The United States is currently experiencing a public health crisis of opioid dependence, addiction, and abuse. Since pharmaceutical companies began encouraging the distribution of prescription opioid painkillers in the 1990s, millions of people across the country began to use and misuse opioids. In 2019, opioid misuse cost the US $78.5 billion and caused nearly 50,000 deaths from a drug overdose.
Developing effective treatments for opioid addiction is one of medicine’s most important projects, with the potential to save thousands of lives each year. The drug Vivitrol is one of the most promising treatments, and when used in combination with therapy, can be a huge aid in overcoming opioid addiction. To some, it can be a magic bullet in the recovery process.
What Is Vivitrol and How Does It Work?
Vivitrol is the brand name for naltrexone, a drug normally used for treating alcohol dependence. It is an opioid antagonist medication that binds to and blocks opioid receptors throughout the body.
Vivitrol binds to the receptors without activating them, preventing opioid cravings while keeping users sober. It also stops users from getting high from opioids – opioid drugs cannot activate the receptors because Vivitrol is in their place.
Vivitrol is most effectively administered as an intramuscular injection once a month. For this period, it helps users with two of the most challenging parts of recovery – cravings, and relapse. It takes away the physical cravings of withdrawal that can encourage a user to turn back to drugs and reduces the possibility of relapse because the drug no longer provides pleasure.
How Does Vivitrol Work as Part of a Treatment Program?
Vivitrol, however, is not an effective treatment by itself. Addiction is a chronic illness caused by changes in the brain that can be long-lasting or even permanent. Simply stopping cravings and relapses for a set period of time does not offer a long-term solution, and addictive behaviors are likely to restart when the user stops taking Vivitrol.
Instead, overcoming addiction requires identifying and changing the behaviors and thought patterns that cause addictive behavior. It requires developing skills to avoid relapse and maintain abstinence that you can practice for the rest of your life. It usually involves ongoing support for many years from loved ones and other networks.
Vivitrol’s magic lies in taking away some of the physical challenges of withdrawal so that users can fully focus on therapy and addiction treatment. WIthout cravings and fear of relapse, people in recovery can better engage in personal growth, skill development, and healing. They can build solid foundations for their journey to sobriety.
Are There Any Risks to Taking Vivitrol?
The biggest risk to taking Vivitrol occurs if a user decides to take an opioid drug while affected by a Vivitrol dose. Because Vivitrol blocks the effects of opioids, it can leave the user unaware of how high the dose they took is. In some cases, this can increase the risk of opioid overdose.
It is crucial that health care professionals offer Vivitrol as part of a rehabilitation program where users are made aware of the risks and supported to stay away from opioid drugs.
Vivitrol – An Evidence-Based Treatment
Numerous clinical trials have shown Vivitrol to be hugely effective in aiding opioid recovery. A 2010 study of patients taking monthly injections found that among Vivitrol users, there were more weeks of abstinence (a median of 90% compared to 35% among those taking a placebo), more opioid-free days, a longer stay in treatment, and a 50% reduction in cravings.
Another JAMA study found that 68% of patients receiving a 384mg dose of naltrexone remained in treatment after two months, compared to just 39% of those taking a placebo. By helping people in recovery stay in treatment, Vivitrol gives people the time to recover and make the meaningful changes required to stay away from opioids in the long term.