Hi. My name is Michael, and I am an addict. My drugs of choice were opiates (heroin mostly) and methamphetamines. Three months ago, I began taking a drug called Naltrexone, which is an opiate blocker. It helps people overcome opioid addiction by blocking the drugs’ euphoric effects. Basically, it makes the addict not able to get high off of heroin and other opiates.
Naltrexone was approved by the FDA in 1984 for opioid addiction, even though it is frequently used for alcohol as well. At the end of 2010, the FDA approved a long-acting version of the drug called Vivitrol, which is injectable, and its effect lasts around thirty days. Many psychologists have argued that the Vivitrol shot is the way to go, because the pill form requires the addict to actually take it daily to avoid opiate relapse.
According to Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “As a depot formulation, dosed monthly, Vivitrol obviates the daily need for patients to motivate themselves to stick to a treatment regimen – a formidable task, especially in the face of multiple triggers of craving and relapse. This new option increases the pharmaceutical choices for treating opioid addiction, and may be seen as advantageous by those unwilling to consider agonist or partial agonist approaches to treatment. NIDA is continuing to support research on Vivitrol’s effectiveness in this country, including a focus on criminal justice involved populations transitioning back into the community.”
I take the drug every day orally because I live in sober living and it gets administered to me daily by the sober living manager. There is another form of the drug, the Naltrexone Implant, which is surgically inserted under the skin. It provides a sustained dose of Naltrexone to the addict, preventing the problems that may be associated with skipping doses. These implants are made by three companies but they have never been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Association. They have been used successfully in Australia for some time as part of a long-term protocol for treating opiate addiction.
In May of this year, 2012, I relapsed on heroin. I was at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous and saw an old friend, one of my “using buddies.” I had heard through the grapevine that she had cleaned up her act and gotten clean and sober, and I was thrilled. One thing that we were both very good at back in the day was hiding our using. In fact, she was so good at it that she totally fooled me that night.
It turned out she was still using heroin, and, after a little while of reminiscing, she flat out told me. At first I grew very angry and was upset. This was the first time in almost a year off of heroin that I was face to face with the drug. I didn’t know how to NOT do it. So we left the meeting, got in my car, and I found myself smoking heroin with her. I wish I was on Naltrexone then, because I would have kindly said, “No, thank you” to her and been on my way. I love her dearly, but for the time being I cannot be around her. Right now, taking care of myself is and must remain priority number one.
Another thing I have noticed since I started taking the drug is that I don’t have very many cravings. I don’t know if that is due to the drug or the fact that I am actually working a program this time around. All I know is that I enjoy taking my daily dose of naltrexone because I know it will prevent me from getting high that day. When I move out of sober living, I will most likely get the Vivtrol shot every month so that I can prevent myself from being able to get high for thirty days at a time.
Staying sober is priority number one for me. With sobriety, life is possible again.
By Michael L.
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