For those of us who are recovering from opioid addiction or alcoholism, relapse is typically at the top of our fear list. While this is certainly a justifiable fear, the good news is there are newer medication options that, in combination with a recovery program, can help prevent relapse.
Here we discuss Vivitrol for relapse prevention and treatment of opioid addiction.
What is Vivitrol?
Vivitrol is a medication composed of extended-release naltrexone that is indicated for opioid addiction and alcoholism treatment. While naltrexone is not a new drug, the delivery mechanism in which Vivitrol uses is new. Rather than relying on taking naltrexone pills daily, Vivitrol is given as a monthly injection.
How Does Vivitrol work?
Vivitrol contains naltrexone, which belongs to a class of drugs known as opiate antagonists. Opiate antagonists function to block the effects of common opiates and opioids of abuse, such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone, and other related painkillers.
Naltrexone works by binding to opioid receptors, but in a fashion that does not activate the receptors. While naltrexone is “parked” on opioid receptors, it blocks other opiates/opioids from having any effect on the individual. (2)
The way in which Vivitrol/naltrexone helps with alcohol addiction is not as well understood, but likely deals with its effects on the brain’s reward pathways. Essentially, by blocking opiate receptors in the brain, naltrexone works by reducing the reward associated with drinking.
A report, which summarized over two decades and 27 different studies, found that overall naltrexone caused a 70% reduction in heavy or excessive drinking. (3)
So what are the benefits of Vivitrol?
Vivitrol provides numerous benefits over other forms of addiction medications, such as methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone/Subutex). Vivitrol, unlike methadone and buprenorphine, does not cause addiction or physical dependence to the medication.
This is a major advantage to Vivitrol for addiction treatment, as both methadone and buprenorphine cause a severe physical and mental addiction similar to the opioids in which they replace.
A major study published in 2017 found that Vivitrol/naltrexone had the same effectiveness as buprenorphine at treating opioid addiction, minus causing a physical dependence. (4)
Vivitrol’s extended release mechanism provides a great advantage over immediate release oral naltrexone. While both cause the same opioid blocking mechanism, the individual can simply stop taking oral naltrexone and within a few days the opioid blockade will have worn off. On the other hand, Vivitrol lasts approximately one month after injection. (5)
This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.