Nearly 1.8 million Americans are addicted to painkillers, 800,000 to heroin and 18.2 million are problem drinkers, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. Ultimately, addiction is a costly problem in the United States and an effective injectable medication may help save many lives.
Vivitrol, a prescription injection medication has been used to help treat cravings in alcoholics since 2009. National Public Radio reports that the same drug was approved by the FDA in 2010 to be used for heroin and other opiates such as Oxycontin and Vicodin. This drug may be administered to adults 18 years and older. Combined with a recovery program and therapy or counseling services, the drug has been effective worldwide. According to Vivitrol.com, the medication can help treat alcohol dependence as well as prevent relapse to opiod dependence after detox.
““Vivitrol is the most important breakthrough in addiction treatment in the past 25 years,” said Dr. Frederick Hesse, Medical Director of Arms Acres in a New York Daily News article. “It doesn't just substitute one opioid for another as with 'maintenance' or 'replacement' treatments. My patients find it easier to remain sober because they only have to receive a treatment once a month as opposed to taking a pill each day.”
According to the New York Daily News article “Can Vivitrol Really Cure Drug and Alcohol Addiction,” Vivitrol has been found effective in heroin addicts in Russia. Doctors found that patients stayed off opiates at twice the level as those taking a placebo of the drug. According to the Detroit Free Press, the study observed nearly 250 patients where nearly 70% of those patients who used the drug for at least six months were still clean.
Dr. David Moore, licensed psychologist and chemical dependency professional and professor at Argosy University believes the drugs aren’t used as regularly for two reasons. “The first is belief that if an addict is given a “quick fix”, like the once-a-month Vivitrol shot, they may not do the more difficult work of modifying their overall lifestyle. Although it’s just a sample of less than 6, I have seen that happen in a few of my teenage patients on Vivitrol for alcoholism,” Moore said. “The second issue is the major problem – Vivitrol can cost $1,100 per shot and it’s so new that insurance carriers may not approve it.”
Ultimately, the key to Vivitrol’s effectiveness is a regular recovery program that includes monthly check-ups (when the drug would be administered), counseling and 12 step meetings. A patient must have stopped taking drugs of any kind for 7-10 days before receiving Vivitrol. According to Vivitrol.com, those who are using drugs or have withdrawal symptoms should not take their medication as well as pregnant women.
Perhaps the most important facet to this drug is the fact that it isn’t addictive and there is no threat for abuse. With a prescription drug that is as effective as Vivitrol, things such as cost should look miniscule to help change lives and help work on this nation’s growing addiction problem.