Does Vivitrol Help With Drug Withdrawal?

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 877-978-3125. It’s all confidential. We will help you find the best drug treatment options for you.

Real Client Testimonials

  • Before coming to coastal I was hopeless, helpless, and my family wanted nothing to do with me. It wasn’t the first detox I’d ever been to, but it was the only one who showed me so much love and compassion. They gave me hope. It’s hard to put into words the amount of gratitude I have for this facility. The employees were my family when I had none. The staff went out of their way to make sure not only were my physical needs taken care of, but my emotional needs as well. From the first phone call prior to admission, to helping me set up continuing care, they never missed a beat. Even going as far as to help me with my legal issues via Zoom court. This isn’t just a detox, they are the family I never had. All of the techs, especially Karen, are phenomenal. They will take the time to listen to you, laugh, and cry(if needed) with you. If you are reading this and you or your loved one is suffering like I was, go to Coastal Detox. The level of care is more than I could ever put into a review. It wasn’t the first detox I’d been to, but it has been my last; I owe them everything I have today, including my life.

    Travis B Avatar
    Travis B.
    12/07/2020
  • Had a really good experience at Coastal. The staff really went above and beyond in helping me get in and gave me the respect l, space and care I needed after I first got there. As I started to fell better they encouraged me to take part in groups which helped get me out of my head and bring positivity and health to my thinking. They had a great massage therapist, who came daily and it was evident the nursing staff genuinely cared. Got to know some of the staff as well and I’m grateful for the cooks Joe and Chris. Those guys literally made us sirloins and pork chops for dinner. Also I gotta thank Chris and Chris for helping me get in and setting me up with a transition plan. Real grateful for that help, I’m not sure if it’s management intention to hire guys named Chris but they got a good thing going there. Overall, I’m clean and sober today and walking it out. Coastal gave me a base that set me up for the success that I’m walking in today

    Brandon B. Avatar
    Brandon B.
    1/16/2020
  • My family is very thankful for Coastal Detox. They have went above and beyond for my son a few times. Unfortunately he has needed their help more than once and they have ever turned their back on him, even when he was at his worst. Jeannie and Chris have been amazing and kept me informed through the entire process. They truly care about the addict and want to help them especially when it would be easy to give up on them. I had many detox facilities be rude and uncaring to me when I was searching for help for my son, but Coastal never did that to us. I don't know the names of all the team members that have helped my son but I know their are many and y'all are angels!! One day we will be able to pay it forward and help someone as you have helped us. Thank you for all you do!!

    Brenda A. Avatar
    Brenda A.
    1/01/2020
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/13/2019
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/06/2019

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