Vivitrol, the brand name for the opiate antagonist naltrexone, is a medication used to help someone in recovery from opiate misuse and alcohol use disorder. Vivitrol is commonly used as an intramuscular injection (IM), which is inserted directly into the muscle tissue, usually once per month. Vivitrol may be administered orally, although IM administration produces much quicker results.
Naltrexone is typically coupled with treatment programs that involve counseling, lifestyle changes and 12-Step programs.
As mentioned previously, naltrexone is a type of receptor antagonist used in the treatment of substance use disorder and alcohol dependence. The FDA approved naltrexone for alcohol use disorder in 2006; approval for opiate addiction happened shortly after in 2010.
Vivitrol should only be used when a person struggling with addiction has been in recovery and successfully detoxed. They should be substance-free and have no withdrawal symptoms. This is due to the binding effect of naltrexone. If a person in recovery is taking medication to help with withdrawal from depressants (opiates and alcohol), naltrexone will prevent the withdrawal medication from working, causing worsened symptoms.
For alcohol use disorder, Vivitrol will decrease the pleasure one experiences from alcohol by making them nauseous and sick if consumed. Over time it will make someone stop drinking completely. Naltrexone works the same way when being used for opiate addiction. It prevents depressants from binding to endorphin receptors thereby stopping the euphoric feeling and discouraging use.
Vivitrol may cause some minor side effects, like headaches and loss of appetite. It is more common for pain, bruising, swelling and itching to occur at the site of injection.
Opiates and alcohol have different levels and signs of addictions. Both come with severe withdrawal symptoms but opiate recovery can be somewhat more difficult.
It is possible for minor opiate withdrawal symptoms to occur when being treated with naltrexone.
If any serious side effects like hallucinations, anxiety, confusion, vomiting, etc. occur while Vivitrol is being used, someone may have traces of opiates or opiate recovery medications in their system. Contact a doctor immediately if any of these symptoms happen.
Although long-term effects of Vivitrol are rare, they have occurred in past treatments. Skin reactions and infection are more common from naltrexone. One’s skin may have an allergic reaction to the medication causing itching, swelling, and sometimes infection. If these symptoms happen after a Vivitrol injection, seek medical attention to prevent infection. Vivitrol may cause damage to the liver if the patient has a history of liver disease or hepatitis.
Studies have proven how effective naltrexone is at preventing recurrence of use. People are more likely to stay in recovery while being treated with Vivitrol compared to those who are not. For the best possible long-term recovery, one should take advantage of a treatment program.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.