Opiate and Opioid Addiction
Opiates and opioids are drugs structurally similar to one another. In technical terms, opiates are naturally derived from the poppy plant, and opioids are synthetic or semi-synthetic. For the most part, all of these drugs are just referred to as opioids. Opioids bind to specific central nervous system receptors. In doing so, they can alleviate pain by changing how pain signals are sent and felt. Opioids also trigger emotion and reward systems in the brain, causing the person taking the drug to feel high. With opioid addiction, people lose control of their use of the drugs. The use of opioids is compulsive with addiction, and it’s extremely difficult when trying to stop. With addiction, people will continue using, even when there are negative consequences.
Opioids can also cause physical dependence, even when a user isn’t psychologically addictive. When someone uses opioids, whether prescription drugs or heroin, they develop a tolerance. Tolerance means higher doses are needed to achieve the same effects. As this happens, the brain and body of the user become dependent on the presence of the drugs. If someone is dependent on opioids, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using them.
The incredibly addictive nature of opioids and their tendency to cause physical dependence have given rise to the opioid epidemic in the U.S. Millions of people are believed to be addicted to opioids and to misuse this class of drugs. Despite their best efforts, it can be difficult to stop. There is a substantial amount of research looking at various medications that can help people with opiate addiction. One such medication is Vivitrol.
Vivitrol is an opiate and opioid antagonist, meaning it blocks the effects of opioids. An opioid antagonist attaches to the same receptors as the drugs would, but it doesn’t trigger a release of the feel-good brain chemical dopamine. When someone uses Vivitrol and then tries to misuse opioids, the effects of the opioid are blocked. Vivitrol is administered as a shot, and it blocks opioid receptors in the brain for a month. The objective with Vivitrol is to help patients as they go through treatment, so they’re better able to focus on their recovery. Vivitrol is an extended-release version of naltrexone, and it joins the lineup of other medication-assisted treatment options such as buprenorphine and methadone.
There is a tendency to view medication-assisted treatments like Vivitrol as being a cure-all for opiate and opioid addiction. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Vivitrol reviews for opiate addiction show there are some downsides, despite this medication’s promise as an aid for addiction. One of the big downsides according to Vivitrol reviews for opiate addiction is the detox period required before it can be used. Someone has to completely clear their system of opioids before they can begin taking Vivitrol. The longer time that it takes to get started on Vivitrol can increase the chances of relapsing and overdosing during this period.
Something else to consider with the Vivitrol shot, is the active ingredient naltrexone is not an opioid, so it won’t actually prevent withdrawal symptoms. As was touched on, Vivitrol does require detox before using it. Vivitrol can even trigger sudden opioid withdrawal. If someone doesn’t stop taking opioids fully before using Vivitrol, they may have severe sudden withdrawal symptoms. However, if patients can get past that detox period, their chances of succeeding with the help of Vivitrol are increased. Vivitrol can also increase the risk of an opioid overdose. This is because people will take large amounts of opioids in an attempt to overcome the opioid-blocking effects of Vivitrol. Not only is there an increased situational chance of an opioid overdose, but Vivitrol can heighten sensitivity to opioids.
Many addiction specialists will compare the use of something like Vivitrol versus buprenorphine, which is an opioid, and determine the option best for the individual patient. Vivitrol, while it does have its problems, isn’t an opioid and for some patients, this can be the better option. Patients will often see problems with replacing one opioid with another as is the case with buprenorphine, which is why Vivitrol may be appealing to them. Another advantage of Vivitrol over something like buprenorphine is the fact that it only has to be taken once a month, rather than once a day.
There are both positive and negative Vivitrol reviews for opioid addiction. The best thing to do is to speak with a professional who can weigh the pros and cons within the framework of the individual’s situation. If you’re interested in learning more about medication-assisted treatment options for opiate addiction, please contact The Recovery Village. We can answer questions and also help you explore the many treatment options available.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.