Opioids like hydrocodone, brand name Vicodin, and oxycodone, brand name OxyContin, are very potent pain relievers that can produce feelings of euphoria, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). When used on a short-term basis as directed, opioid analgesic drugs are generally safe and rarely lead to addiction. Common side effects of opioids can cause drowsiness, upset stomach, and constipation.
Opioids can be taken in pill form or crushed into a powder that is injected or snorted. The long-term use of opioids can eventually lead to physical and psychological dependence.
Snorting or injecting opioids quickly releases high doses of the drug into the bloodstream which increases the risk of overdose. A large single dose of an opioid can result in acute respiratory depression that can be fatal.
Vivitrol as an Alternative to Methadone
Until now, treatment choices for opioid addiction have been limited primarily to daily medications like methadone. Methadone is a synthetic opioid that’s been used since the 1980s to block the effects of heroin and other opioids, reports the NIDA. Methadone diminishes cravings and stops withdrawal symptoms that can range from sweating and anxiety to insomnia, tremors, high blood pressure and vomiting.
Vivitrol is a time-released version of a drug called naltrexone that works to inhibit opioid receptors in the brain. Naltrexone can intercept the effects of pain medications like Oxycontin and Vicodin. The FDA calls the approval of Vivtrol a “significant advancement in addiction treatment.”
The FDA studied Vivitrol in patients who were no longer physically addicted to opioids. Patients who received monthly Vivitrol injections were 13 percent more likely to complete a 6 month treatment program that those who were treated with a placebo.
Vivitrol Safety and Precautions
Patients must not have opioids in their system when they begin Vivitrol injections or they run the risk of experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms, notes the FDA. Vivitrol should be administered only by a health care provider using special needles that are supplied with the medication.
Side effects associated with Vivitrol include fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, reduced appetite and muscle cramps. Allergic reactions such as rashes, hives and swelling are also possible.