What is Vivitrol?

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Answering Your Questions About Vivitrol 

#1 What is Vivitrol? 

Vivitrol is an injection that blocks the effects of two addictive substances: alcohol and opiates. It’s a brand-name of the drug naltrexone, which also can be taken in pill form. The shot works by binding to the brain’s opioid and endorphin receptors. The drug is injected into the intramuscular area once per month by a healthcare professional and works over the course of 30 days as an extended release. Naltrexone’s effectiveness comes from the fact that it stops the euphoric and sedative effects of drugs like heroin, morphine, codeine, and other opiates. At the same time, Vivitrol stops the euphoric effects of alcohol. By binding to the brain’s endorphin receptors, this injection is extremely effective at curbing addiction. When the “good feelings” of substance use no longer exist, suddenly there is no need to take the drug anymore. That’s why this medication is excellent for treating opioid and alcohol use disorders. Ask your doctor or specialist about naltrexone in the form of a Vivitrol injection.  

#2 How is Vivitrol Used? 

Vivitrol is used to help with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) as a form of treatment therapy known as Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). The active ingredient in Vivitrol, naltrexone, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat both of these disorders (AUD and OUD) back in 2006 and it has been an excellent form of MAT treatment ever since. While the drug isn’t a cure for addiction, it can be very helpful for managing it. Vivitrol can actually help you overcome physical dependence from opioids and alcohol, and actually stay sober by reducing cravings. It does that by blocking the “feel-good” chemicals of substances. 

In the case of opiate detox, Vivitrol is most often used after detox as a maintenance medication. The point of using Vivitrol is to keep the person off of drugs and help them maintain sobriety. Detox is the earliest stage of recovery when a person first stops using substances and withdrawal symptoms are very painful. During this time the desire to use drugs is very strong because people want to make these symptoms go away and the only way to do that is to use opiates or alcohol or take maintenance medication. Vivitrol helps after detox as a way to prevent relapse. Vivitrol can be used as part of a maintenance treatment program to keep people sober in early or lasting recovery. Vivitrol helps people manage their cravings so that they can learn coping skills and healthy living skills while in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. 

#3 If You Take Opiates While On Vivitrol, What Happens?

You are not supposed to take Vivitrol while opiates are still in your system. If you do, you’re at a higher risk of overdose. That’s why if you take prescription or illegal street opiates while on Vivitrol, it can be very dangerous. These are the reasons why you shouldn’t take street drugs like heroin or prescription drugs like morphine while on Vivitrol: 

  • You might use too much and accidentally overdose. If you take Vivitrol you won’t get the same “high” you get when taking opiates. That’s because Vivitrol actually blocks the power of opioids. To make up for the blocking effect, some people take more than they actually would.
  • Some people try to overcome the opiate blocker by taking copious amounts of opiates. This absolutely increases the risk of overdose. If you consume too many opiates you will overdose – and this is what happens. 
  • The effectiveness of Vivitrol diminishes over time. Some people wait until just before their next injection to get high. This may not increase the risk of overdose per say, but it does put people at risk of relapse and overdose.

#4 Can You Drink Alcohol On Vivitrol?

You should not drink alcohol while taking Vivitrol. That’s because, in addition to helping with opiate addiction maintenance, Vivitrol helps people stay away from alcohol. While Vivitrol doesn’t reduce the parts of alcohol that impair coordination and judgment, it will reduce the overall feeling of intoxication and it will make you want to drink less rather than more. The bottom line is, drinking on Vivitrol does not put you in danger, but it does work against any good treatment plan. 

#5 How Long Does Vivitrol Last? 

Usually these injections last about a month (four weeks.) The exact injection schedule for you will depend on your individual needs and the timetable your healthcare provider sets up for you. Vivitrol is the most potent when you first get your injection. The strength of the shot gets less and less over time. If you skip a month, you may lose any of the potency you gained while you were getting regular shots; and then cravings and urges to use may come back. If this happens during early recovery, it could result in relapse. That’s why working on a schedule is important. If you want to get off of Vivitrol it’s important to work with your healthcare provider. You want to make sure that you have skills and coping mechanisms in place before you completely stop. 

#6 Who Makes Vivitrol?

Alkermes, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, is the maker of brand name Vivitrol injections. Vivitrol is the injectable, brand name version of naltrexone, which is used for opioid dependence. While naltrexone is available as a generic drug, injections are only available as Vivitrol.  

#7 What Are The Side Effects Of Vivitrol?

Side effects of Vivitrol include:

  • Soreness, swelling, or redness at the injection site 
  • Stomach side effects, including stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Symptoms similar to cold or flu 
  • Tiredness or other sleeping problems 
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache
  • Decreased appetite or increased appetite 

#8 Suboxone and Vivitrol 

Suboxone is a brand name treatment for opiate dependence that works similarly to Vivitrol or naltrexone. Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. That means it has similar effects as opioids, including feelings of relaxation and euphoria. It’s not recommended to take Suboxone and Vivitrol together. If it is taken, Vivitrol will block the effects of Suboxone and make treatment ineffective. 

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