Adult and Adolescent Mental Health Blog

The team at Fifth Avenue Psychiatry aims to help both adults and adolescents with substance abuse and mental health issues.

Can You Treat Drug Addiction with Vivitrol?

As people, we may be different for a variety of reasons. But a common denominator amongst us is the existence of stress in our lives and how it impacts mental health. Oftentimes, it isn’t the stress itself that causes us harm but how we choose to perceive it or how we cope (or not) that poses the most risks.

Stress can be short-lived or long-term. The cause may be a one-time traumatic event or multiple instances of trauma, as well as built up interpersonal tensions over a person or situation. Many individuals have not learned effective coping strategies which can lead to relying on unhealthy coping behaviors.

How Stress, Untreated, Manifests Drug Addiction

Drug use (including alcohol consumption) is readily available and promoted as an acceptable way to deal with stress. Social media often depicts alcohol and drug use as desirable social behavior in celebrations as well as the means to deal with heartache, discomfort, and personal pain.

When individuals are faced with life crises, they may follow these same destructive social cues. This is especially more dangerous for young adults whose brains are not yet fully formed. The brain’s natural reward center is wired to handle joy and sorrow, without drugs and alcohol. Once people include ongoing use of either substance, brain function and chemical balance are thrown into a false sense of physiological reality, making the development of addiction possible.

What Is the Difference Between Addiction and Chemical Dependency?

Many people think that addiction and chemical dependency are interchangeable terms. In fact, they describe two different processes.

Addiction refers to a mental condition. There is usually a detrimental pattern of behavior in the lives of those using alcohol or drugs. Examples include missing work, using grocery money to buy drugs, or increasing isolation from friends and family.

Chemical dependency is a physical or physiological dependence on drugs or alcohol. For example, this can happen when someone continues using prescribed opioids past the time needed for pain relief.

The addiction is most often more overpowering than the chemical dependency.

What Are Signs of An Addiction?

The World Health Organization (WHO) calls addiction a Dependence Syndrome. It encompasses a group of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological patterns. This syndrome is present when a person gives higher priority to controlled substances than to healthy life behaviors.

Controlled substances are drugs that have a classification system. There are legal penalties associated with the use of non-prescribed classified medications.

A key characteristic of dependence syndrome is an intense, even overwhelming, urge to use a substance such as alcohol, tobacco, or an opioid. During dependence, shorter periods of abstinence are met with increasing adverse cognitive, behavioral, and physical changes.

There are several factors to consider in assessing whether you or someone else has an addiction:

  • Failed attempts to quit. The famous Mark Twain quote says, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
  • Relapses that may result from exposure to certain cues. The individual may develop cravings when returning to places where addictive behaviors occurred. Examples can include clinking of ice cubes, smells, or having a small taste of the addictive substance.
  • Losing control of one’s behavior or thinking. A common consequence is feeling like a failure, low self-esteem, and increased depression.
  • Continued use without experiencing pleasure from it.
  • Using a substance in a harmful manner to cope with emotional or environmental stress.

If you see any of these behaviors in yourself or someone you know, it may be time to consider treatment.

Factors That Increase the Risk of Addiction

Many situations can increase an individual’s risk of developing an addiction including aspects of the past and present day circumstances.

  • Genetic predisposition to addictions. Studies have shown that genetic factors play a role in how easily an individual can develop an addiction.
  • Depression is one of the most common mental disordersIn 2017, an estimated 3 million adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive event. Many individuals develop an addiction when trying to self-medicate to overcome their symptoms of mental illness.
  • Anxiety, panic disorders, and phobias can lead to isolation and feelings of helplessness. Individuals are often prescribed medications for a limited time to treat these symptoms. When patients abruptly stop medications, symptoms may become overwhelming. The individual may self-medicate to relieve symptoms and develop dependency.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) will affect nearly 8 of 1000 people in their lifetime. Approximately 50%-66% of individuals with PTSD will also battle addiction. Drugs and alcohol are often used as a way to cope with symptoms.
  • Eating disorders including binge eating, bulimia, and anorexia can play a role in the development of drug addictions. Individuals may turn to stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines as an appetite suppressant to lose weight.  Others use alcohol and drugs to deal with their problems.

How Medication Assisted Treatment Helps with Drug Addiction

When addiction is evident, this doesn’t have to be the end of one’s personal story. In fact, many treatments are available to help individuals learn more effective coping strategies to overcome addictions. These treatments may include the use of medications, such as Vivitrol, to help temper and remove the physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms of drug addiction during detox, treatment and recovery.

Hope in Overcoming Drug Addiction and Chemical Dependency

It is important to find a treatment program that fits your unique needs. Most addiction treatment programs incorporate a combination of treatment modalities. These treatments include individual counseling, group therapy, behavioral therapy, and medications. But not all treatment programs provide the truly individualized care needed for each patient.

Patients in programs that are not comprehensive may gain relief from their stress disorder. Yet, when faced with stressful situations, may revert to their former addictive habits. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that the treatment program adequately addresses addiction and underlying mental disorders to increase the patient’s chance for life-long sobriety and optimal mental health.

Vivitrol Treatment and Risk for Addiction

Vivitrol is one medication that your doctor may consider as part of your care. Before use, your practitioner will consider your health history, current state of health, and treatment goals before prescribing a medication like Vivitrol. You should understand how this medication works, the expected benefits and common side effects.

Vivitrol is not addictive as it is not an opioid. Naltrexone, its generic name, works by attaching itself to opioid receptors in the brain. Thus, should a patient try to use an opioid while on Vivitrol, it will be unable to attach to the opioid receptor because it already has Vivitrol attached. This is how naltrexone (Vivitrol) creates the opioid blockade.

Vivitrol is given by a healthcare professional once a month. The dosage is 380 mg given into the muscle of the buttocks. This is an extended release medication which means that it keeps working for 28 days.

Before use of Vivitrol, patients will need to detox from the heroin or prescription opioids that they are addicted to. The process of abstaining from drug use will engage what is referred to as drug detox. A medication-assisted treatment program that includes Vivitrol can help alleviate the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Increased tearing and runny nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Yawning and trouble sleeping
  • Abdominal cramping and diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting

Vivitrol for Treatment of Alcoholism

Vivitrol has been known to help patients decrease their dependence on alcohol. The plan of care must include an in-depth management plan and social support to help mitigate the risk for relapse. But there are conditions for use to treat alcoholism.

  1. Candidates must first prove abstinence from alcohol in an outpatient treatment setting.
  2. Patients may not drink any alcohol once treatment begins.
  3. Individuals with liver problems should not receive Vivitrol because this drug clears the body through the liver, which can impact liver health.
  4. Careful attention must be given to patients taking Vivitrol for alcoholism who exhibit depression or suicidal thoughts. Family members and caregivers must watch for increased signs of these problems.
  5. Vivitrol does not decrease or stop symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Use of Vivitrol in the Treatment of Opioid Addictions

Opioid addiction treatment with Vivitrol should always include an individual plan of care and an effective support system. Taking this medication alone is not recommended.

Vivitrol reduces the body’s tolerance to opioids by blocking the pleasurable effects of prescription opioids and heroin for about 28 days after the injectable treatment has been administered. This medication protocol begins during detox to ease the discomfort and prevent opioid addiction relapse.

Guidelines for Vivitrol Use

  1. Patients must follow instructions regarding Vivitrol use.
  2. Individuals currently taking opioid-containing drugs or experiencing opioid withdrawal may not take Vivitrol.
  3. Patients must abstain from opioid use for 7 to 14 days before beginning treatment.
  4. Persons who fail a naloxone challenge testor test positive for opioids in urine analysis before treatment begins or during treatment are not candidates for Vivitrol.
  5. Do not use opioids shortly after treatment ends, at the end of a dosing interval, or after a missed dose. There is an increased chance of opioid overdose after taking Vivitrol in these instances. Even using the same dose of opioids as taken before treatment can cause death.

Signs of opioid overdose include difficulty breathing, stopping breathing, and heart failure. Patients and caregivers need education about the risk of using opioids during and after Vivitrol treatment, as well as the signs of overdose.

Common Side Effects of Vivitrol

After receiving Vivitrol, there may be pain, tenderness, redness, bruising, swelling, itching, or a hard feeling at the injection site. If any of these symptoms become severe, immediately call your healthcare provider. Some extreme responses to injectable Vivitrol have required surgery to resolve the reaction.

More Serious Side Effects of Vivitrol

  • Eosinophilic pneumonia is a lung illness in which many white blood cells appear in the lungs and the blood stream. This can be a serious side effect of Vivitrol. Symptoms can include coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing, and respiratory failure.
  • Serious allergic reactions resulting in anaphylaxis
  • Increased depression or suicidality
  • Liver problems. Hepatitis and problems with liver function have been seen in patients taking this medication. Tell your doctor immediately if you experience any signs of liver problems:
    • Abdominal pain
    • Dark urine
    • Fever
    • Loss of appetite
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Pain in joints
    • Exhaustion and weakness
    • Yellow tinge to skin or the whites of eyes

Finding the Right Vivitrol Treatment Program

Details matter, especially when assessing whether drug addiction has taken root in a person’s life and what the other circumstances are that may have led to the diagnosis. It’s imperative to be transparent with your healthcare practitioner when discussing matters of drug dependence, the potential for underlying mental illness, and other environmental factors that are impacting overall health. Through transparency comes a more personal-aligned drug treatment approach.

The peer-leading psychiatrists and psychologists at Fifth Avenue Psychiatry in Manhattan, New York are dedicated to guiding patients toward lifelong sobriety and greater well-being. By using progressive and effective treatments, including Vivitrol for opioid addiction, individual counseling and behavioral therapy, the patient experience is unlike other outpatient treatment programs. Here, privacy and personalization go hand in hand providing busy professionals the opportunity to get the help needed in a more discreet and trusted setting.

Find more information about our Vivitrol treatment program here. For more treatment options, please contact us.

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