Vivitrol Treatment for Alcohol Dependence

Of the more than 18 million Americans who abuse or are dependent on alcohol, (1) approximately 2.2 million seek treatment for their alcohol problems.(2) Unfortunately, more than 75% of these patients relapse back to drinking within the first year of beginning treatment using most currently available treatment approaches.(3)

Vivitrol, a new treatment recently approved by the FDA for alcohol dependence, offers new hope. It is dispensed by once-a-month injections so you do not need to make a decision to take medication every day, thus helping to control cravings that lead to relapse. It works well for alcohol dependent patients who are able to abstain from drinking in an outpatient setting and are not actively drinking when initiating treatment.

At Gracer Behavioral Health Services, our comprehensive program for alcohol addiction treatment has worked for San Jose and other California patients. Find out how our approach can work for you, contact us today.

What is alcohol dependence?

Alcohol dependence is a chronic disease with underlying neurological and genetic factors.(4)

The four symptoms most commonly associated with alcohol dependence are:

  • Cravings
  • Loss of control over drinking
  • Withdrawal symptoms, including sweating, nausea, shakiness, and anxiety
  • Increased tolerance for alcohol

Not only does alcohol abuse and dependency wreak havoc with individual lives and families, it is an economic burden to U.S. society costing nearly $185 billion annually.(6) The traditional approach for treating alcohol dependence, which is psychosocial support, such as counseling and a 12 step program has a dismal failure rate. Now, many experts agree that the best programs should include a combination of medication and psychosocial support.(7)(8) At Gracer Behavioral Health Services, we use Vivitrol in combination with counseling and group therapy.

How does Vivitrol help decrease alcohol dependence?

Vivitrol, also know as naltrexone (nal-TREK-zone), works by binding to opioid receptors in your brain. Although the mechanism is not entirely understood, preclinical data suggests that binding to the opioid receptors blocks the neurotransmitters in the brain that are believed to be involved with alcohol dependence.

Vivitrol blocks the parts of your brain that “feel” pleasure when you use alcohol and narcotics. When these areas of the brain are blocked, you feel less need to drink alcohol, and you can stop drinking more easily. Unlike disulfiram (brand name: Antabuse), another medicine that is sometimes used to treat alcoholism, naltrexone does not make you feel sick if you drink alcohol while taking it.

Key Benefits of Vivitrol

  • Reduces alcohol cravings
  • Helps patients remain abstinent and avoid relapse
  • Decreases the tendency to drink more if a recovering patient slips and has a drink
  • Requires only a once-per-month injection instead of a daily pill

Learn more about how addiction is caused, read the article, Mechanisms of Addiction, by Richard Gracer, M.D.

Read the press release about the FDA approval of Vivitrol.

Whether you live in the East Bay or in a South Bay community like San Jose, addiction treatment with Dr. Gracer could be just what you need to finally get control. Call 925.277.1100 or send an email to find out about our program. Gracer Behavioral Health Services in San Ramon serves Central and Northern California and is especially convenient for residents of Walnut Creek, Danville, Dublin and Pleasanton.

(1) Grant BF, Dawson DA, Stinson FS, Chou SP, Dufour MC, Pickering RP. The 12-Month Prevalence and Trends in DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: United States, 1991-1992 and 2001-2002. Drug and Alcohol Dependence; 2004; 74:223-234.
(2) SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies. Substance Dependence, Abuse and Treatment Tables; 2003.
(3) Daley, DC and Marlatt GA. Relapse prevention. In: Lowinson JH, Ruiz P, Millman RB, Langrod JG, eds. Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2005: 772-785.
(4) Nestler and Malenka. The addicted brain. Scientific American, 2004: 78-85.
(5) Retrieved April 9, 2006.
(6) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Updating Estimates of the Economic Costs of Alcohol and Abuse in the United States: Estimates, Update Methods, and Data; 2000.
(7) Saitz R. Unhealthy Alcohol Use. New England Journal of Medicine; 2005; 352:596-607.
(8) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Helping Patients Who Drink too Much: A Clinician’s Guide, 2005.