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Four Vivitrol Experiences at Tarzana Treatment Centers

by James Heller 27. July 2009 07:22

By James Heller

Tarzana Treatment Centers has been offering Vivitrol injections to patients in alcohol treatment for some time now.  In an effort to raise awareness of medication assisted treatment, and as a professional courtesy, we would like to share some patient experiences.

How We Obtained Information
Four informal interviews were conducted with patients who had received an injection of Vivitrol during treatment at Tarzana Treatment Centers.  No effort was made to collect statistics in this case.  FDA guidelines were followed with each of these patients, but not addressed in interview questions.  Each was reminded of the FDA approved use of Vivitrol if the patient mentioned other perceived benefits.  The point was to collect candid feedback that may be helpful to those considering Vivitrol as a tool in their own recovery, and those treating them.  

It appears that patients see Vivitrol as a good tool in recovery for more than just alcohol craving reduction.  They report a common sense of hope that they will remain sober, as well as a stronger motivation for recovery compared to non-Vivitrol patients.  This was consistent in a range from first-timers in treatment to chronic relapsers.

Vivitrol Gives Hope to Patients
A 50 year old patient who had been drinking since age 10, in treatment for the first time, stated that he will continue with Vivitrol injections even though he did not know if it was working.  Vivitrol brought him hope that he will remain sober using any tool available.  Another patient who suffers chronic relapses said that treatment is more effective on her after taking Vivitrol, and that she feels a sense of hope for the first time.

Vivitrol Improves Motivation for Recovery
The degree of patient motivation for recovery is a major factor in successful treatment.  With each new treatment episode, motivation tends to diminish for an individual.  So it is interesting that patients with more than one treatment episode at Tarzana Treatment Centers reported higher motivation for recovery after taking Vivitrol.

Vivitrol Reduces Alcohol Cravings
Tempting situations are everywhere for alcoholics early in recovery.  The cravings that result at these times are a major factor in causing relapse.  So if cravings don’t manifest completely, it can mean the difference between relapse and continued sobriety.

On cravings, those in treatment for the first time credited fellowship and commitment to a program for reducing them, and acknowledged that they had no experience with which to compare.  Others with several treatment attempts fervently attributed the reduction in cravings to Vivitrol.

Two patients admitted to relapse on day 34 after receiving the first injection.  Both were scheduled for a second injection, but chose instead to attend an event out of town.  Interviews were conducted with these patients on day 37.

When asked if a second injection would have prevented relapse, both quickly answered in the affirmative.  Each relayed that they had been in more tempting situations during the first 30 days than when they drank on day 34.  This is an indicator of Vivitrol’s success in reducing cravings in the 30 day period.

Reported Side Effects are Mild
One of the patients who relapsed on day 34 reported getting sick after drinking only 3 beers, which is inconsistent with the other who relapsed the same day.  Another reported injection site pain and mild shakes for the entire 30 day period.  These are considered to be due to factors not shared in the interviews, as opposed to being side effects of Vivitrol use.

Unexpected Benefits Reported
Some patients reported benefits outside of those expected from Vivitrol.  A patient stated that she did not feel an urge to use methamphetamines as well.  And each patient used terminology at times that referred to relief of the mental obsession rather than the physical craving.

Another surprising report comes from a staff member who helps patients to quit smoking.  At least one patient has refused nicotine replacement patches, stating that she does not feel like smoking since receiving the Vivitrol injection.

From these interviews, it can be concluded that patients do indeed experience a reduction in cravings for alcohol with Vivitrol whether or not they credit the drug.  Motivation for recovery appears to be bolstered if it is not already strong.  And side effects were consistent with those expected, minus two that were unlikely to be a result of Vivitrol use.  

It is also plausible that the reduction in cravings has a positive side effect on a patient’s mental state in treatment.  Just the belief that their obsession has been lifted will improve motivation and hope for patients using Vivitrol.

For more information on Vivitrol, contact us via email at vivitrol@tarzanatc.org.