How Vivitrol Works

Syringe of VivitrolIt’s important to understand how the main medications for addiction work. There are two types; Agonists and Antagonists. Agonists are medications that contain trace elements of opiates within them. They work by weaning the former addict from the addiction slowly until they can control their cravings and learn to master recover successfully. The leading Agonist used in addiction treatment is Suboxone. Antagonists block the opiate receptors and stop the patient from achieving a high from the substance. Vivitrol is an Antagonist. It is non-addictive and literally builds a wall that blocks opiates from attaching themselves to the opiate receptors in the brain. Since Vivitrol is an opiate blocker, it’s essential that patients have completely detoxed before they begin taking it.

How Does Vivitrol Fight Addiction?

Opiates change the composition of the brain. Vivitrol is effective in fighting addiction because it blocks the euphoric effect opiates produce in the brain’s pleasure receptors. This eliminates the desire and cravings many addicts experience once they stop using. This is due to the effect Vivitrol has on preventing the opiate molecules from connecting with the brain’s opiate receptors. Its ability to block these opiate molecules helps prevent relapse. To date, no research has uncovered the reason Vivitrol is so effective in alcohol recovery. Coupled with a strong therapeutic recovery program that includes focussing on the behavioral issues at play in the patient’s addiction, Vivitrol provides an excellent and effective tool against addiction and relapse.

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What Are the Positives of Vivitrol?

Vivitrol has an abundance of positive attributes. Some of this include:

  1. It can lower the risk of relapse and overdose. Since the opioid receptors of the brain are blocked by the Vivitrol, it’s not possible to get high. Therefore, the desire for the drug won’t be there to trip patients up and encourage them to try to find a way to get high.
  2. For patients who are not long-term abusers of opiates, Vivitrol may represent a better solution. In the case of recovering addicts who have never relapsed or gone through several programs, Vivitrol may present a better program than Suboxone.
  3. Since the program requires a monthly injection rather than daily medication, it is easier to adhere to the program. Patients don’t have to remember to take their pills. Once a month they are injected and good to go for the next month.
  4. The medication is long-lasting, and the patient will immediately feel its effect and continue to do so throughout the month. The monthly injection sufficiently medicates them until their next appointment.
  5. Vivitrol is not a narcotic. A patient can’t get high off this drug and it can’t be used in conjunction with other drugs to allow them to do so as in some cases with Suboxone. It blocks the brain’s opiate receptors and the euphoria a recovering addict is accustomed to feeling from opiates is not there. Not only will they not feel any high from Vivitrol, but its effects are so long-lasting that up to a month after they’ve completed the program, opiates will not make them high.

What Are the Negatives of Vivitrol?

Vivitrol is an effective partner in treating opiate and alcohol dependency. However, the active drug, Naltrexone is not without negative side effects. Some of these include:

  1. Sexual function issues
  2. Insomnia
  3. Depression
  4. Hepatitis and Liver issues.
  5. Muscular aches and pains
  6. Chronic fatigue
  7. Anxiety
  8. Nausea

For patients who relapse and attempt to resume their opiate use, the result can be deadly. Attempting to bypass the blockage of pleasure receptors put in place by Vivitrol can cause the lapsed addict to ingest more drugs in pursuit of their high. This places the user at high risk for a drug overdose. For this reason, people entering a Vivitrol drug treatment program must be carefully evaluated to determine if they are motivated instead of opposed to, against, or lackadaisical about drug recovery.

Patients who participate in a Vivitrol treatment program sometimes suffer from relapse following program completion. The Vivitrol Treatment program has a time limit and is not endless. Some treatment programs may end after a year of monthly Vivitrol injections. Unfortunately, there have been cases of patients overdosing upon conclusion of the program. No conclusive studies have been done that show a pattern pointing towards overdose danger following the end of a Vivitrol treatment program.

Patients with pre-diagnosed liver issues or Hepatitis are excluded from the Vivitrol Treatment program. However, there are cases, when

The symptoms of the condition have not manifested prior to enrollment in the Vivitrol program. Patients must keep their physician informed of any symptoms they may notice. This condition necessitates the end of their Vivitrol treatment.

Vivitrol is expensive, much more so than its competitors in drug treatment. However, government and private insurance companies are accepting Vivitrol as an effective treatment for drug addiction and more are covering the cost of the program.

Who Shouldn’t Use It?

syringe for vivitrolWith Vivitrol’s impressive success rate treating some recovering addicts along with a brilliant marketing campaign that has made even those in the highest realms of power in this country fans, it’s easy to immediately accept the medication as a Wonder Drug that will immediately put an end to the deadly opiate epidemic in this country. Unfortunately, Vivitrol is an effective treatment but not a standalone wonder drug. There are many recovering addicts who are not candidates for a Vivitrol program.  Some of these include:

  1. People who are still suffering from the symptoms of opiate withdrawal are not ready to take Vivitrol. It’s necessary for the patient to be opiate free before taking Vivitrol. The drug can trigger sudden, violent, and painful symptoms of sudden drug withdrawal. The patient has been opiate-free for at least 7 to 10 days before beginning Vivitrol treatment to avoid this violent reaction.
  2. Patients must be tested to determine if they have an allergic reaction to Naltrexone. The drug has caused adverse and even life-threatening side effects including Depression and suicidal ideation. Therefore, people who are diagnosed with Depression should discuss the pros and cons of beginning Vivitrol with their mental health provider because they may not be a good candidate for this program.
  3. People who are not sufficiently motivated to end opiate use and move into recovery may not be good candidates. If patients are going through drug treatment for reasons beyond personal desire and aren’t committed to an opiate-free existence, they should not go into a Vivitrol program. Vivitrol blocks the pleasure receptors for opiates and efforts to bypass that block to achieve a high could prove to be dangerous or even deadly.
  4. Patients who suffer from problems with their liver may not be candidates for Vivitrol candidates. Naltrexone, Vivitrol’s active ingredient has caused liver damage and Hepatitis in some patients. Before beginning treatment, patients should discuss the advisability with their physicians.
  5. Patients who are pregnant should not begin a Vivitrol program. Patients who become pregnant while using Vivitrol will need to undergo careful monitoring throughout their pregnancy for signs of problems. Post-delivery the baby will need to be monitored as well.
  6. People who suffer from disorders like Hemophilia should not begin a Vivitrol program. Naltrexone may cause bleeding problems.
  7. Patients who have participated in an Agonist-based treatment program can’t begin Vivitrol treatment until at least 7 days after their last dose. Agonist treatments have trace amounts of opiates and if any remain in the patient’s system, forced withdrawal could occur.

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Important Information to Discuss With The Doctor Before Beginning Vivitrol

  1. The physician needs to know the last time the patient took any opiates or opiate-based medications. It’s best to appraise the doctor of any medications the patient is currently on or has recently ingested since the patient may not be aware of their ingredients.
  2. The doctor needs to know if the patient is pregnant or nursing. Naltrexone should not be administered to pregnant or nursing women. This is so important that as soon as a woman misses a menstrual cycle, it’s important she let the physician know.

Important Information to Share with The Doctor While on Vivitrol

If opiates are in a patient’s system when Vivitrol treatment begins, the patient may experience harsh withdrawal symptoms. Any opiate withdrawal symptoms should immediately be reported to the doctor. Among these are:

  1. Fever
  2. Profuse sweating
  3. Tremors
  4. Cramps and aches
  5. Hot flashes or chills.

Research on Vivitrol

Studies have been performed to conclude the efficacy of treatment for opiate and alcohol dependency by Vivitrol. Research conducted by Vivitrol’s manufacturer, Alkermes concluded Vivitrol showed success in sustaining control over opiate cravings during recovery. A clinical trial completed in Russia showed Naltrexone performed significantly better than a placebo for sustaining prolonged recovery. Another study compared Naltrexone to its competitor, Suboxone with results showing both treatments had similar effectiveness. Vivitrol is delivered in a monthly shot rather than a daily pill like Suboxone. Despite the difference in treatment method, the study concluded the effectiveness was about the same.

Marketing Criticism

Much of Vivitrol’s criticism has come from Alkermes creative methods of promoting the drug. Rather than going through medical avenues, the company promoted the drug as an effective treatment program for drug courts. The strategy was effective and in some cases, people facing drug charges are now given a choice of either Vivitrol treatment or prison time. Alkermes has contributed to Vivitrol-friendly politicians and has made a favorable impression on the Trump Administration. Criticism was leveled at some advocates for Vivitrol for what many believe is the spread of misinformation about Suboxone, referring to it as just a drug substitution rather than an effective treatment. Since not every patient is a candidate for Vivitrol and there is an opiate epidemic raging, demeaning other drug treatment remedies has been criticized for putting marketing and business before health and medical responsibility.

Vivitrol: A Viable Tool for Addiction Recovery

The general conclusion drawn from research on Vivitrol is the treatment is effective, but not as a standalone option. It takes care of the physical issues associated with addiction and stops the brain’s pleasure receptors from rewarding drug use. However, therapy must also include treatment to help patients understand their psychological and emotional motivations for addictive for any program to be successful. Paired with an effective therapeutic program, Vivitrol can be an excellent treatment for opiate and alcohol recovery.

Want more information about how Chapters Capistrano can help? Feel free to call 949-371-4198 and one of our addiction specialists will help get the information and help you need.