Category Archives: Naltrexone

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Teens and Young Adults

opioid-addiction-childrenThere is increasing momentum building for opioid addiction treatment in response to the growing opioid addiction problem in the United States. Many teenagers and young adults who are being introduced to prescription opiates are at risk for developing a crippling drug dependency. The risk is increased as these youth discover that heroin is a relatively cheaper alternative than pain pills purchased on the street.

The Partnership at DrugFree.org has published a 36 page guide outlining opioid addiction and the therapeutic role that medication-assisted treatment can have even for teens and young adults. Methadone, suboxone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are highlighted in the guide with an accompanying description of each medication and its use in opioid treatment.

Opioid replacement therapy has historically been used as a treatment of last resort in adult populations. The dilemma is that a high percentage of opioid addicted individuals are unable to remain drug free with traditional models of treatment that do not include medication assistance of some variety like naltrexone, buprenorphine, or methadone. Overcoming opioid withdrawal without effective symptom relief presents a serious obstacle in the recovery process.

The Partnership at DrugFree.org recognizes that the wave of opioid addiction in America is mounting. The news media have been covering this issue too with some regularity over the past year. Effective remedies need to be in place as all ages seek help for opiate addiction. If we are to save lives, the stigma of medication-assisted therapy and the misunderstanding around it must be finally removed.

Vivitrol in Opiate Addiction Treatment

viviVivitrol® is a new product of Alkermes (a U.S. based pharmaceutical company who specialize in disease management medications). Vivitrol received FDA approval in October 2010 for use in the prevention of opioid relapse following opioid detoxification. It is an extended release formulation of naltrexone designed to be administered through a once monthly IM (intramuscular) injection.

The medication is a non-addictive, opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids, and thus discourages opioid misuse since no subjective euphoria is experienced. Opioid addicted individuals are often at high risk for relapse following opioid detox, and intensive support is very helpful in assisting these individuals with establishing a comfortable, lasting sobriety following successful opioid detox.

Vivitrol must be administered by a healthcare professional, and recipients should not have active liver disease complications since naltrexone (the active ingredient in Vivitrol) is contraindicated for those with acute hepatitis. Like any medication-assisted intervention, Vivitrol should be used in conjunction with ongoing behavioral health counseling in order to maximize a client's chance of successful long term recovery through skill development and lifestyle change.

The medication is not inexpensive (obviously a patented medication with no available generic equivalent). But considering its potential benefit to those in early recovery, it may be a worthwhile short-term investment in the first 30 to 90 days when recovering persons are at highest risk for opioid relapse. An obvious benefit of Vivitrol is that the patient does not have to take a daily pill, so either accidental or purposeful missed doses are not a concern.