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Vivitrol is what people are calling the anti-addiction drug. There is a cure for drug addiction? I’ll take two! Vivitrol itself is non-addictive and will not cause a chemical dependency, making it an appealing alternative to drugs like buprenorphine or methadone. So why, why are we not funding this to be distributed across the country? A number of families, including my own, that have been torn apart by the hand of addiction is not a secret. A cure for addiction? Take my money! So what’s the holdup?

Naltrexone is the working substance in Vivitrol which causes an antagonist to slip into the opioid receptors in your brain, creating a barrier that keeps opioid molecules from reaching their intended destination. Vivitrol is an extended-release shot administered intramuscularly every four weeks. It is said to decrease cravings for alcohol and opioids in addicts. So in theory, no cravings, no addiction.

The biggest problem I’ve come across in my research is that it’s being used commonly by minors who are not desperately seeking sobriety but are desperately trying to keep a roof over their heads by their parents, who are insisting they take the drug in order to make them get clean. If you are new to the subject of addiction I can tell you right now with confidence, you cannot help someone that is not willing to help themselves. Notice that I didn’t say, “those who do not want help.” I have had plenty of people ask for help that are unwilling to receive it or do their part.

I am well aware of the absolute heartbreaking experience it is to watch your child consistently put themselves at risk of death every day. It’s downright tragic. I am not a stranger to the feeling of watching someone you love hang themselves on the other side of a glass wall that you are unable to break through. “Making” someone take an addiction treatment drug is debatably more dangerous than allowing them to continue to use.

So What Exactly Is Vivitrol?

Vivitrol blocks the opioid receptors in your brain. While you may feel some effect of the drugs, the euphoric sensation will be inaccessible. Great, right? Why use a drug if it no longer feels good?  I don’t think you need to be an addict to relate to the idea of continuing something that once made you feel good in hopes of finding that sense of ease and comfort you had in the beginning. Most commonly, I see this in relationships of both alcoholics and regularly functioning people alike. An addict is in a constant state of discomfort. Think about the most insecure situation you have ever been in, the most unsafe you’ve ever felt, the most desperate desire you’ve ever had. That is how an addict feels every single day. So if my drugs aren’t working, I am taking more, no questions asked.

While the high is still not active, the heroin or alcohol is still pumping through your blood. This isn’t even the most common reason for overdose in Vivitrol patients. Your sensitivity to opioids at this point is heightened because your tolerance is significantly decreased due to the 10 sober days required before taking your first dose of long-term opioid blockers.

This leads me to my next quarrel. Taking opioid-blockers will cause immediate withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can cause excruciating pain and discomfort:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking
  • Aches
  • Fever
  • Severe anxiety  

Withdrawal, in severe cases, can be fatal to someone whose body has become completely chemically dependent. Doctors prescribing Vivitrol require (in most cases) that the patient has 7 -10 days clean before receiving their first dose.  In addition, they may require a urine sample to verify that drugs have left the patient’s system. So by the time a patient receives their miracle drug, the worst part is over. However, the ongoing difficulties an addict experiences are not completely over after being clean for 10 days. My cravings lasted for almost three months after my last drink and I would have done ANYTHING to make them stop. I personally found my peace of mind elsewhere, since I had never heard of  Vivitrol nor had any idea anything like it was even in existence.

Is it A Miracle Drug?

So what if someone in my position were to hear about the “anti-addiction drug”? I was desperate for a cure. I would have paid my life savings for one dose. There are cases of people staying clean on opioid-blocking drugs. Not only staying clean but swearing by it! Feeling that sense of ease from Vivitrol was enough to give them time to learn how to function in society without getting high.

I’ve heard people on numerous occasions talk about the relief they’ve felt when they realized they could still have fun without using drugs and/or alcohol.  However, when I first started my journey towards sobriety, I realized that I didn’t have much experience doing some of the most mundane tasks sober.  For example, it had been years since I had even done my laundry sober. So giving someone that first glimpse of what their life could look like, without a voice inside their head demanding that they slip away from reality, is without a doubt, a miracle.

As we’ve become accustomed to, with any ‘miracle treatment’ comes a list of common side effects:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Acne
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoric mood
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Dehydration

On top of these and several more, there is just such a huge chance of overdose if you were to use again, that they may as well put that on the list. I don’t want to take away from the fact that it has worked before and it could work for you. However, this drug is very dangerous and should only be administered to someone who is committed to sobriety as an attempt to relieve the cravings. Vivitrol has enabled millions of people to overcome their cravings until the obsession to use has significantly diminished.

Every recovered human being that I have ever met had one thing in common: they couldn’t stop. A million things didn’t work a million times and somehow they found a way. Vivitrol is just one resource out there available to addicts who haven’t yet found their way.