When it comes to substance abuse, treatment can be difficult. It is not uncommon for people to relapse multiple times before committing to long-term sobriety. Luckily, with today’s treatment options, there are tools that can make treatment, and the early stages of sobriety more tolerable. Things like medication-assisted treatment, and Vivitrol specifically, have been proven to help people stay in treatment longer.
Let’s take a look at what this medication actually is.
What is Vivitrol?
An opioid antagonist, Vivitrol is a medication used in the medication-assisted treatment process to help alleviate the cravings experienced during the early phase of opioid withdrawal, as well as for some cases of alcohol use disorder.
While many opioids are prescription medications, this class of drug carries a high potential for abuse and addiction. Opioid withdrawal can be remarkably challenging, often involving relapse, but medication-assisted treatment involving medications like Vivitrol can maximize your chances of sustained and successful recovery.
The common consensus is that the opioid epidemic is liable to get worse before it gets better, with up to half a million deaths projected in the United States over the coming decade.
Vivitrol contains an extended-release form of naltrexone. This medication binds to opioid receptors in the brain, preventing opioid use from further activating these receptors. What this means is that taking opioids when you are using Vivitrol will not yield the usual euphoric effects.
This medication is the first non-narcotic and non-addictive treatment for opioid addiction, and now has FDA approval for use in the treatment of both opioid use disorder and alcohol dependence.
It is not possible to abuse Vivitrol, which cannot be said for competing MAT medication. With no potential for abuse, there is no black market for this medication either, unlike with methadone, for instance.
Another key benefit of this medication is its slow-release nature, removing the barrier of daily dosing, often problematic for someone recovering from addiction.
How Does Vivitrol Work?
You receive doses of Vivitrol in the form of monthly injections.
The way the medication tightly binds to opioid receptors in your brain means you won’t obtain any rewarding effects from opioids if you choose to use them while taking Vivitrol.
A medical professional will administer 380mg of Vivitrol monthly via an intramuscular injection. The medication is then slowly, continuously delivered over the course of the following month. With no chance of missing your dose, and no chance of deciding to skip it either, this is one of the most effective ways of delivering medication-assisted treatment for addiction.
You need to be abstinent from opioids for at least 7 days before starting a course of treatment with Vivitrol. This means the medication is normally administered following detox.
What Happens if You Take Opiates While on Vivitrol
If you take opioids when you are taking Vivitrol, this can cause an overdose in one of three ways:
- Taking opioids and Vivitrol at the same time means you won’t get the intended effect from the opioids. Those who try to combat this by taking a higher dose of opioids can often overdose, possibly fatally
- When you have been opioid-free for some time, your tolerance to opioids will fall. If you start using opioids again at the same dose as before, you could more easily overdose
- Over the course of a month, the amount of Vivitrol in your body changes. Blood levels are highest in the two or three days following the injection, and these levels start falling after two weeks. If you use opioids, the effects can be even more unpredictable due to the fluctuating levels of Vivitrol in your system
Vivitrol should be considered one element of a comprehensive treatment plan rather than medication to be used in isolation. For the best results from this type of medication, clients should go through various other forms of treatment including things like addiction therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy, an intensive outpatient program, and a dual diagnosis treatment program for those suffering from co-occurring mental health disorders.
Vivitrol is used in the following circumstances:
- For preventing relapse in patients dependent on opioids who have already undergone detoxification and remain opioid-free
- Forming one component of an overarching addiction treatment program including counseling and psychotherapy
- For treating alcohol dependence in an outpatient setting for patients who have already stopped drinking
Vivitrol Side Effects
There are some potentially significant risks associated with Vivitrol you should be aware of before engaging with treatment.
These possible dangers include:
- Sudden opioid withdrawal
- Heightened chance of opioid overdose
- Adverse reactions at the site of injection
Sudden opioid withdrawal
If you abruptly stop taking opioids without medical guidance, this can trigger the onset of unpleasant side effects and withdrawal symptoms.
Assuming you have negotiated a medically supervised detox and been free of opioids for at least a week, you can start a course of Vivitrol treatment. If you start taking the medication before this point, you’ll trigger withdrawal symptoms so severe you might need hospitalization.
Heightened chance of opioid overdose
You run a greater risk of an opioid overdose if you are also taking Vivitrol while using opioids. This heightened risk results from the way Vivitrol counters the effects of opioids. For those who attempt to circumvent this by consuming more opioids, there is an increased chance of overdose.
Opioid overdose can lead to serious injury, coma, and possibly even death. As such, you must not use opioids when taking Vivitrol.
The other issue related to Vivitrol and opioid overdose concerns the way the effects of this slow-release medication diminish over the course of a month. If you proceed to take the same dosage of opioids as you used before starting Vivitrol treatment, you could quite easily and unintentionally overdose.
You should seek immediate medical assistance in the event of any of the following:
- Breathing problems
- Slow breathing
- Shallow breathing
- Drowsiness followed by slow breathing
- Dizziness or fainting
Adverse reactions at the site of injection
You could also experience severe reactions at the injection site. If untreated, this can result in tissue death requiring surgery.
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:
- Abnormal pain
- Lumps forming around the injection site
- Hardening around the injection site
- Scabs, especially dark scabs
- Open wounds
Vivitrol Treatment at The District Recovery Center
Vivitrol is a promising treatment for both opioid addiction and, less commonly, alcohol use disorder.
While more research is needed and Vivitrol should not be viewed as a cure for addiction, the medication has a range of proven benefits for minimizing cravings and preventing relapse.
Whether you have opioid use disorder or alcohol use disorder, we have a variety of outpatient treatment programs here at The District Recovery Community’s Orange County rehab. You can engage with treatment at a time intensity that suits your addiction, without the expense or the restrictions of residential rehab.
Vivitrol can be administered as part of an integrated treatment plan including MAT, psychotherapy, holistic therapies, and counseling. The medication is most effective when it’s delivered as part of an overarching plan.
If you have a mental health condition co-occurring with substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder, inquire about our dual diagnosis treatment program. This streamlined form of treatment will help you address both these issues head-on.
All you need to do to get started is contact the TDRC admissions team at 844.287.8506.