Vivitrol – FAQ

You’ve likely heard the news reports about the “opioid epidemic” in the United States. This is serious as, between 1999 and 2015, the death from overdose rate has quadrupled. In 1999 there were a reported 8 thousand deaths and by 2015, that number had climbed to approximately 31 thousand. On average, that means 91 people died from opioid overdoses – per day.

As the number of deaths from opioid overdoses in the United States grows, so too has the list of drugs used to treat opioid abuse. Originally, two drugs were the primary “go to” products used to treat opioid addiction – methadone and buprenorphine – both treatments that need to be administered on a daily basis. In recent years, a new player entered the market – Vivitrol.

Vivitrol, or naltrexone when sold as a generic, is a monthly extended-release drug that is administered via injection. In addition to use in opioid recovery, it is also prescribed as a treatment for alcohol abuse.

It is an opioid antagonist, meaning it works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain to prevent the users body from responding to opioids and endorphins. Additionally, Vivitrol is a partial inverse agonist, which means the drug works to reverse the bodily condition that has resulted from long-term misuse of opioids or alcohol.

While Vivitrol is touted for its convenience (once a month dosing), unlike methadone and buprenorphine, Vivitrol is not an opioid so using this drug as part of a detox program can be more challenging. Patients are required to totally stop using opioids and go through what can be an uncomfortable detox prior to starting use of Vivitrol. Also, the cost is rather high – averaging $1000 per dose. These factors, as well as others, can lead a person to start treatment on Vivitrol then cease and resume opioid use. If the patient relapses, there is a heightened chance of overdose and even death.