As told to Michelle Kaufman
Meridian Health Services is the only healthcare facility in Muncie that administers the Vivitrol injection as a way to help clients recover from addiction.
Adrienne Collins, practice manager at Meridian, said Vivitrol is relatively new, and one injection will last in a patient’s body for 28 days. The syrup-type injection is given at Meridian in the glute and is also used for newly released inmates. Vivitrol is effective for opioid, pain pill and alcohol addictions.
Vivitrol began being used after a heroin addict came to Meridian and said she needed help. Collins and her co-worker, Brandy LoPilato, were unsure what they could do for her at the time, but both had heard about Vivitrol. LoPilato suggested Vivitrol and ordered it for the client, and soon, more and more clients with a heroin problem began coming in.
“It’s kind of blown up into this very, very large thing that we have going on where most of our patients now that Brandy sees a day are Vivitrol injections,” Collins said. “It’s almost 200 [total patients on Vivitrol] now.”
Vivitrol binds to the same receptors in a person’s brain that opioids also bind to, similar to a lock and key. If Vivitrol is binded to the receptors and blocks the opioid, the craving for an opioid will not occur in the person.
“That’s where the dangerous part comes in with the overdosing because people [on Vivitrol] will think that they can use an opioid substance and they’ll still be able to get high, which they will not,” Collins said. “Because those receptors are blocked, the only thing that they’re really going to do is overdose and possibly die.”
Typically, a patient will keep getting Vivitrol injections every 28 days from eight months to a year, depending on the person’s treatment plan. Patients are also required to be in intensive outpatient treatment or therapy because Vivitrol itself is not enough to help.
“[A patient can say] I’m clean, but I’m still living with and associating with all of these people who are still using, so once I’m off the drug, I’m going to more than likely go back to using because I haven’t changed my lifestyle at all,” Collins said. “It’s a whole lifestyle change.”
Collins said Meridian sees a lot of success with Vivitrol, and the drug gives patients courage that they need to get things going and gives them a boost because they no longer have to worry about cravings.
“A lot of patients have a lot of anxiety regarding getting clean because they worry about that constant craving and all of the other things that they’re going to do. It’s like an entire lifestyle change. It’s like if I told you today that you’re no longer allowed to drink any pop ever again. It’s really hard for people,” Collins said. “It’s really hard for people to stop drinking a Coke a day — think about how much harder that is for heroin usage.”
Vivitrol costs approximately $1,350 per injection, but it is covered by insurance. Meridian has to do a prior authorization with the insurance company to show Vivitrol is medically necessary to have it covered and obtained for the patient.
If someone would like to receive treatment, then they need to set up to become a new patient at Meridian by filling out a packet. When they come in, they will have a drug screen performed on them, and if they are able, they will receive the injection.
This story originally appeared in Facing Addiction in East Central Indiana, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Dr. Adam Kuban and the Louis E. Ingelhart Scholars at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.