Vivitrol and Its Role in Treating Addiction

Vivitrol medication guide

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Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist used in treatments for opioid and alcohol addiction. The generic name of this drug is naltrexone. It is an opioid antagonist often used at drug addiction treatment facilities, while patients partake in counseling and therapies.

This drug is used in Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT) and is approved by the Food and Drug Administrations for treating alcohol and opioid dependence. ORT replaces stronger opioids, like heroin and oxycodone, with weaker ones. These weaker opioids will have less of an effect on the body to curb cravings. They will also lessen the intensity of alcohol and opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Unlike other ORT medications like methadone or buprenorphine, naltrexone is not administered during the alcohol and opioid withdrawal process. Instead, this non-addictive medication is given to patients through an intramuscular injection once a month. The only deal is that patients must be free of opioids or alcohol for at least 7 days.

This drug addiction treatment is not a narcotic. It is also often coupled with counseling or therapy. The drug prevents relapses from a physical standpoint, while counseling teaches the skills needed to avoid relapses and build better habits.

Mechanism of Action for Vivitrol

opioid dependence

Opioid addiction is caused by a huge influx of neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters flood the brain and attach to receptors. This sends a signal to the body, and creates sensations of euphoria and pleasure. It’s what makes opioids so addictive.

Soon, the body adapts to the artificial dopamine and serotonin levels. This means that it has built tolerance. The body needs more and more opioids to maintain a balance and to get high.

Once your body is free of opioids, your brain will start to reset. Within the first seven days, rehab centers will recommend ORTs like methadone and suboxone. These act in a similar manner to opioids, but are weaker in nature. This helps drug abusers start to wean off of the drug. Vivitrol can only be used when patients are being weaned off of ORT medications, and are free of all opioid drugs for at least seven days.

The mechanism of action for Vivitrol is unique. It involves blocking the effects of opioids from reaching opioid receptors all over the body. This prevents the opioids from having any effect. They essentially attach to the opioid receptors and prevent them from being stimulated.

Even if drug abusers were to relapse and abuse drugs–the drugs would not stimulate the receptors. As a result, drug abusers won’t get high. This helps dial down psychological withdrawal symptoms. It also prevents patients from developing drug or alcohol dependence again.

Potential Side Effects of Vivitrol Injections

While side effects of taking Vivitrol are rare, they still pose a possibility. Some patients may experience adverse reactions, like temporary nausea, headaches, and dizziness. The intramuscular injection site may also experience muscle cramps. These side effects should subside with time, and may even get better or less severe with each injection.

The injection site may also react poorly to the injection. In worst-case scenarios, it may result in tissue death. The type of injection site reactions that can happen include:

  • Blisters
  • Intense pain
  • Lumps
  • Scabbing
  • Swelling

The injection site may also become an open wound or may feel hard to the touch. When this happens, patients should contact healthcare providers right away. Our staff will assess the situation to determine whether patients should continue with the drug or switch to some other alternatives in medical detoxification.

Also, those who fail to wait until all substances have left their system for at least seven days will be susceptible to sudden opioid withdrawal. This is one of the most serious side effects. It can be deadly, which is why rehab centers have specialized resources needed to deal with it. It can also lead to an opioid overdose. Administering Vivitrol must be done with great care.

Effectiveness of Vivitrol

There’s a reason why Vivitrol is recommended by many drug addiction treatment centers to prevent relapse caused by opioid dependence. In a 6-month, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, patients who received Vivitrol and counseling:

  • Experienced a 55% decrease in opioid cravingswithdrawal symptoms
  • Stayed in drug addiction treatment programs for a longer period of time
  • Were opioid-free for 90% of the time
  • Were 17 times less likely to relapse due to physical opioid dependence

In short, many addiction recovery centers have seen success with Vivitrol injections. Patients who receive longer treatment paired with Vivitrol treatment are less likely to relapse and more likely to recover from alcohol or opioid dependence and addictions successfully.

How to Improve the Effectiveness of Vivitrol

Although Vivitrol by itself is an outstanding medically assisted treatment, its effectiveness can be much more enhanced when paired with counseling and therapy. Those who received Vivitrol with other treatments are more likely to get and stay sober. Counseling and therapy work on building better habits.

Patients learn how to identify triggers and avoid them. This might include staying away from certain environments or friends. There are many different types of therapies and counseling recommended. Popular options include:

  • the 12 Step Program
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Person-Centered Therapy
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

One-on-one and group counseling is also highly recommended. Drug abusers should use counseling to repair relationships with family members and friends. It’s not unusual for relationships to become strained due to addiction.

Is Vivitrol Right for You or a Loved One?

vivitrol

photo courtesy of Shutterstock

At the end of the day, one of the most important questions is whether Vivitrol will be right for you or someone you love. The answer is that it depends.

There are some risks involved with Vivitrol injections, and not everyone may benefit from treatment with Vivitrol. If you’re interested to see whether you or a loved one may benefit from Vivitrol, contact us to learn more information about this medication and addiction treatment option.

We will have the right healthcare providers assess your addiction and situation. We’ll figure out what may work best for you, and what treatments for alcohol and opioid dependence will help you successfully travel down the road to recovery.

 

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