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What is the Difference Between Methadone and Vivitrol?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is highly effective in treating both opioid addiction and alcoholism. By combining FDA-approved medications with traditional addiction treatment methods like evidence-based therapies, the risk of relapsing is reduced substantially.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Research also shows that these medications and therapies can contribute to lowering a person’s risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C by reducing the potential for relapse.”[1]

Two of the most common medications used during MAT include methadone and Vivitrol. While these medications share some similarities, they have very different uses. Methadone is primarily used to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms and Vivitrol is used to block the effects of opioids to prevent relapses from occurring after detox is completed.

Understanding the differences between methadone and Vivitrol in-depth can help you determine what type of medication-assisted treatment would be best suited to your needs.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a medication approved by the FDA to treat opioid use disorder. This substance is considered a long-acting opioid agonist, which means it binds to opioid receptors in the brain.[2] Because of this, it can limit withdrawal symptoms during detox and prevent people from experiencing cravings.

The common side effects of methadone include:

  • Restlessness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slowed breathing
  • Itchiness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Constipation
  • Sexual problems

While methadone can cause side effects, most of them go away once your body adjusts to it. You might not even notice the symptoms, as methadone is usually prescribed to alleviate opioid withdrawal. With that being said, your doctor can adjust your dose to ensure that your side effects remain minimal.

What is Vivitrol?

Vivitrol is the brand name for a substance known as naltrexone. This medication is approved by the FDA to treat opioid use disorder and alcoholism. As an opioid antagonist, Vivitrol blocks the effects of substances that affect the opioid receptors in your brain.

In other words, Vivitrol can prevent you from relapsing during early and even late recovery. Many people remain on the medication long-term to ensure that they do not relapse in the future.

The common side effects of Vivitrol include:[3]

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Painful joints or muscle cramps
  • Cold symptoms
  • Toothaches
  • Trouble sleeping

Because Vivitrol blocks the effects of opioids, it is not prescribed until a person has been sober for 7 to 14 days. Taking it before opioids or alcohol are out of your system could cause precipitated withdrawal.

What are the Main Differences Between Methadone and Vivitrol?

The main difference between methadone and Vivitrol is the stage in which they are used to treat addiction. With methadone, the medication is prescribed early on to combat opioid withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, Vivitrol is not prescribed until opioids or alcohol are out of your system as a relapse prevention tactic.

Additionally, methadone comes as a tablet, a dispersible, or a liquid. If you are taking Vivitrol, it will come in the form of an injectable medication. While you have to take methadone daily, you only need an injection of Vivitrol every 4 weeks.

Another key difference is that methadone is an opioid, so it can be habit-forming. Even if taken as prescribed, methadone can cause physical dependence when taken long-term, so some people experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it. Methadone withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, mimicking opioid withdrawal.

Lastly, another difference between methadone and Vivitrol is the risks they come with. While methadone can be abused, Vivitrol prevents substance abuse. However, Vivitrol carries a risk of experiencing precipitated withdrawal or overdose if an individual attempts to abuse substances while they are on it.

Thankfully, these risks are unlikely as you will be taking the medication under the direction of a medication-assisted treatment program.

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Right for You?

Medication-assisted treatment is ideal for people struggling with alcohol or opioid use disorder. If you are considering attending a MAT program, the medical staff will help you determine which medications are right for you. You might take methadone during withdrawal and switch to Vivitrol once the substances are out of your system, or only take one of the medications.

If you identify with the following statements, a MAT program is right for you:

  • You struggle with opioid addiction or alcoholism
  • You have tried other methods of treatment with no success
  • You have experienced relapse previously or are at a high risk of relapsing now
  • Your substance use disorder is severe and will cause difficulty coping with withdrawal symptoms
  • You are willing to participate in other facets of treatment such as evidence-based therapies, group counseling, and relapse prevention planning

Most people recovering from addiction will benefit from medication-assisted treatment. Keeping this in mind, you should still consult with an addiction treatment program to ensure that MAT is right for you.

Get Connected to a Reputable Medication-Assisted Treatment Program

If you or a loved one struggles with alcoholism or opioid use disorder, it might be time to consider medication-assisted treatment with methadone or Vivitrol. Thankfully, Mandala Healing Center is here to help you with all of your addiction recovery needs.

To learn more about our MAT program, contact us today.


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Medications for Substance Use Disorders, Retrieved January 2024 From
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): What is Methadone, Retrieved January 2024 From
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): What is Naltrexone, Retrieved January 2024 From