Suboxone And Naltrexone Equally Effective For Opioid Dependence, Researchers Find

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Suboxone And Naltrexone Equally Effective For Opioid Dependence, Researchers Find

According to new research, the top two drugs indicated to treatment opioid dependence are equally safe and effective – naltrexone (Vivitrol) and Suboxone, a medication that contains buprenorphine and naloxone. These finding should assure both patients and health care professionals that either choice can be used in the treatment of opioid addiction.

Both medications work by reducing drug cravings and the desire to get high. Naltrexone can be taken orally every day or be administered by injection, but requires patients to undergo detox first. Thus, this may be less appealing to some as they must experience withdrawal effects before receiving treatment, and does not serve as a viable replacement for opioids.

Conversely, buprenorphine, comes only as a daily pill and begins to work without a prior detox. Similar to methadone, it acts as an opioid replacement for stronger opioids. However, because it functions like an opioid, patients can abuse it, develop dependence, and cessation can result in withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

About The Study

To evaluate the effectiveness of the medications, the researchers had 570 opioid-addicted participants use either buprenorphine or naltrexone for 6 months. More than 80% were addicted to heroin. The study took place from 2014-2017 at eight community treatment facilities.

After six months, the rates of relapse for both drugs were similar – 56% with buprenorphine and 52% with naltrexone. While cravings were lower for subjects using naltrexone, by the end of the trial period, the rates were similar.

Completing the detox process was a problem for the group using naltrexone, however – about one-quarter were unable to make it through detox, which was necessary to receive the medication. But only about 6% were unable to begin buprenorphine treatment.

Both medications are pricey without insurance, but most insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid cover the costs. The study was published online Nov. 13 in The Lancet.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology


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