Those who suffer from the crippling effects of drug and alcohol abuse often need help in the form of medication in order to prevent relapse. Vivitrol is an injection that is taken once a month to stop cravings for opiates and alcohol. It is meant to be used in conjunction with treatment counseling to increase the likelihood of staying off drugs and alcohol.
Drug and alcohol dependence affect the way the brain works. Over time, tolerance is built up to opiates and alcohol and the user needs to ingest more of the drug in order to feel the same effects. With the chronic excessive use of these substances, the brain stops producing certain neurotransmitters, like dopamine, on its own. When this occurs, withdrawal symptoms will happen if the drug or alcohol is abruptly stopped. With withdrawal comes an intense craving for drugs and alcohol. Often, even after the body is fully detoxed from the drug or alcohol, a craving for it will still be present. This is because the brain has been rewired with addiction to receive a pleasurable reward when these substances are taken.
How Does Vivitrol Work?
Vivitrol works by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain. It reduces cravings for drugs and alcohol and also prevents relapse. When the Vivitrol injection has been used, if a person does take an opiate drug or has a drink, the pleasurable feeling that accompanied its use in the past is blocked. While Vivitrol is mainly an opioid antagonist, it also works in treating alcoholism. It is not fully understood but seems to prevent the release of endorphins caused by drinking alcohol. There is no reward or feeling of pleasure for using, and the craving for the drug or alcohol is lessened.
Is Vivitrol Effective at Preventing Relapse?
Vivitrol should always be used in addition to addiction counseling. Its efficacy for preventing relapse has been documented, but it is not a magic bullet. Often there are underlying reasons for why a person began abusing drugs or alcohol and these issues need to be addressed while taking Vivitrol. Vivitrol can help addicts overcome the initial stages of recovery without leaving an inpatient facility to use again. The longer a person remains in a treatment facility, the greater their chances are of long-term recovery. Vivitrol can allow patients to engage in recovery completely. The recovery will include learning new coping strategies for life stressors and triggers and setting goals to get their life back on track. While Vivitrol will not cure a person’s addiction, it is effective at helping a patient stay clean and sober while learning new life skills.
Vivitrol has been shown to work best for those that are highly motivated to quit their substance abuse disorder. Although medications like methadone have been shown to be effective at treating opiate addiction, many people prefer not to take methadone or suboxone. These medications are opiates themselves but do not induce the euphoric feeling when taken as prescribed. Some people do not want to replace their opiate of choice with a different narcotic due to legal issues or job requirements. For medications like suboxone that need to be taken every day, many people forget to take their pills. Vivitrol is not an opiate and since it is injected once a month, patients do not have to worry about taking a pill every day. Many patients do not like the idea of essentially trading one addiction to an opiate like heroin for another like methadone. Vivitrol is non-addictive making it a good treatment option for those patients.
What are the Side Effects of Using Vivitrol?
Although Vivitrol is a useful addition to the tools of recovery, it does have some drawbacks. Since Vivitrol is an opiate blocking medication, opiate addicts need to detox from opiates for at least seven to ten days before taking an injection. This is because Vivitrol blocks the opiates from taking effect and can cause a severe immediate onset of withdrawal symptoms. Those who take the injection should wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace in case of emergency. If an injury or other trauma occurs while a patient is taking Vivitrol, any pain-reducing opiates will not have an effect on the pain. Any type of surgery that is needed while undergoing treatment with Vivitrol should be discussed carefully because the medication will reduce the effects of certain anesthesia and pain-reducing drugs.
Another drawback of Vivitrol is when the medication is ceased. If Vivitrol is no longer taken and a patient relapses, they may be more sensitive to opiates and their effects. This can result in overdose or death if a patient attempts to use the same dosage of opiates as they did prior to treatment. The same is true for patients who relapse without having used Vivitrol, but this medication can increase the possibility of overdose to the increased sensitivity that is preset. There is also a dangerous risk for patients who attempt to feel the effects of opiates or alcohol while undergoing Vivitrol treatment by ingesting more of the substance in order to overcome the medication. This can increase the risk of overdose and death.
The drawbacks of Vivitrol serve to underscore the need for patients to be enrolled in an inpatient recovery program. While Vivitrol or any single other treatment alone will not cure opiate or alcohol addiction, it can serve as a very useful addition in the treatment arsenal. For complete relapse prevention, identifying the causes and consequences of dependence, learning new coping strategies, learning how to accomplish goals, and treating underlying mental health disorders must be used in addition to medications like Vivitrol.
If you or someone you know could possibly benefit from treatment for their opiate or alcohol addiction with Vivitrol, call one of our counselors today. They are on call twenty-four hours a day to answer your questions about addiction treatment. Recovery from addiction is possible with help. Call 877-871-3356