Chain with Lock and Key

Vivitrol/Naltrexone: The Opiate Antidote?

You would be surprised at how many people have never heard of Naltrexone, or its brand name Vivitrol. It has a higher success rate in treating opiate addiction than any of the more well-known treatments, like Suboxone, Methadone, “rehab,” and NA (or other support groups).

So, what is Vivitrol? It is a non-addictive, non-narcotic medication that blocks — and curbs the cravings for — all opiates. It is administered as an IM (intermuscular) injection that lasts for 30 days in the system. This makes the addict accountable once a month for a new injection.

Naltrexone, — generic for Vivitrol – is available either as a pill (taken orally) or an implant which can last up to 6 months. The pill must be taken every day. This is not the best approach for an addict new to sobriety and recovery. Failing to take the pill almost always leads to a relapse.

The implant consists of small pellets implanted under the skin which slowly release medication. It needs to be replaced every 3-to-6 months and requires minimal effort from the patient. These medications and delivery mechanisms are geared toward the same results: keeping addicts clean, preventing relapse, and helping to set the conditions for recovery and a healthy lifestyle.

Vivitrol is non-addictive and non-narcotic, giving it no “street value.” To some, this can also make it preferable to Methadone and Suboxone – the other two medications used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Every pathway has value and some successes, so I am not putting down any of the medications used to treat opiate addiction. Every pathway has some level of value and success. I’m just presenting the facts that Suboxone and Methadone are often used as a replacement for another opiate and will culminate in a very difficult detox when the person is ready.  They are also both narcotics, can be misused and cause overdose, and are frequently sold and shared.

Vivitrol cannot be abused. It is delivered as a single, monthly injection. The oral form Naltrexone offers no high to the user, no matter how much is taken. When you feel strong enough to move forward without continued medication- assisted treatment, simply stop receiving your monthly Vivitrol shots. There is no weening, detox, or withdrawal process involved. Studies compiled and reviewed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have shown Vivitrol to have stunning success rates in keeping addicts clean.

Findings and statistics that were published in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment quickly increased the demand for Vivitrol by both addicts and medical providers. One study examined the defendants in three different drug courts, all involved in opiate-related arrests. Half of the defendants were offered and received a Vivitrol shot; the other half of defendants did not. In follow-up, re-arrest rates for the Vivitrol group were a low 8%, compared to 26% of the non-medicated group. Vivitrol participants were also 57% less likely to miss drug court sessions.

Though some remain critical of Vivitrol due to the cost (approximately $1000+ per shot), and the risk of overdose (some addicts take mass amounts of opiates to attempt to override the blocking effects of Vivitrol but die before that ever happens), the benefits of Vivitrol are too powerful to ignore.

In recent years, many jails and courts have implemented Vivitrol programs for inmates being released. Probation and parole personnel have seen the improvements in decreased violations and recidivism rates. My advice is to always do your research and make an educated choice as to what will work for YOU. We are experiencing one of the largest drug epidemics in American history. Vivitrol is one of the best and most effective tools we have to combat this problem.

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