Skip to main content

FDA Approves Once-A-Month Injectable Drug to Fight Opiate Addiction

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #653)
Politics & Advocacy

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Tuesday that it had approved a once-a-month injectable drug for use in treating opiate addiction. The drug, marketed as Vivitrol, is a form of naloxone, an opioid atagonist that blocks the action of opioids on brain cells and is currently used in responding to overdoses.

In approving Vivitrol, the FDA cited a Russian study with 250 heroin addicts that found it reduces relapse rates and blocks cravings for narcotics. In that study, after six months, 86% of subjects taking Vivitrol had stayed off opiates and were functioning in work or school, compared to only 57% who were given a placebo.

Unlike methadone and buprenorphine, which are commonly used in opiate substitution treatments, Vivitrol is not addictive and does not maintain opiate dependency. Additionally, unlike those two substitutes, Vivitrol does not need to be taken daily, but is instead administered monthly via intramuscular injection.

The approval of Vivitrol for opiate addiction is "an important turning point in our approach to treatment," said Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a statement greeting the FDA announcement.

Nearly 810,000 Americans are addicted to heroin, with more than twice that number using prescription opioids, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, for non-prescription purposes, Volkow noted.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


mlang52 (not verified)

It really works well!?  It increases the success rate to 36%!!  The entire premise is that it would completely eliminate addiction. It does not!  Why do they think another drug will eliminate the problem. The reason it happens is because we have been fed, for years, that another pill will fix it! Until there is a pill that works completely with, at least, 99% success, they may as well be urinating into the wind!  Or, just maybe, they have figured out another way to relieve consumers of more of their hard earned money, for something with a little, more, success (that will be pushed as a >50% improvement)!!  And you can bet, it will cost a fortune!  So, who is it going to help, anyway?

Wed, 10/13/2010 - 6:34pm Permalink
SlavePillUser (not verified)

This drug is just another Big Pharma ploy to 'help' addicts' and/or those whom have had serious illnesses and accidents and have become 'addicted' to their medications because for one, doctors and nurses do not tell you the whole facts of opiate addiction until you, yourself, find out WAY too late!

This may help a handful of people, it will not solve the problem of opiate addiction, only restrict it and people who do want to get off pain meds will still have to deal with unbearable withdrawals eventually!  That is the reason people keep taking their medications in the first place since becoming addicted and not being told the whole truth behind their medications by their doctors!

What we need is information and help with research into something that will stave the withdrawals so people can finally get off slave pills, such as Methadone, and finally get their life back without the sickness and serious-ness of opiate withdrawals!  No matter what opiate you have been scripted, people will continue to take their 'slave' medications so they wont be sick and feel like death coming off of them!

Yet, this WILL NEVER happen, because they don't want you off of these slave pills/meds because it's big money in their pockets from people that weren't told the truth in the first place.

Heroin addicts are a different story.  These people usually CHOOSE to put a needle in their arm!  Most people become addicts from illnesses or accidents!

Withdrawal medication is what we need, not something that will restrict our own brains ability to create it's own opiates such as this Vivitrol, which is a hardcore form of naloxone - And people that will go for this will ultimately go into serious withdrawals within minutes if not seconds!  Yes, it's good for people that OD, but not for the regular consumer...

I could go on and on...  But 'they' wont listen because they don't care about WDs...  Ask any doctor and they have no idea how to stave WDs...  

Thu, 10/14/2010 - 2:15pm Permalink
mlang52 (not verified)

In reply to by SlavePillUser (not verified)

What would your reply be if I said one of the commentors here was an MD?  Your rant is wrong, for so many reasons. Morphine, diamorphine, oxycodone, Fentanyl, and hydrocodone,  are all opiates!  (Guess which one is heroin!!) And since heroin is an opiate, it is sort of naive to claim one does not have any information on opiate addiction or withdrawal!  It is no different than the opiate pills one gets at the doctor's office.  The same withdrawals occur. Man up and take some responsibility!  The withdrawals, (they vary in intensity, too) that have been observed in chronic pain patients, are almost never, life threatening and , in most cases no worse than a bad case of the flu.  I have had some bad flu, myself. I would not like to suffer withdrawals, if it feels like that!

I don't think there are any people in this country that would think that any, of these, prescribed, pain pills are not "addictive". That sounds pretty ignorant!  But, let's blame the doctor that was TRYING TO HELP. It  appears to be lunacy, to try to claim one did not know pain pills were addictive?  What planet would that person be living on?!   If you are speaking of dependence, that is another story, at least to pain management professionals!  If one has such severe pain that they must take pain pills daily, to have an acceptable quality of life, why would they stop them?  And , stopping them would be the only reason any of those pain patients would go into withdrawal.  Slow tapering of the drug allows any patient, who wanted, to get off the treatment, without symptoms of withdrawal.  I saw it many times.  But, some patients may need special help.  You see, the doctor can't be there, so the patients, who suffer a little discomfort, will, sometimes, not taper themselves.  Then, the doctor must incorporate the use of a surrogate, preferably a person,  like a spouse or other person of interest.  I do have to admit, many doctors would not take the time to help you (they seem to be in such a hurry!). But, you still pay them!

If taking the pills means the difference between getting up out of the bed or wasting your life away laying down, in pain, the choice, to continue with the treatment, should be obvious!  But, we could throw compassion out the window, and say, "who cares about these "patients"  Just let them suffer! It is too dangerous to allow treatment !  I guess that sort of attitude means we would have to be calling Dr Kevorkian out!


Addiction,  after recreational use, is a different thing.  It is a complex psychosocial problem that is much more than just constant cycle of getting high followed by withdrawal.  A pill is not going to fix it. Most addicts would continue to get high, especially if they did not have to worry about the "WDs", as you call them!  And, claiming "most people become addicts from illness or accidents" is a bunch of malarkey, to put it nicely!  I would love to see the research paper you got that from!  Ones inability to work with his doctor to taper off the medication seems like a personal weakness, to me.  There are other medications that can help reduce the withdrawal symptoms, like clonidine. But, your doctor has to know about it, before he thinks of it, as a useful medication. And many don't know. Especially those that don't deal with opiate dependence.  I think, that is why you have the perception that they don't care!  They are not going to admit to you they are not up on the treatments.


Your statement about using Vivitrol, is correct. To use this medication one would want to have gone through detox.  If not, it would be immediate withdrawal! (A doctor that would do that would have to be a sadist!  It would be pure torture)  And even an addict knows how to stave off WDs!  The problem is, one would have to take the opiate!  Which, would be counterproductive!  But, as I stated above, there is a way to get off the opiates, with the proper management of the situation.  Thing is, if a doctor treats a person with an addiction, he could be jailed, since that type of compassionate treatment is, still, against the law!  You can thank the politicians of the early prohibition era, for that!

Fri, 10/15/2010 - 6:04pm Permalink
SickOfTheLies (not verified)

The cure is all those "illegal" "dangerous" "drugs" like ibogaine, peyote, amanitas, psilocybians and cannabis.

But the enlightened don't make very good sheep and a wild plant can't be patented.

Thu, 10/14/2010 - 11:04pm Permalink
skin (not verified)

thought you were going to have a go at pharmaceutical tyrants before going off on a few tangents,its not unimaginable what you say about routes to addiction,I got addicted to buprenorphine before even knowing what an opiate was and have now been a heroin addict for over 25years.

Mon, 10/18/2010 - 6:37am Permalink
dogbreth (not verified)

Sadly, it seems the only way that opiate addicts can receive "treatment" is if they unfortunately end up with a serious pain problem.  It is illegal in the US to "maintain" an opiate addict - unless that addict has an obvious pain management need.  Then the use of the opiates not only keeps the person 'in balance' (or out of withdrawal) but also keeps the pain somewhat at bay.  Of course the constant screening of such patients means that simple cannabis use can result in "punitive action", such as a reduction in 'break through pain meds' - which means while the person will stay out of withdrawal they will be in pain as punishment for their cannabis use.  I would bitch a bunch about this, but on the other hand, I consider myself lucky to have found a doctor willing to manage the pain of a "former" addict.

Wed, 10/20/2010 - 4:04pm Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.