With opioid and alcohol addiction rates in America skyrocketing, many health insurance providers find that they are paying out more and more for drug addiction treatments. Providers who contract with IPN and payers who use the IPN network are often given several treatment options to choose from.
Vivitrol has become one of the most highly recommended options for treating alcohol and opioid dependence. It can only be prescribed once patients are alcohol and opioid-free for a minimum of 7 to 10 days. If not, it may cause adverse effects.
This medication is used in medication-assisted treatments (MAT), which need to be paired with counselling and therapy. The active compound, naltrexone, is injected intramuscularly to the buttocks once a month to curb cravings and to manage withdrawal symptoms.
As an opioid antagonist, it blocks opioid receptors, so patients can focus on the psychological aspects of treatment. It’s one of the safest and most effective treatment options out there, surpassing Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT) in many ways.
A Comparison of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT)
There are several minor differences between medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT). Both can be used to treat both alcohol and opioid addictions; however, their end goal is different.
MAT uses medications that block opioid and alcohol cravings completely. These medications deter further substance use, and are not addictive at all. This treatment plan aims to help patients reach complete abstinence.
ORT, on the other hand, replaces strong opioids with weaker ones. The weaker opioids will still allow patients to experience euphoric sensations, albeit milder ones. The goal of ORT is to reduce drug use, and not complete abstinence. As a result, this treatment plan hopes to gradually wean patients off of illicit drug use while avoiding intense withdrawal symptoms. In other words, it “manages” an addiction, and doesn’t treat it completely.
ORT drugs are a subtype of MAT; however, MAT drugs are not necessarily a part of ORT. Now that we know the differences between the two we can dive into the 10 reasons why Vivitrol injections are a safer and more effective option than many other alternatives on the market.
Reason #1: Vivitrol Is Non-Addictive
The active ingredient in Vivitrol is naltrexone. Naltrexone blocks chemical responses that make consuming opioids and alcohol a rewarding experience. It’s also non-addictive, and has a zero potential for abuse. Developing a dependence on this medication is impossible.
Other medications used for opioid and alcohol addiction are addictive because they have a similar mechanism of action to opioids. They attach to opioid receptors and cause the neurotransmitters to relay euphoric sensations to the brain. They, unfortunately, can be abused. Some patients can even develop a secondary addiction to these medications. Some of these medications are quite potent. Methadone is 5 times stronger than morphine, while buprenorphine can be up to 30 times stronger than morphine.
Patients who receive Vivitrol injections will never develop a secondary addiction. Since it doesn’t cause euphoric sensations, it also cannot be abused, and patients cannot get addicted to it.
Reason #2: The Goal Is Total Abstinence
As mentioned above, Vivitrol is more effective in treating addictions because it is used in MAT. The primary goal of this type of treatment is abstinence-based recovery. This therapy helps patients maintain lasting sobriety from all types of addictive substances.
Vivitrol blocks all opioid receptors. Patients who continue to drink or take opioids will not experience any effects at all. This encourages most drug abusers to stop, as they no longer receive any benefit from consuming addictive substances.
ORT drugs, on the other hand, are not necessarily used for total abstinence. They have an addictive potential themselves. The primary goal of this treatment is to reduce drug use. Although they bind to opioid receptors to block cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms, patients will still experience a high, if they continue to drink or take opioids.
Reason #3: Ease of Administration
One of the most distinctive features of Vivitrol is there’s no need to adjust the dose of this medication. The dose remains the same regardless of a patient’s:
- Health status
A single injection of 380mg is sufficient for maintaining blood levels above 1ng/cc for 4 to 5 weeks. As long as the concentration remains above this threshold, the medication is effective.
In the case of buprenorphine, most healthcare providers start the dosage at 8mg sublingually once a day. The dosage can be increased in increments of 2mg or 4mg until it reaches a level that helps manages withdrawal symptoms. In short, the treatment plan must be personalized to each patient. If the dosage is incorrect, the plan will be ineffective, and patients will be more likely to relapse.
When pills are prescribed, patients need around-the-clock supervision. With Vivitrol injections, this is no longer necessary. There’s no guesswork involved.
Reason #4: A Longer Mechanism of Action
Once Vivitrol is injected, the medication will remain in the patient’s body for about 30 days, and the effects begin to kick in within 30 minutes. Within the 30 days, the medication is effective for treating alcohol or drug addiction. The prolonged drug action ensures that patients get the most out of the medication, as the effects last longer.
All other alternatives have a much shorter mechanism of action. The half-life of buprenorphine ranges from 24 to 60 hours. The effects peak after 200 minutes. Within several days, all metabolites are cleared from the body.
Reason #5: A Higher Medication Adherence Rate
Medication compliance or adherence refers a patient’s ability to take medications as prescribed. This involves taking the right dosage at the right time. Non-adherence and non-compliance are common in America, regardless of the disease or condition being treated. Non-adherence has an economic impact of about $100 – $300 billion annually.
To treat alcohol addiction, the Food and Drugs Administration has approved the following three medications:
- Naltrexone, otherwise known as Vivitrol
It’s difficult for many patients to adhere to the addiction treatment regime, when it comes to pills. Vivitrol has a much higher medication adherence and compliance rate, as injections are only needed once a month and are administered by a medical professional.
Studies have shown that only 20% of patients were compliant in taking disulfiram, while 60% to 90% of patients were compliant with getting Vivitrol injections. This means that 80% of patients who receive pills are likely to relapse or have difficulties staying abstinent.
There’s little room for error when it comes to Vivitrol. Our medical director, Dr. Weathers, writes the prescriptions, and a nurse administers the monthly shots. We’ll schedule appointments with patients to ensure that they receive their medication on time. This drastically improves medication adherence. By adhering to the medical regime, patients have a better shot at recovery.
Vivitrol also comes with a reduced risk of pill taking error. Patients won’t accidentally take two doses or miss a dose.
Reason #6: A Shorter Treatment Length
The treatment length for Vivitrol ranges from 6 months to a year. It’s determined by the medical staff, and influenced by one’s mental state and health.
Vivitrol is not meant to be a long-term drug. Patients who receive this medication will opt out of it after the treatment term. They will then become medication-free.
The treatment length for other medications, like methadone, varies greatly. While recreational users may only need the medication for several months, others may need it for years. This is partially because these medications have an addictive potential. The longer treatment length means that patients will require more help. It also means that the cost of these alternative medications can add up and surpass the cost of Vivitrol treatments by several folds.
Reason #7: Fewer Side Effects
Another distinctive feature of Vivitrol use is the lack of side effects. Many patients do not experience any side effects at all. The side effects that are more common for this medication are much milder in comparison to the side effects of other alternative treatments available.
Side effects of Vivitrol are usually temporary. They will subside with time. Here’s a comparison of some of the more common side effects of Vivitrol with other drugs:
There are some unique side effects to Vivitrol injections. For one, some patients experience injection site reactions. Possible injection site reactions include blisters, pain, lumps, scabbing and swelling.
Reason #8: Impossible to Misuse
Many drug abusers will attempt to misuse the drugs in various ways to see if it’s possible to experience euphoric sensations. The effects of drugs like buprenorphine and methadone can become more potent, if the drug is misused and taken in ways other than prescribed. It’s possible to swallow, chew, crush and snort and even inject these drugs.
As a nurse injects Vivitrol, it is impossible to misuse this medication in ways other than prescribed. This enhances the safeness and effectiveness of the treatment.
Reason #9: Proven Effectiveness
Since its debut, many studies have looked at the effectiveness of Vivitrol. It hasn’t disappointed anyone yet. Patients who received Vivitrol, along with counseling, experienced a 55% decrease in opioid cravings. 90% of patients also enjoyed opioid-free weeks. Overall, patients were also 17 times less likely to relapse due to physical dependence to opioids.
At the 24-week mark, 74% of patients still submitted urine samples that were negative for opioids. This shows that the treatment is effective long-term.
A Comparison of Vivitrol and Suboxone
Many people are interested in how Vivitrol measures against well-established medications like Suboxone. Fortunately, there’s also been a lot of research in this field as well. While the results vary a bit, the conclusion is largely the same.
From one of the most referenced studies, 56% of patients who took Suboxone relapsed. In comparison, only 52% of patients who received Vivitrol relapsed. Vivitrol is just as effective as Suboxone when used for alcohol and opiate addiction.
Reason #10: No Need for Vivitrol Detox
There are no withdrawal symptoms associated with Vivitrol treatments. As a result, it’s not necessary to detox from this medication. Patients can quit whenever they feel confident in their abilities to stay sober.
In comparison, other options, like Suboxone and methadone, have an addictive potential. This means that quitting will result in the emergence of withdrawal symptoms. Patients who rely on ORT will need to go through a secondary detox, as they slowly wean off of those medications.
Understanding the Effectiveness of Vivitrol Injections
When approving medications for opioid and alcohol addiction, it’s important not to dismiss Vivitrol injections. Vivitrol injections are just safe and effective as many other options available. In fact, it offers many benefits that other medications simply cannot.
If you need more information about this type of treatment plan, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information. We’ll walk you through the entire process, as well as the efficiency ratings and compliance ratings, for this medication.