What is Vivitrol?

what is vivitrol

What is Vivitrol?

Vivitrol is a medication used to treat alcohol and opioid addiction. It contains an extended-release formulation of naltrexone, an active ingredient that blocks opiate receptors in the brain and significantly reduces cravings.

The medication is given as a monthly injection and should only be administered by a healthcare professional.

This article will discuss:

An extended-release formulation of naltrexone, an active ingredient that blocks opiate receptors in the brain and significantly reduces cravings.


How Vivitrol Works

All forms of naltrexone work by stopping the euphoria and sedation that central nervous system depressants, specifically alcohol and opioids, can cause. The medicine binds to those receptor sites in lieu of the intoxicating substances and stays there for a long time. When a person taking any form of naltrexone as prescribed relapses, the drug will not bind to the opioid receptor sites, so there will be no high associated with using the substance after detoxing.

You administer Vivitrol by intramuscular injection once a month. One of the main problems with the daily dosages of naltrexone was medication compliance; patients had to remember and be willing to take the pills each day. With the once-a-month shot, medication compliance is less of a factor in the treatment plan.

Vivitrol for Alcohol Addiction

Initially, Vivitrol was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 to prevent relapse in people recovering from alcohol addiction. Naltrexone minimizes cravings for alcohol in a different way than other alcohol relapse prevention medicines, which traditionally discouraged continued use of alcohol by making people sick after consuming alcohol.

In a six-month double-blind study, Vivitrol was shown to be effective in recovery from addiction to alcohol. People who combined Vivitrol with counseling to treat an alcohol use disorder experienced a 25 percent greater reduction in the number of heavy drinking days post-treatment. Additionally, people whose alcohol use disorder was treated with both Vivitrol and counseling had more abstinent time and lower rates of relapse.

With alcohol, it is not certain how Vivitrol works, but it seems to change how the brain responds to alcohol consumption. It’s thought that naltrexone’s mechanism of action stems from the release of endorphins caused by intoxicating substances, which makes the person feel good.

Vivitrol, which is an opioid receptor antagonist, blocks the endorphins from binding to their receptors, essentially putting an end to the feeling of intoxication. There may be outward signs of intoxication, however the pleasure that comes with it is greatly diminished.Vivitrol for Opioid Addiction

Vivitrol was approved by the FDA in 2010 for the treatment of opioid addiction. It is the first non-narcotic, non-addictive, extended release medication approved for the treatment of opioid dependence.

While experts knew Vivitrol could help with alcohol dependency, it was only approved for the prevention of opioid relapse after a study showed participants who took the medication stayed in treatment longer and were more likely to avoid relapse post-treatment.

It is essential to complete a detox program, have no lingering withdrawal symptoms, and no opioids left in the body before starting Vivitrol. Naltrexone is a pure opioid antagonist, meaning it does not allow other drugs to bind to opioid receptor cells. Since naltrexone removes opioids from opioid receptors, if Vivitrol is started while opioids are present in the body, it will cause severe withdrawal symptoms.

According to the Vivitrol website, trials showed people who used the medication in combination with counseling to treat opioid addiction had 90 percent opioid-free weeks, compared to 35 percent who took placebo. Those who used Vivitrol alongside rehabilitation and continuing therapy were 17 times less likely to relapse, compared to those who did not use the medication.

Vivitrol Side Effects

The side effects of Vivitrol can include: Nausea and vomiting Diarrhea, Anxiety, Tiredness, Headache, Dizziness, Exhaustion or sleep problems and in some cases, naltrexone injections can also cause reactions at the injection site, eosinophilic pneumonia, and liver toxicity.

Who Should Not Take Vivitrol?

Do not take Vivitrol if you are:

  • Using or having a physical dependence on opioid medications or opioid street drugs
  • Experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • Allergic to naltrexone or any of the ingredients in Vivitrol

Before taking Vivitrol, be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • Have liver problems
  • Use or abuse street (illegal) drugs
  • Have hemophilia or other bleeding problems
  • Have kidney problems
  • Are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding (It is not known if Vivitrol can pass into breastmilk or harm unborn babies.)


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