Naloxone vs Naltrexone And Other Drug Alternatives

Last Updated: September 6, 2021

Authored by Olivier George, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Naltrexone, under the brand name Vivitrol, is under the drug class opioid antagonist. The primary use of this medication is to make patients recovering from drug and alcohol abuse become drug-free and alcohol-free. In 2018, around 300,000 patients in the United States used this medication. However, there are circumstances when patients tend to look for alternatives due to some reasons such as allergic reactions or incompatibility with pre-existing health diseases. Moreover, there are several Vivitrol alternatives that are used to treat alcohol dependence and opioid addiction. Just like this drug, most of these alternatives are also not sold over-the-counter. Nevertheless, the prescription of any of these Vivitrol alternatives depends on factors like patient motivation, treatment goals, and medical comorbidities. In this article, information about the different Vivitrol alternatives will be provided.

Naltrexone Alternatives

Vivitrol alternative drugs can be prescribed because of reasons like treatment goals, discomforting side effects, effects on reproductive health, and medication tolerability to the drug. Moreover, Current Psychiatry Reports stated that there is a lack of Vivitrol alternatives but certain drug classes such as sulfonic acid drugs, opioid partial agonists, and disulfide drugs are possible to become one as long as the patient is adherent and compliant. Although it is possible to switch from one drug to another, it is important to understand that switching medications should always be under the recommendation of a medical doctor for safer and more effective recovery results.

Naloxone vs Naltrexone

When comparing Naloxone vs Naltrexone, both of these drugs are under the drug class opioid antagonists. This means that both Vivitrol and Naloxone’s use is to block the effects of opioid drugs and opiates. They work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and prevent other opioid substances from exerting any influence on a person.

For Naltrexone vs Naloxone uses, the primary use of the former is for the treatment of alcohol and drug dependence. It prevents a person from experiencing any pleasure after ingesting an opioid drug, helping break the physical dependence on it. On the other hand, Naloxone is used for reversing opioid overdose. Narcan, a brand name for Naloxone, can prevent respiratory depression due to an overdose.

DRUG GENERIC NAME NALTREXONE NALOXONE
BRAND NAME Vivitrol Narcan
DRUG CLASS Opioid antagonists Opioid antagonists
AVAILABILITY OF GENERIC VERSIONS Yes Yes
APPROVED AGE OF USE 18 years old and above All ages
TREATMENT LENGTH 12 weeks or more, depending on the recommendation of a medical doctor Treatment length depends on the overdose condition of the patient
PRESCRIPTION FORMS Prescription-only Prescription-only
RISK OF WITHDRAWAL OR OVERDOSE Only when taken with other CNS depressants such as alcohol Only when taken with other CNS depressants such as alcohol

Comparing Naloxone vs Naltrexone duration of action, Vivitrol has a significantly longer action versus Narcan, which makes it suitable for long-term addiction treatment. At the same time, Vivitrol takes longer to act, which makes it unsuitable as first-line therapy for opioid overdose. It eliminates the pleasurable effects of opioid drugs, reducing cravings over time. Narcan begins exerting an opioid-blocking influence within five minutes after the administration and can save a person’s life during an overdose. This rapid metabolism comes at a price: the medication becomes ineffective after approximately an hour after the delivery.

Naloxone vs Naltrexone: The Differences

Many people wonder what the difference between Naloxone and Naltrexone is since the drugs work in essentially the same way. The main difference between Naltrexone vs Naloxone is the half-life of each medication. The most significant difference between Naloxone vs Naltrexone is how long Vivitrol stays in one’s system. A Vivitrol injection lasts for a month, allowing for a slower release of the drug. It is designed to be durable to provide a longer action that requires less effort from a patient. Vivitrol is used in long-term rehabilitation to prevent a relapse, and it can’t be used when opioids are still present in the person’s body.

Narcan is intended to start acting in 2 minutes after the administration. It is used to urgently block the effects of a substance when an opioid overdose is suspected. The drug can save a person’s life by instantly reversing CNS and respiratory depression. Narcan acts more rapidly versus Vivitrol, but it also doesn’t last long and wears off in 30 minutes to an hour after the delivery.

Another difference between Naloxone and Naltrexone is the purpose of each drug. Naloxone is used as an emergency medicine during an opioid overdose, while Vivitrol is applied as a part of long-term addiction treatment. Narcan alone cannot be used as an alternative to Vivitrol. However, together with buprenorphine, it is present in the drug called Suboxone and can be effective in withdrawal treatment. Contact a medical health professional or a doctor to get more information about Naltrexone vs Naloxone.

Naloxone vs Naltrexone.

Acamprosate vs Naltrexone

In Acamprosate vs Naltrexone, the former is under the drug class sulfonic acids while the latter is under the drug class opioid antagonists. Although Acamprosate vs Naltrexone differ in their drug classes, they have the same indication: maintenance of alcohol abstinence in patients under alcohol abuse recovery. Moreover, the Society for the Study of Addiction states that Narcan is more effective in promoting abstinence while Vivitrol is more effective in reducing heavy alcohol drinking and craving.

When it comes to Acamprosate vs Naltrexone side effects, these two drugs have some common and different side effects. In Naloxone, patients may experience decreased potency or delayed ejaculation while in Vivitrol, patients may experience weight loss, too much sweating and tingling of extremities. Moreover, the side effects they both have include the following:

  • Diarrhea and constipation
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Skin rashes
  • Joint and muscle pain

 

Suboxone vs Naltrexone

In Suboxone vs Naltrexone, the latter, also called Buprenorphine/Naloxone, is a Vivitrol alternative that is similarly used to treat opioid addiction and dependence. It is under the drug class opioid partial agonist and its main dosage forms are pills, dissolving tablets, and sublingual film, unlike Vivitrol which is available in injectable and oral formulations.

Although both of these medications are used to reduce opioid cravings, they work differently from one another. In Suboxone vs Naltrexone, the former blocks opiates, and since it contains Buprenorphine, it helps in detoxifying patients who are addicted to heroin and other opioids. However, there is some danger in using Suboxone and that is the possibility of withdrawal and addiction, unlike that of Vivitrol which is a sole opiate blocker with no addictive and withdrawal properties.

Naltrexone vs Suboxone Side Effects

Moreover, in Naltrexone vs Suboxone, both of these drugs are prescription medications. There are also similar and different side effects between these two. Patients using Suboxone may experience side effects such as a cough or changes in voice, pain when urinating, jaundice, nasal discharge, and sneezing. On the other hand, patients using Vivitrol may experience side effects such as loss of appetite, anxiety, and irritability. Moving on, below are the side effects that Naltrexone vs Suboxone have:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Skin rashes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Sweating
  • Joint and muscle pains

If there are any discomforting side effects being experienced at home, contact emergency care as soon as possible and get immediate help to avoid unwanted dangers to the health, especially when the side effects are related to Suboxone alone.

Naltrexone vs Suboxone Side Effects.

Always Consult Before Switching To Alternatives

When patients get a prescription from a doctor, it can be said that the medication prescribed is intended to cure or mitigate the current health condition of the patient. However, there are certain cases when the prescribed drug needs to be changed such as when the patient is experiencing unwanted side effects or when the drug is not working effectively. A doctor may prescribe alternative medications depending on the treatment goal and response of the patient. Moreover, Vivitrol alternatives may provide dangerous withdrawal and addiction effects. For this reason, any drug abuse signs should be treated as soon as possible. Contact the medical staff in the addiction centers with their treatment programs to get the best help options for those with opioid addiction. Patients with alcohol and drug abuse problems who do not want to use medications at home may also contact these addiction centers. These patients, then, may enroll themselves in drug rehabilitation centers. Special addiction treatment programs for addicts help for a personalized approach to a patient’s needs and support more coherent treatment courses. Patients will start the treatment with detox, followed by a series of therapy sessions (CBT, DBT, Motivational Enhancement, etc.).

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Page Sources

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Published on: June 7th, 2019

Updated on: September 6th, 2021

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.