Is a once monthly Vivitrol shot counterproductive to recovery? There is some debate in the recovery community surrounding the use of this shot that prevents opiates from causing their characteristic “high”.
Vivitrol is a once monthly injectable extended release version of naltrexone, an opiate agonist. What this means, is that it binds to the same receptor site as opiates and takes up the space without actually activating the receptor. This prevents a real opiate from activating the receptor if taken, so no “high” can be experienced. So Vivitrol itself doesn’t cause any sort of high or altered state of consciousness, but is still a monthly shot that must be taken in order for its effects to continue.
Primarily used as a preventive measure in early sobriety, there are varying opinions as to what the shot’s place in a recovery program should be, or if it should even be used. On the one hand, some believe that Vivitrol is an effective deterrent, and any obstacle towards relapse is a positive one. The other argument states that relying on Vivitrol as the basis of an individual’s recovery prevents the internal work from taking place that allows long-term recovery. So which is it – spiritual impediment, or useful tool?
The case against Vivitrol isn’t so much that using the drug is not sober, rather that it sets an individual up for failure by giving them a crutch to rely on instead of a program. Early recovery is all about developing new tools to deal with emotions, thoughts, people and situations. Some see using Vivitrol as a replacement for a spiritual program, allowing an individual to get away with not practicing new behaviors. For example, rather than developing new relationships with other individuals that don’t use opiates, a Vivitrol patient could continue to spend time with old using friends under the belief that they are immune to relapse because of their monthly dose.
The fear among Vivitrol opponents in the recovery community is that because of this mistaken impunity, patients in early recovery will miss out on building the foundation that is crucial to long term sobriety. Those that take this stance believe that no preventative measure is a suitable replacement for a spiritual program of action and that using pharmaceutical crutches in place of recovery based tools is asking for trouble.
On the other side of the spectrum are those that believe that Vivitrol can be a welcome introduction to the beginning of a recovery program. Vivitrol doesn’t cause any sort of high and proponents don’t support it replacing spiritual practices or a recovery community. They see it as an added safeguard to help individuals through the early stages of sobriety; which can be tumultuous and typically have high rates of relapse.
Proponents propose Vivitrol as a complimentary tool dealing with an individual’s physical sobriety; part of a comprehensive recovery program that also includes an emotional and spiritual component. The belief is that the first few months of recovery are when cravings are traditionally the most intense and relapse is most likely to happen – so if this danger can be partially alleviated and give the addict a safety net, they have a better chance of putting time sober together and as a result, relapse becomes less likely.
Vivitrol’s place in recovery is still a controversial topic with no definitive answer. Whether you have experience with using it, are in recovery without it, or just have an opinion, leave us your thoughts on the issue!