The pharmaceutical drug Vivitrol has been making the news for the past few years, and is considered the new, top drug for replacement therapy or medication assisted therapy to help people beat opioid addiction. In reality, Vivitrol works by sedating the areas of the body that crave opioids. It does nothing to actually “solve the addiction.”
The New York Times reports:
“Not a single study has been completed comparing Vivitrol with its less expensive competitors. Some studies have shown high dropout rates or found that many participants returned to opioid use while taking Vivitrol or after going off it. In one study that the company used to secure the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Vivitrol for opioid addiction treatment, conducted with 250 patients in Russia, nearly half of those who got Vivitrol failed to stay abstinent over a six-month period, although they stayed abstinent and in treatment longer than those who got a placebo.”
Clearly, Vivitrol isn’t quite the miracle drug that its manufacturers would like us to believe it is. In reality, it’s not much different from other medication assisted treatments like suboxone and methadone, although the pharmaceutical company that produces Vivitrol called Alkermes would like us to think differently.
There are a few differences. For one, Vivitrol is an implant rather than a pill like methadone or suboxone that needs to be taken every day. The implant allows doctors to carefully control how powerful and potent the dosages the patients receive is, and it is much harder to abuse than methadone and suboxone. The fact that Vivitrol is implanted under the skin makes it highly unlikely it will be resold on the streets.
So while Vivitrol may have some benefits in abuse reduction from methadone and suboxone, the bottom line is that it does nothing to address the actual addiction.
We Need Real Solutions
Vivitrol is a bandaid solution at best. It does help to address the physical craving for opiates, but it does nothing to address the mental and psychological components of addiction. It also does not help to ween the person off of opioids so the body can detox naturally.
Vivitrol works be automatically injecting a very small dose of naltrexone into the patient every day. Eventually it will need to be reloaded or changed out. The ideology seems to be that an addict needs to take Vivitrol every day for the rest of their lives, because if the implant was ever removed, they would just go right back to craving opioids. It’s just not the miracle solution that is marketed to be. While it can help people get off of heroin and prescription painkillers, it’s really just delaying the inevitable time when a person needs to get over their addiction completely without is.
Vivitrol is absolutely no replacement for rehabilitation. Addicts need the help of specially trained doctors, counselors, therapists, and addiction staff to truly overcome their addiction and begin recovery, and they need to learn skills and tools and be active in a recovery community to stay clean. True recovery means total abstinence from all substances.