Does Vivitrol Help With Drug Withdrawal?

vivitrol rehab

Vivitrol is an opiate blocker. It’s used to help recovering alcohol and opiate abusers to remain clean. It will not help with drug withdrawal. In fact, it can only be administered after the detox process. This is because it can cause an active opiate addict to become very sick.

More About Vivitrol

Vivitrol is an extended release product. It’s given as an injection once a month. Its active ingredient is naltrexone. Naltrexone reverses the effects of opiates. It’s sometimes used as a rescue drug for overdose victims. Someone who has dangerously overdosed on opiates has saturated their opiate brain receptors to the point that they can no longer breathe. They will die within minutes without help. Opiate blockers like naltrexone and naloxone, known by its brand name, Narcan, reverse all opiate effects nearly immediately. They have saved many lives.

Opiates work by attaching to the brain’s opiate receptors. In therapeutic doses, that’s how they relieve pain. But opiates also can suppress the brain’s breathing center if too much is taken. Both naltrexone and naloxone have a high affinity for the brain’s opiate receptor sites. This means that both of them have a higher preference for the receptor sites in the brain than opiates do. They both enter the brain, and they push the opiate molecules off the receptor sites. The opiate blocker will occupy the site instead. Only one molecule can occupy a receptor site at a time. As long as the blocking molecule is on the receptor, the circulating opiate molecules can do nothing. The body will eventually break them down and eliminate them.

It’s also why Vivitrol is useless for drug withdrawal. It will only make it worse. The instant removal of opiate molecules from the brain’s receptor sites will throw an active opiate addict into instant, full-blown opiate withdrawal. They will become very, very sick. Sometimes this is necessary in order to save a person’s life, but it should never be part of a drug treatment program.

Opiate rescue drugs such as naltrexone and naloxone don’t always work as they should. They have their limitations. They may not be strong enough to overcome such very powerful drugs as carfentanil and acrylfentanyl. Both are analogues, or chemical cousins, of fentanyl. Fentanyl is about 30 times stronger than heroin. Carfentanil is about 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Carfentanil is used legally only as an anesthetic for huge animals like elephants and rhinos. It has no accepted medical use for humans. Unfortunately, carfentanil and other illegal, ultra-powerful fentanyl analogues are used to cut street heroin by dealers who don’t know how to do it safely.

Overdose from fentanyl-laced heroin is becoming more common every day. Because they are so powerful, these analogues may be resistant to both naltrexone and naloxone. This is a problem. In an overdose situation, every second counts. Any delay could mean death for the patient.

Vivitrol Helps Former Addicts to Stay Clean

Vivitrol, the brand name for a form of extended-release naltrexone, cannot be used to help addicts with withdrawal symptoms. However, it can and does help some people stay clean from both alcohol and opiates. Vivitrol can only be given after total detox from opiates or alcohol. The body must be free of all opiates for at least ten days before Vivitrol therapy can be started.

Vivitrol is given once a month by injection. Once in the body, it will seek out and occupy the brain’s opiate receptor sites on a continuous basis. If the former addict weakens and uses and opiate, it will have no effect. There will be no high. The addict will simply feel nothing. There is no incentive for an addict to use opiates while they are on Vivitrol. Of course, after a month or so, the medication will wear off. It’s up to the addict to show up for their next injection appointment. If they do not, they are once again able to feel an opiate’s effects. This leads to one of the main dangers of Vivitrol therapy, which is accidental opiate overdose.

Vivitrol Dangers

People who take opiates over a period of time will develop a physical dependence upon the drug. They will also develop what is called a tolerance. Tolerance means that the body needs more and more of the opiate in order for the user to feel any effects. Tolerance also means than the user can take higher doses of an opiate without overdosing. Tolerance to opiates, over time, can rise to amazing levels. Some users with very high tolerance levels can take doses of opiates that would kill someone with no tolerance at all.

However, tolerance isn’t permanent. A user’s tolerance level will fall rather rapidly if they abstain from opiate use. Someone who has been clean because of Vivitrol has been clean for at least a month. If they allow the medication to wear off, and then use opiates again, they may miscalculate their tolerance level and easily take too much. They don’t realize that their tolerance level has tumbled, and they can no longer safely take their former dose. It’s very easy to fatally overdose in this kind of situation.

Vivitrol Side Effects

Vivitrol can also produce the following side effects:

  • Liver damage
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Nausea

Except for liver damage, these symptoms are the same as those of opiate withdrawal. No one really knows what long-term occupation of the brain’s opiate receptor sites by naltrexone might do. The sites are intended to be occupied by natural brain chemicals known as endorphins. Endorphins relieve pain and cause feelings of well-being, pleasure and reward. What happens when endorphins are blocked from their receptor sites in the long-term?

On the other hand, illegal opiate use, especially of heroin, puts a user’s life at risk. There is no doubt that Vivitrol has helped many motivated former addicts to remain clean.

If you have decided that you would like to stop using drugs, we can help. We are here 24 hours a day. Just call us at 866-802-6848. It’s all confidential. We will help you find the best drug treatment options for you.