Vivitrol Therapy for Opioid Dependence: How and Why It Works

Even if you’ve been using opiates for years, Vivitrol shots may be the solution to your problems. Paired with counseling and other therapies, Vivitrol can help you eliminate the short-lived euphoria caused by opiate use. When opioids no longer give you the high, you no longer have a reason to use them. In the middle of the opiate crisis, when more and more people are exposed to painkillers that contain strong opiates, it’s important to know that even strong urges can be eliminated. While Vivitrol is not the right answer for everyone, especially those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or suffering from liver disease, it can help many who are going through the healing process. Also, you don’t have to worry about developing a new addiction. Vivitrol is not addictive whatsoever. If you want to find out more about how it works, why it works and whether it’s suitable for you, keep reading.

What Is Vivitrol?

Vivitrol (naltrexone) is a substance that blocks the opiate receptors in your brain and stops the stimulation of dopamine (one of the “happy” hormones). You can find the same substance marketed under the name Revia, or you probably heard of Rev, it’s nickname. Vivitrol can come in the form of a pill, but it usually comes as shots that are injected into your muscles. The substance is an opioid antagonist, and you only need one shot every 30 days, which makes it quite convenient for many. Vivitrol shots work extremely well for prescription-related addictions as well as alcoholism. Many chronic pain patients take opioid medication for pain relief. Unfortunately, in time they develop a tolerance and need a larger dose of opioids to relieve the pain. As a consequence, many end up abusing opiates to live normal lives. Fortunately, there are painkillers that have a lower risk of opiate addiction. Medications like Vivitrol stop opiates from working. What makes opiates so addictive is the short-lived euphoria caused by an increase of dopamine in the brain. Vivitrol (shots or pill form) prevent opiates from causing the euphoric state. Vivitrol shots are often used as part of treatment programs, but the shots cannot stop the addiction on their own. Counseling and support groups are often used as a way to help addicts learn more about themselves and connect with others in similar situations. The same substance is used for alcoholism too, but it has a different mechanism. It doesn’t block the effects of alcohol on the brain. Instead, it reduces the urge to grab a drink.

When Vivitrol Is Used

Vivitrol alone can’t cure your addiction, nor can it be used for unlimited periods. But it can prevent opiates from giving you a high. Before you receive Vivitrol, you should avoid alcohol and opioids for at least 2 weeks. If you don’t, the shot will only make your withdrawal symptoms worse. On top of this, Vivitrol also makes your body more sensitive to opiates, which increases your chances of overdosing. Also, if you’re still experiencing withdrawal symptoms 2 weeks after your last dose of opiates, you should wait until the withdrawal symptoms disappear completely. Vivitrol shots can have a negative impact on your health if you suffer from liver damage. If you’re experiencing jaundice, dark urine, nausea, fatigue, stomach pains or itching, you should contact your doctor. One of the reasons why Vivitrol shots aren’t used long-term is that they can cause liver damage, especially in high doses. If you suffer from hepatitis or show signs of liver failure, Vivitrol shots will do more harm than good. Other cases where Vivitrol should be avoided include the following:

  • Allergy to naltrexone
  • Kidney disease
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding

That said, Vivitrol shots are the easiest way to fight the urge to use opiates, simply because opiates won’t make you feel euphoric if you take them while on Vivitrol.

How Does Vivitrol Work for Opiate Addiction?

Vivitrol is among the medications approved by FDA to stop the effects of opiates on the human brain as well as the urge to consume alcohol. While Vivitrol can stop the euphoric states that come with opiate use, it’s important to know the drug should only be used after you get clean. If you take an opiate with Vivitrol, you won’t feel any euphoria. However, you’ll struggle with intense withdrawal symptoms. Because it only makes the symptoms worse and blocks opioid receptors, Vivitrol has a very high success rate. When paired with counseling, Vivitrol shots have a 90% success rate compared to a 35% success rate of the group that took a placebo shot. The same study shows that those who received Vivitrol along with therapy were 17 times less likely to use opiates compared to the group that that wasn’t administered the drug.

Vivitrol Shots vs Suboxone Pills

For many, Vivitrol shots are an easy way to deal with addictions because they block the effects of opioids on the brain. However, Vivitrol is a big step forward for many. Not many people are ready to go cold turkey and receive a shot every 30 days to prevent themselves from taking drugs. Suboxone, on the other hand, is a weak opiate that has a very low risk of addiction. For some, this transition is necessary. Using a weaker opiate to get rid of the stronger one is a smooth transition to recovery. Also, quitting stronger opiates is a helpful step on its own. Vivitrol shots can only be used if you no longer experience withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone can be taken without fearing increased withdrawal symptoms, even if it hasn’t been 2 weeks since your last strong opiate. However, Suboxone is just a temporary solution. The end goal is to get opiates out of your system completely. Also, Suboxone and Vivitrol cannot be taken at the same time. Even a weak opiate can trigger withdrawal symptoms when paired with an opiate antagonist.

Inpatient and Outpatient Clinics

Vivitrol treatment can be administered both in inpatient and outpatient clinics. However, you should be aware that outpatient clinics can be limited when it comes to the types of services they offer. While outpatient clinics provide the flexibility needed for busy people to continue working on their careers or go to college, they’re also more commonly recommended for people who already have their addictions under control. Generally, addictions are linked to trauma and personality disorders. In cases like these, inpatient clinics are preferred. Depending on the type of treatment you need, as well as your religious views or lack thereof, you will receive a holistic treatment that targets both the psychological and psychical aspects of the addiction. Alternative treatments in residential clinics can include cognitive behavioral therapy and support groups.

Vivitrol Interactions

When you’re taking a new medication, it’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor about what other drugs you’re taking and if there are any interactions. The three main drugs Vivitrol interacts with are as follows: Ibuprofen, Cymbalta and Suboxone. Ibuprofen can impact the liver, and pairing it with another drug that has the same effects on the liver, like Vivitrol, leads to a toxic cocktail. Even a healthy liver can be overwhelmed by the combination of the two drugs. If you’re experiencing joint pain, nausea, lack of appetite, vomiting, dark urine or yellowing of the skin and eyes, you should call your doctor right away. Cymbalta, like Ibuprofen, has a high risk of inducing hepatotoxicity when paired with Vivitrol shots. The symptoms of liver damage when using two medications simultaneously are similar to the ones described in the Ibuprofen and Vivitrol interaction. Suboxone shouldn’t be taken with Vivitrol simply because it contains a weak opiate, which can lead to withdrawals. Also, when taking Vitriol, your opiate sensitivity will increase, making withdrawals even worse than what you’re already used to. Often, when the addiction is very powerful, Suboxone is used first to help the addict get used to a weaker opioid. After the Suboxone therapy, Vivitrol is used to kill the desire for opioids altogether.

Vivitrol Allergy Signs

Allergic reactions to Vivitrol are a medical emergency and you should contact your doctor immediately if you experience the following:

  • Heavy breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Nausea, stomach pain, dark urine or yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Pain and redness where the medication was injected

This is not a complete list. If you experience any other unusual symptoms while on Vivitrol, contact your doctor.

Why Not Use Low Dose Naltrexone Pills?

Naltrexone is the same substance as Vivitrol, but it’s also produced in pill form. Many people who want to get rid of their addictions wonder why they cannot just use a low dose of naltrexone or LDN. Vivitrol shots are often expensive since not all Medicaid plans cover then. For many, LDN is the first thing that comes to their minds. But there is a good reason why it isn’t prescribed for addictions. LDN is used for autoimmune diseases. At times, it’s used as a complementary treatment for anxiety and depression. However, a lower dose of naltrexone will not help you get rid of the euphoria caused by opioids. LDN isn’t addictive at all and can be used over prolonged periods of time. That said, it won’t help with your addiction.

Will Vivitrol Make Me Gain Weight?

Weight gain is often associated with recoveries, not only from opiates but even from smoking. Vivitrol itself does not cause weight gain. However, many turn to food, especially in the first few months, to “fill the gap” that opioids have left in their lives. Weight gain tends to happen when food is used to bring emotional comfort.

Vivitrol Side Effects

While taking Vivitrol intramuscular shots can help you kill the desire to take opiates, there are a few side effects that come with it. Of course, not everyone experiences the same side effects, and some don’t experience any of them. But if you’re experiencing nausea, weakness, lack of appetite, insomnia, and irritability, it could be caused by Vivitrol. The side effects can be worsened if you drink alcohol or take opiates. Keep in mind that depending on how fast your metabolism is, a Vivitrol shot stays in your body anywhere between 30 and 40 days. A major side effect of Vivitrol is opiate sensitivity, which can lead to overdose and eventually death. It’s important to know that while on Vivitrol, opiates are not only useless, as they don’t have the same effects they used to, but potentially deadly too.

Why Vivitrol Is a Complementary Treatment

Many like to call Vivitrol a miracle drug. However, few understand that the shots are not enough to cure an addiction. The drug is not addictive at all. Rather, it’s just a temporary solution for the patient. First, you can’t keep someone on Vivitrol shots forever, as it can have a negative impact on liver enzymes. Also, many opiate addicts are sometimes pushed by friends and family to take the shots as a quick fix simply because the opiates will become useless. But without a combination of determination and a holistic approach to addiction, Vivitrol is indeed just a temporary fix. Addicts and their family members must understand that at some point they will be no longer able to use the shots to get by. This is why helping someone understand their addiction through therapy and recognizing the disastrous effects of opiates have on someone’s life is the most important part of recovery. When an addict is pushed by their friends and family to enter rehab and get the Vivitrol shot, it can lead to an even more disastrous addiction. Vivitrol only affects the absorption of opiates. Those who are addicted to opiates and can no longer feel the euphoria due to Vivitrol may search for the same high somewhere else. This could lead to addictions to new substances.

Drugs That Are Immune to Vivitrol Effects

Vivitrol is only an antagonist to opiates. This leaves a lot of room for other addictions to develop if the addict searches for the same high elsewhere. Here are a few drugs that are immune to Vivitrol: benzodiazepines, amphetamines, methamphetamine and marijuana. This is why it’s so important for Vivitrol to be administered only when the addict receives counseling, support and help from professionals. Often times, a weak opiate such as Suboxone is prescribed first to help in the healing process. If you or a loved one suffers from an addiction that’s been going on for years, you need to be aware of the temptation of using other types of drugs. In cases like this, residential rehabs could help.

Why Vivitrol Is so Important in the Treatment of Opiate Addiction

Vivitrol therapy has a very high success rate when used alongside other therapies such as counseling and support groups. The reason why some people get addicted to opiates is the short-lived euphoria and relaxed state. Most become addicted against their own will. There are many prescription medications that have a high risk of addiction. Vivitrol helps the addict by completely blocking the effects opiates have on the brain. This means that opiates no longer cause the same high. When the high is eliminated, many lose their motivation to use opiates again, since the drugs no longer provide the same benefit. The good part of this therapy is that it doesn’t involve taking a pill every day. Many would avoid taking the pills just to feel the effects of opiates again. Instead, Vivitrol is an intramuscular shot that is released into the body very slowly. The effects of one shot last up to 30 days. However, Vivitrol is not suitable for everyone and can interact with other medications. Pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with liver issues or blood clotting disorders are not eligible for this treatment. Also, the shots aren’t prescribed until your body stops exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. Otherwise, Vivitrol can make things worse. If you believe you or a loved one could benefit from Vivitrol therapy, don’t hesitate to take action. Professional treatments deal with all of the aspects of addiction, including emotional issues, and they also provide a supportive environment for those in need. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask us.

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