Drug and Alcohol - Medication-Assisted Treatment

Vivitrol (Naltrexone): Uses, Abuse, Signs, Side Effects & Treatment

What Does Vivitrol Do?

What is Vivitrol? This drug plays a major role in medication-assisted treatment, and can help save lives. Learn more about Vivitrol in our blog.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

Medication-Assisted Treatment

October 9, 2023

Opioid use disorder or opioid addiction is one of the biggest problems that the United States of America is facing today. It has become one of the biggest public health scares, as the death rate from opioid overdose is at an all-time high.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2020, as many as 68,630 people died from opioid overdose. Various measures have been taken to curb the growing drug addiction issue altogether.

Many treatment options and medications have been designed to help overcome substance use disorder, including Vivitrol or naltrexone.

What Is Vivitrol (Naltrexone)?

Vivitrol is the trade name of the prescription medication known as naltrexone. Naltrexone has several trade names, including Vivitrol and Revia. Among various queries, the most vital is what Vivitrol is used for. Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist in treating opioid use disorder (OUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD).

It is a long-acting injection approved for treating drug addiction without being addictive. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved it for assisting with OUD and AUD. Vivitrol is a long-acting injectable medication containing the opioid reversal agent naltrexone. 

What Forms Does Vivitrol Come In?

Vivitrol is an opioid blocker recommended once daily through oral administration. It is typically given in shots by medical professionals. Its active ingredient is naltrexone, which was also approved by the FDA in 1984 for treating OUD and later AUD.

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical company Alkermes started clinical trials on the long-acting injectable form of naltrexone. The need for an injectable form arose because sticking to the prescribed oral naltrexone regimen was difficult for the patients. This issue was resolved by Vivitrol since, once taken, the chemical action could not be discontinued for a month. 

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Is Vivitrol a Cure for Opioid Addiction?

No. It is essential to understand that Vivitril is not a cure for addiction. It should not be used independently since it's a component of a larger and more comprehensive treatment plan. A person also needs to be detoxed entirely before using this medication.

How Does Vivitrol Work?

Vivitrol is very helpful in managing addiction problems, but many are still unaware of its working. Its active ingredient and primary drug is naltrexone. Naltrexone is a long-acting opioid antagonist. Naltrexone can switch off and deactivate the opioid effects. It works by binding itself to the opioid receptors but does not result in a dopamine release, which is what generates the “high” opioid users seek.

So, when a person relapses on opioids while on Vivitrol, they do not experience the desired effect. This is because Vivitrol blocks out opioid receptors. It helps remove the cravings and urges of habitual drug users and diminishes their chances of relapse. When used for alcohol addiction, Vivitrol blocks the pleasurable feeling experienced after consuming alcohol. Like with opioid misuse, Vivitrol works by blocking the craving experienced by alcohol drinkers. 

Vivitrol is very similar to Narcan or naloxone. A major distinction between the two drugs is that Vivitrol is not fast-acting. Still, its opioid-opposing effects are long-lasting. Also, it is administered via intramuscular injection, unlike orally administered naltrexone.

There are some risks associated with using Vivitrol, one of which includes opioid overdose. Since it blocks the effects experienced by opioids, many people try to consume high doses to feel the desired euphoria. This can lead to a fatal overdose. 

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Vivitrol for Alcohol & Opioid Use Disorder

Here’s how Vivitrol treats two different – but similar – addictions:

Vivitrol: Alcohol Addiction

In the year 2006, Vivitrol was approved by the FDA to manage and prevent AUD-related release. A study found that around twenty-five percent of heavy drinkers saw an improvement due to its use. Naltrexone works by reducing alcohol cravings differently than earlier medications like disulfiram. Its action mechanism can be understood because alcohol and other intoxicating substances release neurotransmitters like dopamine.

So, the user gets trapped in the cycle of repeated abuse. Vivitrol blocks these endorphins from getting attached to the receptors.

Vivitrol: Opioid Addiction

It took a bit of time for the FDA to approve Vivitrol for opioid addiction in addition to alcohol addiction. It gained their approval in 2010. A study proved that along with alcohol, Vivitrol can also prevent opioid relapse. However, the user must complete the detoxification process first to achieve this.

This is because Vivitrol works by removing opioids in opioid receptors. If the user is undergoing detox, it will hinder the work of medications like buprenorphine. It will also worsen the withdrawal symptoms. Vivitrol also helps in blocking the opioid from binding itself to the brain. 

What Are Some Vivitrol Side Effects?

Many people fear that among the various side effects produced by Vivitrol, addiction is one of them. Let's clear this out Vivitrol is an opioid receptor antagonist with little to no potential for adduction. It does not generate the feeling of being high, nor is it mixed or combined with other substances. So, it is tough to develop a dependency on it.

But like any other drug, it is possible to increase larger amounts of Vivitrol and abuse it. Some people ignore and overlook the directions given by the doctor. Since a person has to undergo full drug detox before taking Vivitrol, some people don't follow that. This results in sudden and severe withdrawal reactions. Besides this, there are some physical and psychological side effects of Vivitrol. 

Physical Side Effects of Vivitrol

Physical side effects of Vivitrol include headache, nausea, joint ache, and impotence. Naltrexone is also associated with severe health issues like liver damage and hepatitis. Some people have also experienced infections and tissue death in the injected site. 

Mental Side Effects of Vivitrol

Mental side effects of Vivitrol include sleep-related issues like insomnia, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, and suicidal thoughts. Some doctors have also deduced that Vivitrol use can lead to a faulty or malfunctioning opioid system. Since it blocks opioid receptors in our brain, Vivitrol can lead to mental issues like depression. 

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How Long Does Vivitrol Last?

Vivitrol, as mentioned before, is a long-acting medication instead of an immediate-acting one. The duration of the effects of a drug like Vivitrol can change from one person to another. It depends on factors like the user's metabolism that can change the duration of its stay.

For most, a Vivitrol injection can remain effective for up to a month. It can stay for the duration between 25 to even 50 days. Its presence is generally consistent among the users. Vivitrol is generally administered after every four weeks as a part of a treatment program. It will release slowly, remaining in the system for at least a month.

The level of the active drug naltrexone slowly declines after two weeks in the user's bloodstream. It is complicated to estimate the exact time since it changes according to genetic variation and rate of metabolism.

As long as a user is taking them as per the instructions and supervision of the medical professional, it will be effective and safe. 

Vivitrol Use and Opioid Overdose

One of the biggest risks associated with using Vivitrol drug is opioid overdose. When a person continues to use opioids, even being in opioid addiction treatment, they are risking overdose. Vivitrol blocks and impairs the brain's response to opioids to prevent relapse and cravings. There are reports where people try to override the antagonist effects by consuming higher doses of opioids. This is very dangerous and can lead to fatal opioid overdose.

Besides this, there are some reports of people being more sensitive to opioids after using Vivitrol in their treatment. In such a condition, if the person relapses, they can experience an overdose even after having an average dose. 

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Vivitrol Abuse Treatment 

There are various potential side effects of taking Vivitrol, including trouble sleeping, anxiety, and dizziness. Even though it is pretty rare to experience opiate withdrawal symptoms, some do undergo restlessness, bone pain, and abdominal cramps after consuming Vivitrol.

Generally, not many people experience such problems, but if you do, contact your doctors immediately. When you feel signs and symptoms of Vivitrol addiction or abuse, it is best to look for treatment options. Fortunately, there are several Vivitrol treatment program options available in our country. 

Vivitrol Medical Detox

You must understand that going cold turkey or abruptly quitting Vivitrol will do more harm than good. You have to set up a meeting with a doctor to formulate a proper detox plan. Medically assisted detox will help safely get off the drugs with minimum withdrawal effects. 

Vivitrol Rehabilitation Program

Most drug rehab centers offer multiple rehabilitation plans and programs to overcome Vivitrol dependency. The patients can choose between various recreational therapies and behavioral counseling in both individual and group settings. They offer comprehensive support to treat naltrexone addiction.

Inpatient Vivitrol Rehab Center

The inpatient rehab for Vivitrol addiction is where the patient stays at the rehab facility during the entirety of the main treatment. It is suitable for those patients who have serious addiction issues and are displaying severe symptoms. Here, patients can learn coping techniques to deal with triggers while staying in a secure facility. 

Outpatient Vivitrol Rehab

On the other hand, the outpatient rehab facility can stay at their residence while visiting the rehab for treatment. It's suitable for patients dealing with mild to moderate forms of addiction. Here too, the patients get individual and group counseling options and the opportunity to learn real-life practice skills to deal with co-occurring mental health issues. 

The decision to choose the type of Vivitrol addiction rehab is vital for your whole recovery journey. Please consult your doctor or physician, and discuss the recovery treatment options with them that fit right according to your conditions. Also, consider factors like duration of Vivitrol treatment and intensity of addiction while choosing among the most suitable rehab centers. 

Vivitrol Can Help Treat Opioid Addiction. Reach Out Today to The Edge Treatment Center to Learn More

Left untreated, opioid addiction can turn fatal. It's a challenging addiction to treat, but Vivitrol offers many people a way out.

At The Edge Treatment Center, we believe that recovery is possible and that it starts with education, resources, and support. We offer access to medications like Vivitrol as part of our comprehensive treatment program for opioid addiction. A proud utilizer of medication-assisted treatment, The Edge is happy to accept clients on drug replacement programs as well as Vivitrol users.

We understand that each person's journey to recovery is unique. That's why our treatment program combines Vivitrol with evidence-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, and support groups. This holistic approach addresses not only the physical aspects of addiction but also the underlying emotional and psychological factors.

In addition to medication-assisted treatment, we also offer comprehensive care for co-occurring mental health disorders that often accompany opioid addiction. Our team of licensed professionals is equipped to provide individualized treatment plans that address both addiction and mental health concerns.

If you're interested in learning more about Vivitrol and other evidence-based methods to treat opioid addiction, contact The Edge Treatment Center today.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.