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Vivitrol - How Does It Work?

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Vivitrol can make the difference between white-knuckling a person’s way through the early stages of becoming sober and being able to succeed with minimized discomfort. Many do not realize is that there is an FDA-approved medication that can be administered to those who suffer from certain substance use disorders. If you want to overcome an addiction to alcohol or opioids, Vivitrol may be the missing key to your recovery.

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What is Vivitrol?

Vivitrol is an opioid blocker that comes in the form of an injection. It received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 for use in helping people in recovery from addiction to alcohol. In 2010, approval was further extended to use Vivitrol to treat opioid addiction.  Vivitrol may only be obtained via prescription from a physician and is the brand name for naltrexone. While other brand names exist, many doctors and addiction treatment facilities favor the use of Vivitrol. Additionally, Vivitrol offers the advantage of being non-addictive.

How Does Vivitrol Work?

When a person uses alcohol and/or drugs often, a tolerance builds – meaning that the person has to use more substance to achieve the same desired effects. When someone builds a tolerance and they cease to use any substances, a number of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can occur due to the substance’s lack of presence in the body resulting in cravings. Vivitrol or Naltrexone blocks the brain from feeling the euphoric effects of drug and/or alcohol and reverses the brain’s expectation of pleasure when the substance is consumed.

Vivitrol involves giving an intramuscular injection that has long-lasting effects. Shots are given on a monthly basis. Someone who needs a Vivitrol shot must receive them from a healthcare professional licensed to dispense the drug. The use of this medication can help people avoid relapses and stay focused on their recovery. It works best in conjunction with other forms of substance use disorder treatment, such as talk therapy and other types of therapy.

Vivitrol is considered a vital part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). For those who qualify to incorporate MAT into their recovery, it can provide the boost they need to help them have an easier time going through the initial stages of recovery.

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Vivitrol Side Effects

While Vivitrol is generally considered a safe drug, most medications carry the risk of potentially developing side effects. Common ones that may occur with Vivitrol include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint or muscular pain
  • Lethargy
  • Restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Reactions at the injection site

Any side effects experienced are often temporary and end shortly after beginning to use Vivitrol. All side effects should be reported to the person providing the injections.

Vivitrol for Alcohol

In 2019, over 14 million people in the U.S. aged 12 and older struggled with an alcohol use disorder. Taking a Vivitrol shot helps someone in recovery from alcohol addiction minimize their cravings to start drinking again. If someone using Vivitrol does drink alcohol, the medication will block their ability to feel the drunken euphoria they normally experience. While they may feel minimal symptoms related to drinking excessively, they are blunted so much that it greatly reduces the person’s desire to drink again.

What Happens if You Drink on Vivitrol?

Because Vivitrol is used to reduce cravings, you will not get sick if you’re drinking on Vivitrol. If you drink while on Vivitrol, you will feel the same amount of sickness you would normally feel while drinking alcohol. However, it should be noted that you should not use any type of opioid while you are on Vivitrol. Since Vivitrol is an opioid blocker, you will not feel the effects of opioids, heroin, or fentanyl that you may be expecting, and taking a larger dose to attempt to feel some effect can create a higher risk of overdose.

Vivitrol for Opioid Addiction

A report showed that two million people had an opioid use disorder in 2018. This included using both illegal opiates such as heroin and prescription medications. Someone addicted to opioids relies on the relief provided by taking each dosage of these drugs. When they take a Vivitrol shot, an antagonist effect happens. The medication blocks opioid molecules from attaching to receptors. Instead, the antagonists attach to the receptors, causing relief from withdrawal symptoms without causing the person to feel high. 

Anyone interested in Vivitrol shots should be free of opioids for seven to fourteen days before beginning to take them. Otherwise, they risk entering sudden opioid withdrawal, which can be both unpleasant and cause the medication not to work properly. Once usage of Vivitrol begins, each dosage lasts for approximately one month.

Does Vivitrol Work?

Numerous studies have demonstrated that those who use Vivitrol in their treatment programming are more likely to stay sober. The exact success rate of Vivitrol varies depending on the studies conducted, however, the following outcomes have been impressive:

  • According to Springer, 64% of patients were opioid free after one year using Vivitrol compared to 39% of the control group in non-comparative trials.
  • Those taking Vivitrol for alcohol showed a lower percentage of heavy drinking. In another study, 86% of patients on Vivitrol were consuming less at their final visit.

How Much Does Vivitrol Cost?

How much Vivitrol costs depends on a couple of things. The first is what kind of insurance plan a person has and what coverage it provides. Additionally, what each treatment facility charges for Vivitrol factors into the cost of using it. Many private and public insurance plans cover the cost of this beneficial drug.

Additional Ways To Treat Addiction at Buckhead Behavioral Health

Medications provide a wonderful avenue for treating addiction to alcohol and drugs. However, a multi-pronged approach is needed in order to set a person up for lifelong sobriety. Both residential and outpatient programs offer different types of therapy modalities proven to help people with substance use disorders. Residential programs require a person to live in a facility for 30 days or more. Alternatively, outpatient programs provide a similarly wide range of types of treatment options that allow the person to receive treatment while still living at home. Outpatient care can also work well for people residing in sober living homes.

Outpatient care commonly occurs in three types of treatment programs. These include regular outpatient programs (OP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and partial hospitalization programs (PHP). The length of time spent in outpatient care depends on the individual’s unique circumstances. This includes which substance is the focus of their addiction, how long they have been abusing it, and their mental and physical health. Sessions can range from two to seven days per week, with PHP treatment requiring the highest level of commitment in terms of days and hours per week.

Find Help for Addiction in Atlanta

Do you struggle with an addiction to alcohol or opioids and feel hopeless? Finding professional, caring help is easier than you might think. Buckhead Behavioral Health provides effective, evidence-based therapy modalities that help people overcome substance use disorders. We use multiple methods to teach people to become sober and stay that way. FDA-approved medications like Vivitrol can help keep a person sober for the long haul.

If you would like more information about Vivitrol shots, visit our admissions page now. Our staff will be happy to answer your questions and see if this approach is right for you.

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