Vivitrol (Naltrexone) is a drug that can ease the cravings during the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction. Vivitrol is only an aid to treatment and should not replace a traditional residential treatment plan.
Vivitrol (the brand name for Naltrexone) has recently gotten the reputation as a kind of “cure” for alcoholism. It is a drug that is usually taken daily in tablet form and leads to reduced cravings for alcohol. Naltrexone is also prescribed to some people to be used while they are still drinking with the intention that it will block the pleasure of drinking and gradually reduce cravings until the person finally quits completely. Naltrexone
is also used in the treatment of opioid addiction as it blocks the receptors affected by opiate-based drugs (like OxyContin, Heroin, and Vicodin).
How Does Vivitrol Work?
Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist which means that it blocks the parts of the brain that drugs and alcohol bond with, thus reducing cravings and making the substances less “euphoric” to use.
Naltrexone Is Not a Cure or a ‘Miracle Drug’
Naltrexone has gotten favorable press (for instance, on shows like CNN’s recent addiction special starring Sanjay Gupta) when someone who uses Naltrexone achieves sobriety and claims that the substance has removed their cravings completely.
Our rehab center has been treating alcoholism and drug addiction for almost 25 years in Southern California with great success rates. Our staff of therapists, psychiatrists, and addiction physicians takes great pride in staying on the cutting edge of treatment technology and processes.
Our experience with Naltrexone has led us to the conclusion that it is an effective tool in the fight to overcome alcoholism or addiction, but is not a solution in itself. Naltrexone can help stave off cravings for a newly sober person to get through the very difficult early months of recovery. Naltrexone acts on the chemical and physical component of craving, but does not address the emotional and intellectual side of addiction. Naltrexone is not a permanent solution because the person who is using it can merely skip a daily dose (or neglect to have their implant re-injected) and then use alcohol or drugs and experience their full effect.
What our staff has learned to do in our years of treating alcoholism and drug addiction is use medications like Naltrexone to assist in early sobriety, thus allowing people to begin the healing process of addressing underlying issues that fuel their addiction. It is commonly understood even by people who’ve never experienced addiction that merely removing the addictive chemical is not enough to achieve long-term sobriety. To really experience a rewarding life in recovery, the addicted person needs to change their perception of events in their past, improve their self-esteem, participate in support groups, and change the way they live their lives.
It is a common adage that a person in recovery will say, “I don’t have a drinking problem, I have a living problem.” This statement is the foundation of why our treatment center is so effective in treating addiction and alcoholism. Sober Living by the Sea shows men and women how to enjoy a life free of alcohol and drugs.
To help you understand our approach to using medications like Naltrexone and Suboxone, read our blog entries that describe a Suboxone Success Story and a Suboxone Failure Story. (Suboxone is also an opioid receptor antagonist that is used in early recovery to reduce cravings.)
Naltrexone Injection/Implant (Vivitrol)
There is also an injectable form of Naltrexone called Vivitrol that allows rehab patients to get an intramuscular injection of the drug which will slowly dissolve over the course of a month. This is a popular option because it allows the recovering person to receive the medication monthly and reduces the opportunity for the patient to miss a dose, which may increase the temptation to relapse on drugs or alcohol.
Side Effects of Naltrexone
The side effects of Naltrexone include:
- stomach irritation
- blurred vision
- muscle/joint pain
These side effects are known to be more common for users during the first few doses of the medication.
Naltrexone Used for Rapid Detoxification from Opioids
Naltrexone has also been used for men and women to detox more comfortably from opioids like heroin, OxyContin, and other narcotic painkillers. Opioid detoxification is known to be very difficult. Rapid detoxification from opioids means that the person will be either unconscious or heavily sedated while they are given Naltrexone and then when the person is revived, the worst part of the withdrawals has passed and the symptoms of withdrawal will be softened by the Naltrexone.
Our treatment centers have partners that offer a variety of drug detoxification regimens including Suboxone detoxification and rapid detoxification.