Vivitrol and its cousin medication, Naltrexone, can provide a one-two punch against the powerful pull of opiates like heroin and pain pills. Opiate add
iction treatment professionals are witnessing real and long-lasting results with the use of those medications in people affected by opiate addiction, which brings its own unique set of challenges for those determined to achieve sobriety.
Opiate addiction treatment requires therapies that go beyond standard addiction treatment techniques. Heroin and pain pills ensnare the people who use them in a never-ending cycle of the euphoria that comes with use played out against the compulsions caused by cravings and horrible withdrawal symptoms. The people who seek treatment may be fully dedicated to their recovery, but relapse claims victims fast and hard in a cycle of use and crash.
A Brief History of Naltrexone
Naltrexone and Vivitrol are market names for the same medication, a hydrochloride salt known as hydrochloride naltrexone. The difference between Naltrexone and Vivitrol is that Naltrexone typically refers to the pill formulation, which languished way back in the 1960s in the file drawers of its original patent-holder, the now-defunct Endo Labs. Vivitrol came along in 2005, formulated as an extended release medication encapsulated in biodegradable microspheres injected into the patient.
Naltrexone was developed as an antagonist drug—remember that opiates are agonists, so an antagonist by definition fights agonists—and it wasn’t until l973 that a physician suggested testing it for treatment of heroin addiction. Why wasn’t it declared a resounding success at that time?
First, use of Naltrexone required the client to participate in a comprehensive therapeutic program, including intensive outpatient counseling, a day treatment program, or even residential treatment. Second, notwithstanding the habit that most addicts have of ingesting many substances not good for them, many of them feared trying the new drug and participated in trials only reluctantly. Third, with treatment for methadone fast becoming an accepted therapy by the 1980s, payer sources did not want to spend the money on the concomitant therapy that Naltrexone required.
It’s also true that many people addicted to opiates dealt with pain issues that led to their addiction. Those who opted for methadone were utilizing a medication that kept their pain issues masked, while those who tried to remain abstinent through use of Naltrexone again experienced their aches and pains. Today’s Vivitrol clients usually take naproxen or ibuprofen as needed to deal with those issues.
Vivitrol for Opiate Addiction Treatment
Vivitrex, the injectable form of naltrexone, came along in 2005. The FDA approved it for trials in December 2005. Renamed Vivitrol, it received final approval to treat opiate addiction treatment in October 2010.
How Naltrexone and Vivitrol Therapy Works
Opiate addiction treatment centers develop specific policies and procedures that guide the use of Naltrexone and Vivitrol in the treatment of opiate addiction. Because of the antagonist nature of both drugs, a good treatment practice requires clients to go through a detox period of approximately five to seven days.
It’s not recommended to take Naltrexone when a person is actively using opiates, because the person can then go into a very rough withdrawal, known by opiate addiction treatment professionals as precipitated withdrawal. It’s a horrible experience for the person suffering it.
For that reason, at the end of the appropriate detox period, the person receives his first dose of Naltrexone, just a quarter of a pill per day (approximately 12.5 mg). If they do well on that dose for a day or two, the dose increases to a half pill, and it titrates gradually to a full pill daily. After a week on Naltrexone, patients can receive their initial monthly injection of Vivitrol.
People battling alcoholism are also candidates for Naltrexone, but the therapeutic regimen is stepped up so that they can begin full treatment with Naltrexone as soon as they complete alcohol detox.
The Knock-Out Punch
Treatment with Vivitrol means the addict does not have to fight urges and decide each and every day whether they will use, but they must maintain that commitment to recovery. It’s important for the person to make a full commitment to attend therapy as well as 12-step meetings. Naltrexone and Vivitrol offer the good old one-two punch, but adjunctive therapy provides the overwhelming knockout punch that will guide you to recovery.
It can mean a real chance to change your life if you’re struggling with opiate addiction. Treatment is just a phone call away. Why not make that call right now?