Vivitrol, a form of naltrexone, is an opiate/opioid antagonist. This means that it works on opioid brain receptors in a manner opposite that of opioids. In other words, when a person takes an opioid medication, the molecules of that medication “fit” into receptor sites in the brain, very similar to the way a key fits into a lock. This causes the opioid effects such as pain relief and euphoria. Opioids can also cause unpleasant effects like nausea, and if enough is taken, can even cause life-threatening suppression of the brain’s breathing center. Opioid antagonists like naltrexone work to reverse these effects and/or prevent them from occurring.
Is Vivitrol Safe? Is it Effective?
Vivitrol is safe as long as you are not allergic to it. It must be used with counseling, and the patient cannot be actively dependent upon opioids when they begin therapy. Vivitrol is given only once a month. It’s a long-acting injection. As long as the patient stays compliant and keeps their injection appointment, Vivitrol is extremely effective. This is because the antagonistic effects of naltrexone in the brain totally prevent any “high” from opioids. Even if the patient weakens and takes them, they will feel nothing because the brain’s opioid receptors are blocked. Only one molecule can occupy a receptor at a time, and naltrexone has a higher affinity, or priority, for the brain’s opioid receptors.
Benefits of Vivitrol Therapy:
It’s Not Addictive
Vivitrol works by blocking opioid receptors, not by stimulating them. There is no danger of addiction to Vivitrol.
Helps Patients Break Their Addiction
Recovering addicts can focus on rebuilding their lives, knowing that “giving in to temptation” won’t have the desired effect. They know they can’t get high so they think about other things.
Steady, Automatic Dosing
Because Vivitrol is an extended-release injection, there is no need to take a pill or go to a clinic every day. It provides 24-hour blockage and therefore protection against any opioid-induced “high” for a full month.
Some Possible Disadvantages
Like any other medical therapy, Vivitrol isn’t perfect. For example, if the patient actually needed pain relief, say, due to an accident, because their receptors are blocked, they would not experience the pain relief normally provided by opioids. Also the success of Vivitrol depends upon the patient continuing to show up for their injections on time.