, speak with your doctor about alternative ways to manage your symptoms.

How Does Sublocade Work?

Sublocade helps subdue withdrawal symptoms and prevent opioid cravings. After all, it is extremely hard to quit using opioids and cravings may persist for several months. The medication also blocks the effects of addictive opioids, preventing people from relapsing and/or overdosing. Although Sublocade is much newer than other medication-assisted treatment medications, it is effective in reducing opioid abuse and preventing relapse. One study demonstrated that 30% of Sublocade treatment participants didn’t use opioids longer than patients who received no medication-assisted treatment at all.[2]

It is important to note that Sublocade is most effective when combined with intensive counseling and peer support. These therapeutic services are meant to help patients cope with the emotions associated with addiction and recovery.

What is Vivitrol?

Unlike Sublocade, Vivitrol treats both opioid and alcohol dependence. However, it does not treat any withdrawal symptoms. Instead, individuals must stop taking substances and complete detox before starting Vivitrol treatment. Typically, patients must remain sober for 7-10 days before starting the medication.[3]

Vivitrol contains naltrexone – an opioid antagonist that is sometimes found in pill form. This form of naltrexone is an intramuscular injection administered once monthly in the buttocks. Although Vivitrol doesn’t treat alcohol or opioid withdrawal symptoms, it supports recovery by reducing cravings and preventing relapse. In addition, when people drink alcohol or take opioids while on Vivitrol, naltrexone blocks the pleasurable effects of these substances. When a person knows they physiologically cannot get high or drunk, they are less likely to try and do so.

Recent studies prove the effectiveness of treating alcohol dependence with Vivitrol. For example, patients who received 380mg doses of the drug experienced a 25% decrease in heavy drinking. Furthermore, the medication is proven to increase treatment retention rates and significantly improve treatment outcomes.[4]

Similarly, one study found that patients who suffered from opioid use disorder and received Vivitrol were less likely to abuse opioids than those who did not receive medication-assisted treatment.[5] In addition, when people take opioids while on Vivitrol, they may experience sudden withdrawal symptoms. As a result, this further prevents opioid abuse and relapse.

What are the Side Effects of Sublocade?

As with any prescription medication, the extended-release Sublocade injection doesn’t come without risks and side effects. The most common side effects of Sublocade are pain, itching, and redness that may occur at the injection site. Usually, these symptoms subside after a few days and are minor. However, if injection site pain persists, contact your healthcare provider. Other common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Headache

Most of these symptoms subside over time. If you take Sublocade and experience these side effects for an extended period of time, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider.

More serious side effects of Sublocade that require immediate medical attention include:

  • Fainting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Severe dizziness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Unusual drowsiness
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Low blood pressure

Taking Suboxone for one week before starting Vivitrol may prevent many of these side effects from occurring. This will ensure that individuals do not have a bad reaction to buprenorphine before getting the subcutaneous injection.

What are the Side Effects of Vivitrol?

Similar to Sublocade, the most common side effect of the extended-release Vivitrol shot is injection site reactions, such as pain or redness. Other common, but short term side effects of Vivitrol include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue

Although the above symptoms tend to fade in time, it is important to contact your doctor if they persist, or if you experience any of the following more severe side effects:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blisters/sores at the injection site
  • Low or high blood pressure

Sublocade and Vivitrol

Integrated Treatment

Some people have misconceptions about medication-assisted treatment. Individuals may see Sublocade or Vivitrol injections as the sole solution for treating their substance use disorder. Unfortunately, there is no single pill, injection, or medication that ultimately cures addiction or alcoholism. Instead, medications like Sublocade should be used as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains that medication-assisted treatment should combine the use of medications with behavioral therapies and counseling to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders. Additionally, patients should undergo regular evaluations to determine their progress and the continuing need for medications like Sublocade.[6]

Integrated treatment programs offer a whole-patient approach to treating opioid addiction. Extensive research shows that this delicate combination of medication and comprehensive counseling can successfully treat these disorders and help sustain long-term recovery.

Medications help stabilize the mind and body by relieving psychological cravings and normalizing body functions that have been affected as a result of opioid or alcohol abuse. At the same time, counseling and behavioral therapies help individuals get to the root of their addictions, learn new coping skills, and lay the foundation for sustained recovery.

Find Out if Vivitrol or Sublocade Are Right For You

If you are looking for a safe alternative to traditional opioid or alcohol treatment programs, a monthly injection of Sublocade or Vivitrol may be right for you. However, it’s important to speak with an addiction specialist to determine which course of treatment is best for you. Contact an addiction specialist in Fort Lauderdale today to see if a monthly dose of Sublocade or Vivitrol is right for you.


  1. What is Sublocade
  2. SUBLOCADE- buprenorphine solution
  3. What is Vivitrol
  4. Efficacy and Tolerability of Long-Acting Injectable Naltrexone for Alcohol Dependence
  5. VIVITROL naltrexone kit
  6. Medications for Substance Use Disorders

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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