Vivitrol, also called naltrexone, is a drug used to treat the abuse of opioids or alcohol. It is an extended-release injectable drug, designed for reducing and suppressing cravings for opiates or alcohol. An individual working to detox from either substance must obtain a prescription from a health care provider in order to legally obtain Vivitrol. Naltrexone, the generic form, is available in several forms: oral tablet, monthly injection, transdermal patch, or implant. It should be noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only the oral (ReVia) and injectable versions (Vivitrol) of naltrexone. Vivitrol is not considered to produce a physical dependence or have any abuse potential. According to Alkermes, the manufacturer of Vivitrol, the drug must be used with alcohol or drug recovery programs, such as counseling, in order to be effective. Abstaining from opioids or alcohol is recommended while taking Vivitrol. However, since Vivitrol does not assist individuals in remaining totally abstinent, concurrent use is often seen.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), individuals who use naltrexone while drinking alcohol do not face any significant dangers. People taking Vivitrol will see symptoms that are similar to those of alcohol use, such as poor coordination and decreased response time. There will also likely be a slower rate of thinking and reasoning. Additionally, they may experience a decrease in the urge to drink, reducing their alcohol intake.
There are other things to consider related to the practice of taking Vivitrol while drinking. Naltrexone, the drug’s active ingredient, can cause hepatitis or liver damage. Liver damage is also frequently caused by drinking alcohol, so this combination may put a person at greater risk for liver damage and related consequences. People who continue to drink while taking Vivitrol should watch for the following signs of potential liver issues: tiredness, dark urine, stomach pain lasting more than a few days or yellowing of the whites of the eyes.
Vivitrol does have its own share of side effects -some of which can stem from, or be compounded by, alcohol consumption. Allergic reactions such as skin rash, breathing issues, chest pain, dizziness, or swelling of the face, tongue, mouth, and eyes can happen. Feelings of nausea, cold symptoms, vomiting, decreased appetite, muscle cramps, sleep issues, and painful joints may also occur.
While they are not perfect, anti-addiction drugs can play an important role in the recovery process by decreasing or eliminating cravings. When taken as directed, even if drinking initially persists, this blocking of alcohol cravings allows the person struggling with alcohol addiction to gradually feel less of a desire to drink and with less frequency. The “priming of the pump” effect becomes less regular, and the ability to become sober, and remain that way, becomes a reality for those committed to a life of sobriety.
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