In the wake of the opioid crisis, scientists and lawmakers struggle to find effective solutions. As our government fights to clamp down on legal painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, Vicodin, Percocet and more, new drugs like fentanyl and other opiates are being introduced on the street and few, significant strides are made in harm reduction.
Of course, the right treatment can very well lead to recovery, but there are many barriers to entry in terms of participating in a successful treatment program. For this reason, scientists and other parties have tried to find some way to combat opiate addiction on a large, more accessible level.
For some, this solution has come in the form of Vivitrol. Vivitrol was formulated as a drug to prevent relapse after detox, which is an especially large conundrum in the field of opiate addiction. Vivitrol is the first and only non-addictive, non-narcotic medication approved for the treatment of opiate addiction and dependence. It is approved for taking once-monthly.
However, when people talk about Vivitrol, they are quick to point out that it should be used as part of a more comprehensive addiction treatment plan, which includes therapy and psychosocial support.
How Vivitrol Works
So, you may be wondering how exactly Vivitrol works. Well, vivitrol, or naltrexone as its known, works by attaching itself to opioid receptors in the brain and then finishes by blocking them. Basically, they stop you from getting high or from having cravings with heightened sensations. It is an extended release injection of what is described as an opioid receptor antagonist. For this reason,it differs from other maintenance drugs like suboxone or methadone. It is not an opioid. It inhibits you from feeling any kind of euphoric way, and therefore there is absolutely no risk factor. This makes it different from a lot of other other drugs people have often tried to use in the wake of the opioid crisis, including methadone and suboxone. There is no risk of getting addicted to vivitrol.
There are two types of naltrexone. One is the naltrexone pill. This is the form that has been used in conjunction with the sinclair method, which is more controversial than the other form of naltrexone, in which it is injected once a month to combat opiate cravings and in some cases, alcohol cravings. The sinclair method entails taking a naltrexone pill before an addict drinks, and it is supposed to stop the cravings that set in once an alcoholic takes their first sip. This method is controversial because it entails actually taking a drink (which obviously deviates from abstinence), however, many have had success with the method.
More About Vivitrol
And people are also having success with vivitrol, the more known, injectable, once monthly form of naltrexone. People are having success with naltrexone, in both inhibiting cravings for opiates as well as alcohol. It is taken following the detoxification of alcohol or opioids. The body must be fully detoxed from opioids for seven to ten days and from alcohol for about 24 full hours prior to taking vivitrol. If vivitrol is taken when detoxing is happening and not completed, it can cause severe complications. After a person takes the vivitrol, they are not able to feel any effects from heroin for a period of thirty days. However, when someone is in the midst of heroin addiction, that is a long time to commit to and thus begins the struggle to even take the medicine. However, when taken, it is quite effective.
Perhaps the most excitement surrounding vivitrol regards the fact that it is taken once monthly and it is not addictive or habit forming. Many believe it marks a new area in addiction treatment, specifically in the field of opiate addiction treatment.
Possible Disadvantages of Vivitrol
However, vivitrol does not work for everyone. There are risks involved with treatment using vivitrol. The risks of opioid overdose, reaction at the injection site and opioid withdrawal remain. Furthermore, some may experience nausea, headaches, and dizziness. The risk for overdose stems from the fact that users will not experience any high from opiates for thirty days after injection. Subsequently, if one does use opiates they will not be able to feel how high they are getting and the risk for overdose remains.
Does Vivitrol Represent the Future?
People are very excited about Vivitrol, in part because there is such desperation to find a cure for opiate addiction and dependency. However, some argue that it is not the wonder drug it has been heralded to be. It should be used in conjunction with therapy and other forms of treatment. However, it is part of a formula that is known to help people stay clean. When used in a long-term study, groups that used naltrexone were compared with those who did not. 36 percent of those in the group that received the naltrexone injection succeeded in total abstinence from opioids, as compared with 23 percent in those treated with a placebo injection.
So there is a basis for it. However, there are people whom it works best for, such as those who have tried methadone, have a milder addiction or are more incentivized to stop, do not prefer methadone or suboxone, cannot commit to everyday medicines and those who face a high risk for relapsing. It is also important to know that in order to be most effective, vivitrol should be used in conjunction with counseling, psychotherapeutic work, other medication and some type of involved rehabilitation program.
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