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Vivitrol Saved Me from Heroin Addiction

 

A little over a year ago, I was desperately fighting an addiction to IV use of heroin. My fate seemed bleak. My family members had accepted the reality that at any moment they could receive “the call” — the call that I had overdosed and was dead. I had already overdosed, while using alone one grimly beautiful summer afternoon, but was found in time by my ex-boyfriend to be resuscitated. Many are not so lucky. 

Getting so close to death didn’t stop me, however. I continued using heroin afterwards. That’s addiction. In and out of rehab programs, I couldn’t get more than a couple weeks of sober time together without returning to heroin. I kept managing to get sober, briefly, but staying sober even 30 days was seemingly becoming an impossible fantasy. It had me so strongly in its grips that I really didn’t know if I could get away from it, despite how much I wanted to. Then Vivitrol was suggested to me.

Vivitrol is an intra-muscular extended release injection of Naltrexone, an opioid receptor antagonist. In layman’s terms, that means it blocks opiates, such as heroin, from reaching the receptors in the brain, and makes it impossible to get high. It is also thought, although not clinically proven, that Vivitrol/Naltrexone reduces opiate cravings. It doesn’t alter the mind or have any sort of “high” of its own. The injection lasts for 30 days, unlike its daily-administrable form, Naltrexone pills, that must be taken every day. Yet the body must be fully detoxed from opiates/opiods for 7-10 days before the Vivitrol injection can be administered; otherwise it will send the patient into immediate opiate withdrawal. 

It is highly suggested that Vivitrol is only part of a recovery plan, not the sole source. I was in a rehabilitation facility when I first started getting monthly Vivitrol shots, but up until that point, I wouldn’t stay in a facility or stay sober long enough for any treatment to be helpful, since I had a developed a bad habit of relapsing and leaving treatment centers. Vivitrol made it possible for me to stay put in a 60-day treatment center and really start my recovery process. 

The day my doctor appointment was scheduled for the injection, I was terrified. I knew that once I received the Vivitrol shot, it would not be possible for me to get high or feel any effects from heroin for 30 days. For an addict, that’s a long time to commit. Prior to that, heroin always remained an option. I knew that at any point I could leave rehab and go use, and that option was comforting to me.

So comforting, in fact, that many times I did just that. Before my appointment, I cried, but accepting the Vivitrol injection was truly a first step to surrendering for me. I was desperate to change my life, and was willing to accept any kind of help offered to me. Vivitrol was a huge part of that. Receiving the Vivitrol shot meant heroin could not be an option for me – at least not for the 30 days the Naltrexone was in my system from the one injection. 

During that time, I had medical insurance which covered the Vivitrol injection fully. However, without insurance, at cost Vivitrol can range from $800-$1200 a month. It is expensive. Yet, most insurance companies do cover a portion, or like mine, all of the costs. 

Since starting my Vivitrol shots, I have not used heroin for over a year. I stopped receiving Vivitrol after my third month, although some continue for longer. Active participation is a recovery program was vital, and I am so grateful to have escaped out of the death-grip of heroin. It is not an easy drug to escape, but Vivitrol is a wonderful option to make sobriety just a little bit more possible.

Image via Greg M. Cooper/Alkermes

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Melanie is a 27-year old Southern California native who studied at Pepperdine University. Loving to travel and experience new places and cultures, she spent two years living in the Southern states of Texas and Tennessee before returning to Los Angeles where she began working in the legal industry writing content and managing communication to class members of class action lawsuits. She now is focused on her continued sobriety, and her motto in life is to never take herself too seriously. She is often described by others as an "old soul." She loves music, photography, and makeup artistry and likes to entertain herself with astrology and numerology. She is a Sagittarius and a number 9, and shares her birthday with her beloved late grandmother and her favorite author, C.S. Lewis.

Filed under: Addiction, Recovery, Treatment · Tags: Heroin, Heroin Addiction, naltrexone, sober, sobriety, Vivitrol