Vivitrol Is Not Replacement For Rehab
A recent VICE article regarding Vivitrol and its prescribed use among those struggling with addiction has brought the new opioid treatment drug to the forefront. The latest statistics show that roughly 1 in 12 Americans suffer from addiction; that’s more Americans suffering from addiction than cancer. Alarmingly, an American dies of an opioid overdose every 19 minutes – a prescription drug no less.
It’s therefore reasonable to assume that if you don’t struggle with addiction, you’ve known someone who does. These frightening statistics raise a legitimate question: What can we do to end this epidemic?
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America Has an Addiction Problem
Like many other chronic diseases, there’s no cure for addiction. There are several options for treatment and management. Like cancer, however, every patient requires a customized, complex therapeutic intervention.
A casual search of the internet for opioid or addiction treatment returns lists of “treatment centers,” which quickly alienates some people or “magic pills,” prescriptions for addiction.
It’s safe to say America is a “pill-happy” country; we opt for quick solutions for our diseases. It’s understandable that if there were a pill or an injection readily available to ease the pain, most people would prefer that treatment.
Unfortunately, addiction is not easily treatable. This fact is why it is essential to attack it with robust treatment but also use caution when prescribing medicines for those who suffer from this terrible disease.
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Prescription Drug vs. Drug Addiction
Physicians commonly prescribe three medications to treat opioid abuse: methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Buprenorphine is best known by the trade name Suboxone. Next, naltrexone is a pill or injectable prescription drug sold under the brand Vivitrol. All three prescriptions have transitioned drug users from active drug use to recovery. Indeed, several of the accredited treatment programs we work with incorporate medication into their program, alongside therapy and counseling.
However, each of these medicines comes with their own list of side effects and dangers. These medications are not a cure. Not even one of these can get someone out of active addiction on its own. Each one must be utilized in conjunction with carefully monitored wellness checks, counseling, and 12-step groups. Americans, however, are a people looking desperately for easy and quick solutions. More and more of us turn to these prescriptions. In some cases, courts are even forcing patients to enter into treatment based on medications. Vivitrol is one prescription drug that’s being ordered, and the outcomes aren’t always positive.
To give them credit, Vivitrol isn’t trying to hide or play down the side effects of treatment. While naltrexone is available in a pill form, Vivitrol is an injectable form of the medicine. The monthly injection blocks opioid receptors in the user’s brain. When taking it, users don’t feel the euphoria or high that they would usually feel from using.
On the downside, it can block the patient from experiencing any enjoyment at all, including the simple pleasures that all people—especially those in recovery—require to make life better. This includes things like enjoyment from companionship, music, favorite foods, or other ways to cope with the stress of life.
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Treating Symptoms With Additional Symptoms
This might not sound so bad by itself, but addicts must learn to enjoy living in positive ways that don’t include prescription drugs, alcohol, or substances. When an addict feels as if they have nothing positive ahead, or that nothing any longer pleases them, the chance of relapse increases significantly.
This fact means that Vivitrol users who feel depressed after the injection are almost certain to relapse. Because nearly 60% of those with struggle with addiction will relapse, either with or without using prescribed medications. This is a critical statistic when considering prescribing a drug like Vivitrol. In fact, Vivitrol itself warns that severe depression and increased risk of suicide can result from the injections. They clearly state that there were two suicides during the initial trials of the prescription drug.
Aside from blocking the feeling of high for a user, it also claims to cut cravings during recovery. While it can be helpful in the beginning, this must be weighed carefully against some of the more alarming side effects. Vivitrol increases the chance of a relapse with overdose.
It’s a dangerous game as active addicts will try to break the barrier that blocks the “high” feeling by using enormous amounts of opiates and overdoes. Vivitrol patients rapidly lose their tolerance to their drugs of choice; then, if they miss their shot and attempt to use, they overdose due to the decreased tolerance. This leads to fatalities.
Those who choose Vivitrol must understand that they must be 100% committed to recover so that they don’t die of an overdose.
Overdose is not the only side effect. The actual injections can be brutal. There are documented cases of tissue death around the injection site—another listed side effect. Compared to the other prescriptions for addiction treatment, Vivitrol seems to be the riskiest option.
Isn’t it odd, then, that treatment courts are mandating that patients accept this medication as part of their plea deals?
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Vivitrol: It’s Not The Addiction Cure
Anyone considering treatment has treatment options to consider and crucial choices to make. There is not a vaccine or cure for addiction, and a choice of medicine-assisted treatment should be made with grave consideration. Naturally, medication is only one part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program. The best accredited treatment programs place a stronger emphasis on dual diagnosis. The prevalent philosophy in addiction treatment is that medication is a course of action which must be combined with additional therapies. One thing that’s crystal clear is that prescription medications alone do not cure addiction.
Every person is ready for treatment should weigh their options while considering that it truly can be a life or death choice. Addicts who have gotten clean and sober—and stayed there—will testify that they are happy they chose to regain control of their life and credit a strong support network as the number one factor in their ongoing recovery.
So, if you or someone you care deeply for is considering treatment options, get the facts and make a fully informed decision. Remember that those fighting with addictions must be ready and able to fully and actively participate in their treatment program for it to be effective.
Check out some of our tips for helping a loved one get into rehab or call the number below if you or your loved one is ready and willing to take the next step towards long-lasting sobriety.