Vivitrol Treatment at SJRP

Once monthly Vivitrol injections can help clients to remain engaged & active in recovery. A Gold Standard in treating opioid use disorder (OUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD), Vivitrol has the power to reduce cravings and minimize relapse risks while clients receive counseling and therapy to help them stay the course in their recovery journey. Vivitrol treatment is one of many maintenance programs that is available to help clients reach their recovery goals while they are receiving treatment at SJRP. To learn more about Vivitrol or the various programs available at SRJP to treat alcoholism or opioid addiction, call our admissions team at 833-397-3422.

What is Vivitrol?

Vivitrol is a brand name of naltrexone that has been formulated in a time-release serum available in a once-monthly injection that is administered by a healthcare provider. The medication is used to help people maintain abstinence from drug or alcohol use, as they recover from substance use disorder. An intramuscular injection, Vivitrol is a prescription medication treatment aid for those recovering from opioid or alcohol dependence.

Vivitrol injections help to prevent relapse in those recovering from opioid addiction. Alcohol or opioid use must be completely stopped, and the client fully detoxed from those substances for at least 7 to 10 days before initial Vivitrol administration. Otherwise, precipitated withdrawal symptoms may occur as with any naltrexone based medication treatment. For the injection to be fully successful, it is recommended to be used in conjunction with an addiction recovery program that includes conventional counseling & therapy.

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Vivitrol FDA Approval

If you’re wondering, when was Vivitrol approved by the FDA for public use, the answer is rather recent in history. The prescription drug received full Vivitrol FDA approval in October of 2010, following extensive research, testing, and assessments spanning from late March 2005. The drug was approved for use by the FDA for extended-release use in patients recovering from alcohol and opioid addiction. The only stipulations revolving this were that patients had to be able to abstain from use, in an outpatient setting, themselves for at least 7 to 10 days following a full detox. This was done in an effort to assure that patients would not undergo sudden withdrawal symptoms that could be brought on by Vivitrol if used with the offending substance.

Treating Opioid Dependence with Vivitrol

Vivitrol, or naltrexone, is used for its ability to help prevent opioids from working within the body. Thus reversing the effects opioids have on chemicals within the brain, and eliminating cravings. The Vivitrol injection for opiates works in three specific ways:

  1. By blocking the effects of opiates in the body
  2. Decreasing the patient’s desire for opiates
  3. Consistent medically aided use, for continuous battling of cravings

Vivitrol doctors began prescribing the treatment in cases of opioid dependence when they realized the Vivitrol shot for opiates helped patients abstain from use on their own longer. Thus encouraging them to enter into counseling and recovery programs to further their treatment, and aiding them in sticking with their programs. The doctors who prescribe Vivitrol, and other substances approved by the FDA for opioid use disorder treatment, undergo specific training before being able to administer this drug to any patient.

The Vivitrol injection works as a relapse prevention method. It is prescribed to be taken, only after a successful opioid detox has been completed.

Who Benefits Most?

The opiate blocker shot Vivitrol, benefits those who have already completed a medically assisted detox, and are in an established recovery program, most. Of course, every individual is different, and therefore their treatment plans for recovery should be tailored to their own needs. Vivitrol may not work for everyone, but there are certain parameters for which the medication describes its “ideal candidates.”

These ideal candidates would use the Vivitrol shot for opiate addiction primarily in relapse prevention. These are patients who have already completed a medically assisted detox and are either open to participating, or are already participating in an addiction treatment and recovery program. Ideal Vivitrol candidates have typically had a shorter or less severe abuse history. Injectable Naltrexone is optimal for candidates that meet several of the following criteria according to the NCBI:

  • They are medically approved for naltrexone treatment by a healthcare provider.
  • They are not using opioids currently and have not used for several days.
  • They do not suffer from chronic pain and do not anticipate surgery or any condition or procedure in which opioid analgesic medication may be required.
  • They do not suffer from liver or kidney disease.
  • They do not suffer from obesity or a bleeding disorder that might prevent them from being able to receive a deep intramuscular injection.
  • They have motivation to stay sober and avoid alcohol or opioids.
  • They are actively participating in psychological treatment for SUD including individual therapy and support as well as group counseling sessions.

Vivitrol is not a “one size fits all” kind of treatment. No such kind of treatment, that can help everyone fully 100% of the time, exists. But, Vivitrol has had a great amount of success in helping people to continue their fight and to remain in recovery both while at SJRP and upon their return home from our Florida drug and alcohol rehab center. Vivitrol, when used in conjunction with therapy programs, has given clients the best overall outcomes through three months of recovery from powerful substances including opioids and alcohol.

If you think that you, or someone you love, might benefit from Vivitrol treatment, call our admissions team at 833-397-3422 to speak with us about Vivitrol treatment and the various other treatment programs available at St. John’s Recovery Place.

Who Should Avoid Vivitrol?

Using opiates while on Vivitrol is not recommended. Patients who are still using opioids (or any other illicit drug or alcohol), or are going through opioid detox, should not use Vivitrol. Vivitrol is only to be used after detox has been completed successfully. Taking Vivitrol with opiates in the system could cause precipitated or unwelcomed withdrawal symptoms. Vivitrol may also worsen existing withdrawal symptoms if it is taken too soon. Patients who are allergic to Vivitrol, or have pre-existing conditions including liver problems, PAWS, or acute hepatitis should also avoid Vivitrol in order to prevent potentially life-threatening reactions from occurring.

How Does Vivitrol Work?

For most people who use Vivitrol, the drug works to block, or reverse, the effects of opioids on the brain, reducing cravings. This allows patients to retain their full mental functioning. Helping them to focus on recovery, instead of focusing on their want or “need” for opioid use.

How does Vivitrol work? Physically, Vivitrol works by chemically blocking opioids from binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and preventing the release of neurotransmitters responsible for signaling cravings. Vivitrol may also dampen or minimize the effects of opioid use if relapse were to occur, further helping to minimize cravings for opioid use.

Once-Monthly Injection

Vivitrol is injected once a month to block opiates and prevent cravings for alcohol or opioids for a period of about 30 days in most patients. The medication is injected deep into the gluteal muscle and may cause tenderness or swelling at the injection site. For this reason, Vivitrol injection is often alternated from side-to-side of the buttocks with each month to reduce tenderness and swelling.

Vivitrol vs Suboxone

Both suboxone and vivitrol are prescribed medications, used to treat or aid patients by reducing the risk of opioid relapse. There are benefits and drawbacks to both of these medications. While both pros and cons continue to be researched to this day, most Vivitrol vs suboxone studies have shown that Vivitrol is harder to start than suboxone is. Some scientists find concern directly related to the Vivitrol shot vs Suboxone. Suboxone is a combination of medications that features both Naltrexone and Buprenorphine.  Buprenorphine is an opioid that has a small potential for abuse and misuse. Whereas Vivitrol features only the active ingredient naltrexone and has a substantially lower potential for abuse or misuse. Overall, there remains room for improvement for both Suboxone treatment and for Vivitrol treatment. In the end, the Vivitrol vs suboxone argument may run down to a matter of preference and desire. Whereas one can reduce cravings only, the other (when used correctly) has the power to minimize withdrawal and cravings at the same time.

Vivitrol Pros Include:

  • Extended-release
  • Patients only need one shot, once a month instead of everyday alternatives
  • Dampens opioid cravings
  • Not addictive
  • Is an opioid antagonist, largely meaning it cannot be taken with any type of drug or alcohol (this can be viewed as either a pro or con, based upon perspective)

Vivitrol Cons Include:

  • Injection site side effects
  • Hard to get patients started on due to length of time needed between detox and first injection

Suboxone Pros Include:

  • Early start, can be used to prevent relapse both short and long term
  • Likely to help reduce the likelihood of death in opioid overdose cases

Suboxone Cons Include:

  • Needs to be taken on a daily basis, which recovering patient may struggle with the motivation to do so
  • Is an opioid agonist and central nervous system depressant. Meaning it can be taken (although not advised) with other depressants like alcohol without much initial discomfort

There are other factors that include the success rates of Vivitrol vs suboxone, that seem to differ highly in the initial stages, with Vivitrol having a relapse rate of 65% and suboxone a 57% relapse rate. But these percentages commonly relate to the early stages of recovery and the fact that Vivitrol is harder to get started on. Otherwise, both Suboxone and Vivitrol have similar holding success rates.

Administering Vivitrol

Those who can administer Vivitrol, are generally medical professionals such as doctors or the clinical team at some drug and alcohol rehab centers. Administering Vivitrol requires injection into the gluteal muscle with special care taken to alternate the buttock side used with each monthly injection.  Typically, an intramuscular Vivitrol dose is 380 mg, per injection.

Precipitated Withdrawal Risk