For drug addicts and alcoholics, Vivitrol shots can be a helpful aid in the recovery process. Many doctors and specialists believe that is among the safest medications offered in addiction treatment. Here at Ashwood Recovery, we’ve seen a number of success stories in prescribing the drug and support its use as a recovery tool.
It is important to note that Vivitrol, like other addiction medications, are only helpful when used in combination with other forms of treatment. Recovery, after all, is a holistic process. Vivitrol injections can help the patient overcome certain physical barriers, but the psychological aspects of addiction need to be treated as well. A person who participates in therapy and counseling while taking treatment medications is far more likely to avoid a relapse in the future.
If you’re considering Vivitrol injections, there are a few things you should know. This article will discuss the benefits, side effects and risks associated with the drug. It will also help you to determine whether or not the drug is right for you.
What is Vivitrol?
Vivitrol is a product that is administered to help drug addicts and alcoholics fight against their addiction. The product’s active ingredient is a drug called naltrexone. The drug targets the part of the brain that cravings stem from. Someone who takes Vivitrol for alcoholism or opiate addiction, therefore, will find that their cravings are reduced after they take their dose. Unlike some other treatment medications, the drug itself is non-addictive.
Although naltrexone is available in a number of forms, Vivitrol is an injection drug. While products like Depade and Revia are tablets that the patient ingests once daily, Vivitrol shots are administered in 380 mg doses. Patients receive one extended-release shot per month.
The injections are actually classified as opiate blocker shots. This means that the user can not feel the effects of opiates when the naltrexone is in their system. Many people who take Vivitrol for opiate addiction find that this aspect of the shots helps them to stay clean as they work through the initial steps of recovery.
What is Naltrexone and How Does it Work?
Doctors have prescribed naltrexone tablets to treat alcohol dependence and opiate addiction since the early 1960’s. However, manufacturers have steadily worked to increase the efficiency of the drug since that time. It wasn’t until 2006 that Vivitrol, the first injection-based form of naltrexone, received approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Naltrexone works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain. It then blocks these receptors from receiving any opioid chemicals. Whereas drugs like heroin enable the user to get high by allowing these chemicals into the brain, naltrexone treatments work by creating a barricade they can’t get by. This is the reason why someone on Vivitrol is unable to feel the effects of heroin or prescription opioids.
Vivitrol Injections for Opiate Addiction
Vivitrol has been shown to decrease the likelihood of a relapse. However, the opiate blocker shots cannot be administered while the user still has opioids in their system. Rehab patients, therefore, are required to go through the withdrawal process for 7-10 days before they receive their first injection.
A doctor or treatment specialist will ensure that the patient has no opioids in their system before they receive an injection. However, a user who does happen to mix naltrexone with other opioids runs the risk of precipitated withdrawal syndrome. This condition causes the addict to withdraw much faster than they should and can have long-term health consequences.
Vivitrol for Alcoholism
In addition to blocking opioids from reaching the brain, naltrexone prevents endorphins from reaching the opioid receptors as well. This is useful for those struggling with alcohol dependence, as the addiction actually stems from endorphins. When alcoholics drink, their body releases endorphins into the brain. These endorphins make the person feel euphoric. The addict then wants to continue drinking in order to continue feeling good.
By preventing these endorphins from reaching the brain, then, naltrexone works to separate the feeling of pleasure from the alcohol itself. While taking Vivitrol and drinking is not deadly, the user will find that they don’t experience any of the pleasurable aspects of alcohol. If the individual does drink, however, they may still find that they experience the negative effects of alcohol (nausea, vomiting, impaired coordination, etc). Over time, this helps to eliminate the desire to drink booze.
How Long Do You Take Naltrexone?
Usually, those who struggle with opioid dependency stay on the drug for a nine to twelve month period. Addicts can start to receive shots as soon as they’ve completed the withdrawal process. These shots are administered by a doctor once each month. It will start to take action within a half-hour after the drug is taken and, due to its extended-release feature, should last for the entirety of the month.
Unlike some other addiction treatment drugs, it is not intended to be taken for more than a year. By limiting cravings, Vivitrol is able to help rebuild the parts of the user’s brain that their addiction took hold of. This drug’s strength is that it can keep addicts clean long enough for them to realize that they can move forward into a sober life without the help of treatment meds.
If a user does happen to relapse, they can return to taking Vivitrol as soon as they’ve flushed the opiates out of their system again. Generally speaking, however, naltrexone prescriptions are intended to be taken with a start and end-date in mind.
Success Stories and Reviews
According to the manufacturer, Vivitrol showed a 90% success rate in reducing opiate addiction over the course of a six-month clinical study they conducted. The same study showed that 55% of users reported feeling a decrease in opiate cravings and that the addicts who participated were seventeen times less likely to relapse. Additionally, the manufacturer’s research showed that those who took naltrexone injections stayed in rehab for an average of 168 days longer than those who were given a placebo.
Research conducted on Vivitrol for alcohol addiction showed that the drug reduced heavy-drinking days (five or more drinks for men, four or more drinks for women) by 92%. It also decreased the total number of drinks consumed and increased the number of abstinent days in nearly all of the patients tested.
Patients regularly report that Vivitrol injections are the only drug that actually helps them get clean. In a recent article, one user praised the drug for its ability to “…catapult the person into the possibility of being able to get to who you are really and what you want, because it literally stops you from thinking ‘I can go do heroin’.”
How Does It Compare to Suboxone?
There are many sides to the “Vivitrol vs Suboxone” debate. Each drug has its own benefits and downsides. While Suboxone is an opioid replacement treatment (ORT) drug naltrexone is used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) processes. ORT drugs, as “replacements”, act as a temporary substitute for opiates. They fulfill the addict’s physical cravings but do not enable the individual to get high off of the drug. MAT drugs like naltrexone do not fulfill cravings but work to reduce them.
The benefit of Suboxone is that it can be taken shortly after the addict stops using heroin. It will provide the user with a small amount of opiates and help to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. Vivitrol, on the other hand, can not be taken until the addict has finished (or almost finished) withdrawing. For this reason, some doctors will prescribe Suboxone to help the addict withdraw and then switch to naltrexone to help the addict stay clean.
Vivitrol is a popular choice for alcohol and drug addicts due to its non-addictive nature. Those who take the drug don’t have the option of getting high on heroin, prescription pills, or the naltrexone itself. Suboxone, on the other hand, is an opiate and has the risk of becoming addictive.
Tablets vs Injections vs Implants
At our treatment facility, we only offer naltrexone in injection form. We find that pills are too easy for the patient to forget or decide not to take. By administering Vivitrol shots, our doctors can ensure that the patient reports to their appointment and receives their dose each month.
We don’t offer implants, either. These small chips, which providers install under the patient’s skin, release small amounts of the chemical over a long time. They are helpful for many addicts. However, we find that the risks of naltrexone implants are too high. Monthly Vivitrol shots and a steady schedule of rehabilitation treatment are, in our opinion, the smoothest path to recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.
Vivitrol Injection Side Effects
Although most users report that they feel normal with naltrexone in their system, others report experiencing unwanted side effects. Some common side effects of Vivitrol include:
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
- Decreased sexual functions
Some of these side effects are common for addicts to feel after withdrawals. Due to the fact that the user has become accustomed to heroin, morphine or other opiates in their system, the body can feel uncomfortable and sore as it adjusts to life without those drugs. If you take Vivitrol and are experiencing any negative side effects, make sure to speak with your doctor.
Overdose and Other Risks
You can’t overdose on Vivitrol itself, but there are still risks involved in taking the drug. Because naltrexone blocks the opioid receptors, some users who want to get high respond by taking too much heroin or prescription pain pills. Obviously, this is dangerous as the user runs the risk of overdosing.
Similarly, addicts who stop using opiates while on Vivitrol will lose their tolerance for those drugs. If they do happen to relapse, they will not be able to take the amount of heroin that they’re accustomed to taking. This can also result in an overdose.
Other risks associated with Vivitrol injections include skin infections (an adverse reaction to the needle) and liver damage (when the user has preexisting liver problems).
What Does a Vivitrol Shot Cost?
One of the biggest criticisms we hear about the drug is that it costs too much. Why is Vivitrol so expensive? At a rate of $1500 per shot, most of us can’t afford to receive injections once per month.
While we don’t set the price, we do believe in the benefits of Vivitrol and do what we can to help our patients afford it. Luckily, many health insurance plans cover the cost of each shot. In some states, Medicaid and other government insurance plans will actually cover naltrexone shots. Additionally, the drug’s manufacturers offer a co-pay savings program that helps to cover a large portion of the price.
Can Vivitrol Help You with Drug or Alcohol Addiction?
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol dependence or opiate addiction, Vivitrol injections might help. One of the most important aspects of recovery, after all, is fighting off cravings during those first few sober months.
Of course, making it through withdrawal and pushing the cravings aside is only one step toward a drug-free life. Long-term sobriety requires hard work and commitment. It’s important to remember that naltrexone and other drugs can only help with the physical aspects of addiction. Addressing the psychological aspects of addiction will require some intense self-examination through therapy and addiction counseling. Therefore, an addict who uses Vivitrol as part of a larger rehabilitation program is far more likely to stay off drugs and alcohol in the future.