Treatment of alcohol and opiate and addiction includes many different methods. Addiction is a serious disease and needs to be treated with all the tools available. In addition to the traditional recovery options like twelve step programs and therapy, medications are now available to aid in the process. One of these medications, Vivitrol, has been shown to be safe and effective in curbing cravings for alcohol and opiates and also preventing relapse.
What is Vivitrol?
Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist. When individuals use drugs or alcohol to feel a euphoric high, the drugs bind to specific receptors in the brain in order to produce this effect. Vivitrol binds to these receptors instead, effectively blocking the drug from creating a pleasurable feeling. For alcohol addicts, Vivitrol seems to block the brain from producing endorphins when alcohol is ingested, limiting the good feeling it produces.
Instead of taking a daily medication, like methadone or suboxone to curb withdrawal symptoms, Vivitrol is an injection given once per month. It will gradually decrease in its efficacy over the course of thirty days until it is time for the next injection. It can produce side effects like nausea and vomiting when first started, but these effects wane over time.
After Vivitrol is given, any opiate a patient uses will be blocked from working. It is believed to block the release of endorphins when alcohol is consumed, impacting the pleasurable feeling alcohol induces in patients. This is particularly useful in the early stage of recovery just after detox. It helps with the intense cravings individuals can feel after they quit using opiates or alcohol. Since patients are aware that if they use drugs while taking Vivitrol they will not feel the effects, it greatly reduces the odds of relapse. This allows patients to remain in their treatment facility for a longer amount of time while they learn about their addiction and how to prevent relapse.
Is Vivitrol Safe?
One of the benefits of treatment with Vivitrol is that it is not an opiate and not addictive. Medications traditionally used to treat opiate addiction, like methadone and suboxone, are themselves an opiate. Methadone and suboxone have the potential for abuse and can be habit-forming. Essentially, with these traditional medications, the addict is trading an illegal opiate for a less effective prescribed opiate.
A generic version of Vivitrol, called naltrexone, has been used for the treatment of opiate and alcohol addiction. However, naltrexone is a pill that needs to be taken every day in order to work effectively. This can cause compliance issues with patients since they know the only thing stopping them from feeling the effects of opiates or alcohol is the pill they take every day. Vivitrol removes the issue of compliance for a full thirty days.
While Vivitrol is generally considered safe for most people when used correctly, there are some notable risks involved. There is a risk of liver toxicity in some individuals, especially those whose livers may already have been compromised by their drug or alcohol use or who have contracted hepatitis C.
Vivitrol should not be started for seven to ten days after detoxing from opiates. This is because Vivitrol blocks all the effects of opiates and can cause a sudden onset of withdrawal. Another issue with Vivitrol is that in emergency situations like following an injury, opiate based pain medications will not work. Anyone being treated with Vivitrol should wear a medical alert bracelet in case of emergency. Because pain medications will not be effective during treatment, if surgery is necessary, your doctors need to be aware if you are taking Vivitrol.
When treatment with Vivitrol is discontinued, there is an increased risk of overdose. A patient’s sensitivity to opiates has been shown to be increased following Vivitrol treatment. Anyone who has detoxed from opiates will have a much lower tolerance to the drugs within a few days of cessation. The danger of overdose after relapsing for those who have taken Vivitrol and for those who have never taken it is great. There is also a potential for deadly overdose when patients attempt to take greater amounts of drugs in order to counteract the effect of Vivitrol.
Vivitrol Treatment is a Welcome Addition
For patients who have struggled for years with opiate and alcohol dependence, Vivitrol is a welcome addition to treatment options. It should always be prescribed in addition to traditional recovery treatments like therapy, twelve step programs, and group counseling. Vivitrol can be effective in lessening cravings for drugs and alcohol during early treatment so that patients can begin to understand what caused their addiction, how to prevent relapse, learn new coping strategies for life stressors, learn how to avoid triggers, and start to come up with some life goals and how they can be achieved while sober. It has been shown to be effective particularly in the beginning stages of recovery in order to curb cravings and keep patients at the facility so that they are able to participate in their recovery.
When you are thinking about the safety of treatment options like Vivitrol for opiate and alcohol addiction recovery, it is important to keep in mind that these are deadly diseases. They are chronic and progressive illnesses that negatively impact everything in their path. In order to give patients the best chance at meaningful long-term recovery, every tool in the addiction treatment arsenal should be considered and used when possible. There is no cure for addiction and dependence, but with proper treatment including Vivitrol relapse can be prevented. This gives patients a chance at a healthy and happy life free from the horror that is drug and alcohol addiction.
If you or someone you know is struggling with opiate or alcohol addiction, call 877-871-3356 and speak to one of our counselors today. We would be happy to discuss Vivitrol and other treatment options available to you. Addiction is a terrible disease, but there is hope for the freedom of recovery.