Medication-Assisted Treatment and Support with the Use of Vivitrol


Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) combines the use of medications approved by the United States of America’s Food and Drug Administration or FDA with comprehensive behavioral therapy and support to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use addiction, usually related to opioid dependence including withdrawal, craving, and relapse prevention.


About Opioid Addiction

Teens and young adults are usually introduced to opioids through prescription as opioid drugs are used to treat moderate to severe pain, and sometimes even coughing and diarrhea, when lighter pain medications do not work. The opioid drugs bind opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body, and condition the brain that it is not experiencing pain. Common prescription opioids include Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, and Morphine.

Because they are readily prescribed, the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s publication includes opioids or painkillers among the most abused drugs in the United States. It is common for those prescribed with opioids to misuse them and switch to stronger but cheaper opioids like Heroin.

Short term effects of opioid usage include pain relief, drowsiness, and slowed breathing. Meanwhile, long term effects include constipation, unconsciousness, and nausea. Obviously, continued abuse of opioids can result in the individual’s physical dependence and addiction to opioids.

How MAT and Support help with Opioid Addiction?

An opioid abuser cannot recover by simply stopping their opioid intake because when their use of opioids are reduced or stopped, they may experience withdrawal symptoms which includes feeling of restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, and vomiting that may make recovery from the drug abuse even harder.

A common misconception with MAT is that it substitutes one drug for another. In reality, medications used in MAT help the individual be relieved of withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings that causes the chemical imbalances.

Methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are medications all used to treat opioid dependence. However, unlike the first two which are agonist drugs, naltrexone is a full antagonist drug to opioids.

What is Vivitrol and how does it work?

Vivitrol, the extended release branded formulation of naltrexone, works differently from methadone and buprenorphine. Instead of stimulating the opioid receptions in the brain like what the other two drugs do, Vivitrol blocks the effects of the opioid drugs at the receptor level to decrease or prevent the feeling of reward or euphoria from the continued drug use.

Another difference that it has from the other two medications is that it should only be administered once the individual has already completely withdrawn from the use of opioids to avoid the withdrawal symptoms from happening. The waiting period after the last use of opioid and the start of the Vivitrol treatment can be as long as 10 days, depending on the severity of drug abuse.

Vivitrol is administered only once every four weeks via an intramuscular injection, in contrast to the daily oral medication with pills.

Pros and cons of Vivitrol

Perhaps one of the most significant advantage of using Vivitrol is that it is non-addictive, which removes the risk of the individual developing a secondary addiction to the medications supposedly assisting them away from substance use addiction, like what most people fear from MAT.

Another benefit of using Vivitrol is that when used by people highly motivated in their treatment, it lessens chances for relapse, especially in the early stages of recovery.

However, that only means that those who are evaluated to be less motivated to recover from drug abuse are not ideal candidates for Vivitrol treatment. Any attempt to administer large doses of opioids to try to bypass the blockade that Vivitrol posed to prevent the reward feeling from opioid usage may lead to serious injury, coma, or even death.

Also used to treat alcoholism, Vivitrol can cause mild side effects to the individual as well which includes nausea, headache, drowsiness, and anxiety. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s official publication shares the open-label safety study on naltrexone conducted by Dupont Pharma in 570 individuals with alcoholism which shows that 10% of the participants experienced nausea, and five to seven percent of participants have even experienced depression from using naltrexone.

Pregnant women, people with kidney and liver problems, and those with bleeding problems such as low platelets and hemophilia cannot take Vivitrol as well.

As a full-service rehabilitation center, R&R Recovery at Seacliff offers a variety of substance use addiction treatments including Medication-Assisted Treatment and Support, with initial individual assessments to evaluate the appropriate level of care for each and every patient, and identify the best option for drug addiction treatment.

Medication-Assisted Treatment and Support with the use of Vivitrol is just one of the many choices one may have for treating substance use addiction. Consult with R&R Recovery at Seacliff about the best treatment choices for every individual.

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