The drug epidemic has created a lot of controversy. The health care community and consumer advocates continue to take a second look at the way individuals are treated for pain. Coming out of the social outcry is a new way to help people get past opioid withdrawal cravings and curb the symptoms that often lead to relapse during addiction treatment. And it’s receiving accolades from medical practitioners and patients alike. It’s why we include Vivitrol as part of our medical detox and drug treatment program.
What Is Vivitrol?
Just one Vivitrol shot administered each month is making the path to recovery more palatable and achievable for executives and professionals who need to balance treatment needs with career obligations. To effectively reduce the cravings for opioids in those with dependency for them, the need to block the brain/body process that defines the cycle of addiction is essential to deterring use.
Vivitrol, an antagonist, does that by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain without releasing dopamine. As a result, the reward center in the brain is blocked, physiologically turning off the desire to use. The drug is given through intramuscular gluteal injection and comes in different delivery sizes to better accommodate each person’s physical makeup around the injection site.
Vivitrol is different than the more common medications used for opioid addiction treatment. Other MAT (medication-assisted treatment) protocols used are other opioids, such as methadone and buprenorphine, opioid agonists that attach to the same opioid receptors that engage drug use. But the risks for drug dependency and addiction remain when using another opioid as a tapering mechanism in recovery. An example of this is evident in the long-term use and abuse of methadone in those trying to overcome heroin addiction.
Vivitrol vs. Buprenorphine for MAT
While the use of buprenorphine as medication-assisted treatment for opioid and opiate addictions has long been put into practice, the redeeming risks of drug relapse or developing addiction to it cast a shadow of doubt in some. Though buprenorphine as MAT is certainly better than a patient continuing to use Oxycontin or heroin, the drug may be a viable short-term solution to override the original opioid addiction. However, for many addiction treatment care providers, buprenorphine isn’t good enough as a long term answer. Here’s why.
If the ultimate goal for a patient is to remove drug addiction and realize lifelong sobriety, removing one opioid dependency for another is risky, at best. In a study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in New York, researchers hoped to uncover the benefits of one MAT for opioid detox compared to the other.
Their “ﬁndings support the conclusion that a 7-day opioid detoxiﬁcation with gradually ascending doses of oral naltrexone is a well-tolerated outpatient procedure, with a success rate comparable to inpatient induction.”
But specific focus was also given to the extended release form of naltrexone, also known as injectable Vivitrol. Study participants receiving the naltrexone shot fared better during opioid detox with more tolerable symptomology and reduced instances of drug relapse. Moreover, participants who were already on a buprenorphine MAT program were able to migrate to naltrexone injections, truly removing opioid dependency.
Vivitrol Shot for Opioid Withdrawal Treatment
Other clinical case studies have followed participant response to the use of Vivitrol injectables for the treatment of opioid addiction during detox. However, the administering of Vivitrol in research patients was part of an integral addiction treatment plan that included counseling.
This particular study is comprised of data from multiple locations, and was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of opioid-dependent (DSM-IV) outpatients who had completed inpatient opioid detox. Of the 335 participants screened for the clinical study, 250 remained with 126 receiving 380 mg of Vivitrol each month and 124 receiving a placebo. Each control group also received psychosocial counseling to address the emotional aspects of opioid addiction.
Pivotal Opioid Study Results
Placebo subjects = 23% abstinence*
Placebo subjects = 60.4% opioid-free days*
Placebo subjects = 3% increase in self-reported opioid cravings***
Placebo subjects = 96 days of sustained treatment****
*Abstinence achieved with negative results in urine drug tests for opioids and no self-reported use.
**Opioid-free is based on no self-reported use.
***Based on weekly visual analog scale (VAS) from participants, 0 = no cravings, 100 = very much.
****Median amount of days participants remained in the study.
Vivitrol Shot for Alcoholism
Similar to the study conducted on how Vivitrol impacted patients with opioid dependency after detox, this non-addictive, non-narcotic drug required that participants adhere to a six-month commitment of use.
Throughout the study, participants were assessed based on the amount of and/or reduction in occurrences of heavy drinking. In addition, a smaller group was reviewed and included participants who successfully abstained from alcohol use during the initial seven-day period of the study, before the randomization of groups occurred. This is what researchers learned:
Pivotal Alcohol Study Results
Within 24 weeks of use:
Vivitrol 380 mg subjects = 25% greater reduction in heavy drinking compared to placebo group
Vivitrol subjects = 92% less heavy drinking days compared to placebo group, in a month period
Vivitrol subjects = 97% fewer drinking days compared to placebo group, per average month over 24 weeks
Vivitrol subjects = 21% more abstinence days in an average month, compared to placebo group
Vivitrol subjects = 24% more uninterrupted abstinence over the length of the study, compared to the placebo group
Based on these findings, Vivitrol can prove to be an effective partner in curbing the desire to drink once alcohol detox has been completed. Moreover, it can help as a tool for relapse prevention. Though Vivitrol is not a cure-all for alcohol dependency, it offers added strength to an addiction treatment program that would otherwise merely treat the psychological aspects of the disease.
Vivitrol vs. Outpatient Therapy Alone
There are different theories on the subject of opioid addiction. Some say it’s a disease while others, a choice. No matter how you choose to define the condition, living with it is manageable as long as abstinence is at the core. Still, many remain reluctant to introduce one drug as the means to treat dependency of another.
The initial phase of opioid addiction treatment is detox. This timeline for detox, usually within the first two weeks, bears the highest level of relapse rates. The reason is that opioid detox is the most physically uncomfortable and painful part of the addiction treatment process. For those who want to overcome the need to use opioid medications or heroin, returning to use during detox can seem like an easier pathway than continued recovery.
Knowing that this is the typical experience during opioid detox, the option to include medication-assisted treatment to taper a person from their current drug of choice is a more humane way to go about addiction recovery. The use of Vivitrol, as prescribed, is part of a harm reduction treatment model that puts patients’ best interests first.
For people who engage in behavioral therapies and support groups, such as NA, to help alleviate their desire for opioids, this type of outpatient therapy is only one point in the continuum of care necessary to adequately treat substance use disorders. But it isn’t enough.
Why Individualized Psychotherapy and Vivitrol Is the Answer
In order to get past the emotional and mental root causes for addiction and the triggers of relapse, the body and the brain need to readjust to healthy balance through cessation of drug use. What stands in the way of that is often the withdrawal process.
The benefits of adding Vivitrol in opioid addiction treatment allows a doctor to take a patient from detox to addiction treatment with minimal withdrawals and limited cravings in just eight days.
For many, Vivitrol is the game changer.
Professionals Need Real Privacy
People, such as corporate attorneys or C-level professionals, who lead busy lives and have an immense amount of daily responsibilities may want to deal with their opioid addiction—but not in the purview of strangers.
With most opioid addiction rehab centers, true privacy in the process of treatment seldom exists. Privacy is of the utmost importance to executives struggling with opioid dependency and is best encountered through individualized, medication-assisted, one-on-one outpatient therapy – collectively referred to as Individualized Psychotherapy. This is what our renowned New York psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Glazer of Fifth Avenue Psychiatry provides.
Although for years he has specialized in treating high-profile executives in his psychiatric practice, adding Vivitrol medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction is a modality Dr. Glazer stands behind wholeheartedly. He stated, “Personally I see it as a lifesaving treatment, a safe transition over eight days, with medical management of opioid withdrawal symptoms that can occur during opioid detox.”
The Risks of Vivitrol Medication Assisted Treatment
As with most medications, there are risks associated with use, which is why the Vivitrol shot is only administered by licensed, healthcare practitioners who have been trained on how to dispense it properly.
Vivitrol is an effective, time-released drug that works over a 28-day period. Although it is meant to greatly reduce opioid drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, its strength may wane as it gets closer to the time when another dose is needed. This slight ebb and flow of efficacy and the nature of how a drug affects normal body system functions elevate other health risks.
If you or your loved one experience any of the following during Vivitrol use, please contact your prescribing doctor and seek medical help:
- Injection Site Reaction
- Opioid Overdose
- Precipitated Opioid Withdrawal
- Liver Dysfunction and Disease
- Depression and Suicidal Thoughts
- Eosinophilic Pneumonia
- Allergic Reaction
Common Side Effects of Vivitrol after Detox
Most patients will not experience the risks of Vivitrol use noted above. Though there are some common side effects that may come about, the positive attributes of medication assisted treatment with Vivitrol provide a more gentle and sustainable path towards lifelong recovery from opioid addiction.
Vivitrol shot side effects can include:
- Muscle or joint aches
- Impotence or difficulty having an orgasm
- Liver damage
Best Use of Vivitrol during Opioid Addiction Treatment
When accepting one’s opioid dependency and further agreeing to seek help to combat addiction, including Vivitrol as part of a strategic, individualized, and integrated treatment approach at Fifth Avenue Psychiatry improves positive outcomes, by minimizing the discomfort of withdrawal and the instance of relapse. Vivitrol, in addition to other medication management, one-on-one therapy and acquiring productive coping mechanisms, interpersonal relationship skills, and adapting to a healthier lifestyle, can bolster recovery success for you and your family.
To See the Difference that Individualized Psychotherapy Makes, Start Recovery Now