According to a brand-new study published in The Lancet, a once-a-a-month injection of Vivitrol is equally effective at preventing opioid relapse as oral Suboxone, a medication containing the opioid buprenorphine and the anti-abuse additive naloxone.
This is the first American study to compare these two medications, although a smaller Norwegian study was published in October 2017 in the Journal of American Medicine. These independent research teams came to the same conclusion – either medication is a viable option during Medical Assisted Treatment. (MAT).
Vivitrol – What Is It?
Vivitrol is an extended-release formulation of naltrexone given a monthly injection. Vivitrol totally blocks the pleasurable and intoxicating effects of opioids such as prescription painkillers (oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, etc.) and heroin.
In other words, once a person receives a Vivitrol injection, they will be unable to get “high” on any opioid for the next 4 weeks.
Vivitrol also significantly reduces the cravings felt by opioid-dependent addicts.
If an opioid abuser can’t get high and doesn’t feel cravings, they eventually lose the motivation to use.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. It binds to specific receptors within the brain and blocks the effects of all opioids, legal or not.
Unlike other recovery medications like Suboxone, Subutex, or methadone Vivitrol is NOT an opioid. This is important. Vivitrol does NOT:
- Get the user high
- Affect respiration
- Cause physical dependency or addiction
Each of these is a risk when those other medications are used.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has stated that Vivitrol has “no abuse and diversion potential”.
How Effective are Vivitrol Injections?
. The combination of Vivitrol and behavioral counseling is much more effective than counseling alone.
- 90% of Vivitrol/counseling patients enjoy opioid-free weeks, versus just 35% of those receiving counseling and a placebo.
- 55% of Vivitrol patients self-report reduced opioid cravings, compared to 3% of patients receiving counseling.
- Counseling/placebo patients are 17 times more likely than Vivitrol/counseling patients to physically relapse.
- On average, Vivitrol/counseling patients stay in opioid rehab for 168 days. Counseling/placebo patients stay for an average of 96 days.
- Overall, 67% of patients given naltrexone complete opioid addiction treatment. Of special relevance, when clonidine is also used, the “graduation” rate jumps to over 85%.
The keys to successful early recovery are staying in treatment, managing cravings, and remaining abstinent. Vivitrol can help with all of that.
Harry Powazek, a San Diego County Superior Court Judge, said this about Vivitrol –
“For most people, the cravings are diminished substantially where they’re at a stable place emotionally to take on the benefits of the counseling, the meetings, and the structure this program has to offer. They don’t feel they need to run out and use.”
Vivitrol’s Biggest Advantage
Methadone patients have to go to special clinics to receive their medications, and doctors need additional training and special certification before they can prescribe medications containing buprenorphine, such as Subutex or Suboxone.
This can be a major hurdle in some areas.
Only about 1 in 30 US doctors has the proper certification to prescribe buprenorphine medications. Some states have less than 20 certified providers. Federal law also limits newly-certified buprenorphine doctors to just 30 MAT patients during the first year of certification.
These restrictions severely reduce the availability of these medications.
However, ANY licensed doctor can prescribe Vivitrol.
Only about 10% of substance abusers get the treatment they need. Having a widely-available, non-addictive, effective medication like Vivitrol could be the game-changer that we’ve been waiting for.
As one of the most-trusted drug rehabs in Southern California, Chapman House supports any advancements that makes evidence-based treatment options available to more people in need.
by Albert Fontenot