Vivitrol is a brand name of a naltrexone injection used to block the effects of opioid medication. This is helpful when treating those who have previously been dependent upon or addicted to opioids. With Vivitrol, it can stop the feelings of well-being or pain relief to prevent a relapse of abuse. It keeps the user from feeling like they must continue using the opioid. It is also helpful to deter someone from drinking alcohol. In this way, it works similarly on alcoholism as it does on drug addiction. While Vivitrol is not a cure for drug addiction or alcoholism, it can help subdue the side effects and reduce the urge to continue using narcotics or alcohol.
Who Can Take Vivitrol?
Vivitrol is for those who have already gone through either opioid detoxification or alcohol detoxification. It’s essential to have already gone through this process to have no physical dependence still lingering. It’s best for those trying to treat their alcohol dependence long-term to kick the habit of drinking. It’s also intended for those who are looking to avoid an opioid dependence relapse.
It is NOT for those who still have any physical dependence on narcotics or alcohol. This will be tested with a naloxone challenge test – the doctor injects a small amount of naloxone to see if any opioid withdrawal symptoms set in. If withdrawal symptoms are evident, Vivitrol treatment cannot be started. It should only be recommended as an element of a long-term treatment program to deter former users from relapsing.
How’s It Used?
Naltrexone is an injection that is used by being administered into a muscle. It’s typically given every four weeks by either a doctor or a clinic nurse to prevent relapse. Getting regular injections of Vivitrol is crucial to get the most out of it.
After the injection, you may notice a bit of swelling, redness, pain, or bruising at the injection site. You may even see a small, hard lump. If this is your reaction after the shot and it does not clear up within two weeks, it’s essential to bring this up with your doctor.
It is often used as just one part of a complete treatment program for those fighting against opioid or alcohol dependence relapse. It usually comes with counseling, close monitoring, or another type of treatment for a more holistic approach.
When using Vivitrol, it’s essential to carry a medical ID tag on you that states your medication use. Then, if anything happened to you, any medical provider must know that you’re receiving this medication.
This is because after using Vivitrol, you become much more sensitive to opioids. In addition, the medication reduces the feel-good side effects of narcotics, which could lead to an accidental overdose or even possible death.
Side Effects Of Vivitrol
As with any drug, there are several possible side effects a user might experience.
Common Side Effects
- Muscle Cramps
- Nausea, Vomiting
- Appetite Changes
- Abnormal Liver Function (test results)
- Dizziness or Drowsiness
- Pain or swelling at the injection site
- Stuffy Nose
- Tooth Pain
Serious Side Effects
- Depressed Mood
- Allergic Reaction: Swelling of face, tongue, lips, throat
- Difficulty Breathing
- Shallow Breathing
- Lightheaded or Severe Dizziness
- Depression or Suicidal Thoughts
- Severe pain at the site of injection
- Severe Cough
*If your withdrawal escalates and you begin to notice these symptoms, you should immediately call your doctor.
Using any opioid medication while receiving Vivitrol injections could stimulate opioid withdrawal symptoms. The first signs of withdrawal you may notice could include:
- Fever and Chills
- Vomiting or Diarrhea
- Watery Eyes and Runny Nose
- Body Aches
- Restless Feeling, Trouble Sleeping
Can Other Drugs Affect Vivitrol?
When using Vivitrol, it will block the effects of any narcotic medication you may need to take. This could include prescriptions for cough, diarrhea, or pain. While these effects are not harmful, they will cause narcotics to be ineffective.
There are harmful side effects that could occur as well, so steer clear of narcotics. This is one reason why any doctor treating you should know you are receiving Vivitrol. There are also further drug interactions with the naltrexone injection. These may include issues with OTC vitamins, medicines, or herbal products. Currently, there are 294 known drug interactions with Vivitrol. Only 29 of the interactions are primary, while 265 are moderate.
The most frequently checked interactions on the moderate-to-major scale are reported between Vivitrol and the following medications:
- Suboxone (major interaction)
- Wellbutrin (major interaction)
- Antabuse (moderate)
- Cymbalta (moderate)
- Atorvastatin (moderate)
- Ibuprofen (moderate)
Other frequently checked interactions include albuterol, clonidine, gabapentin, hydrochlorothiazide, hydroxyzine, Klonopin, omeprazole, propranolol, quetiapine, tramadol, trazodone, Xanax, and Zoloft.
How Long Will I Need To Take?
This has proven to be an effective and safe option for those looking for relapse support, either short-term or long-term. The benefit of this is that individuals receiving Vivitrol can use it for as short or as long as they wish based on their treatment goals. For example, some individuals may choose to receive Vivitrol injections every four weeks for years. On the other hand, others may only need to use it for a few months to get back on track.
It’s generally recommended to use Vivitrol for at least one year to receive the maximum benefits. When determining your eligibility for Vivitrol injections, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor about the projected length of treatment.
Before taking Vivitrol, here is some important information you should know about the medication and its side effects:
There’s a risk of opioid overdose. Unfortunately, Vivitrol makes it easier to overdose in two significant ways accidentally. The first way – Vivitrol blocks the feel-good effects of opioids. Trying to overcome this effect by taking more substantial amounts of opioids could lead to coma, serious injury, or even death.
The second way—the blocking effect slowly fades away over time. If you use opioids in amounts used before treatment with Vivitrol, it can lead to overdose and death. You’re more sensitive to the effects of smaller pieces of opioids at certain times while taking Vivitrol. You’re especially sensitive to the risk of overdose during these times. They include:
- After detoxification
- Right before the next Vivitrol dose is due
- If a dose of Vivitrol is missed
- If Vivitrol is suddenly stopped
- Severe injection site reactions have occurred
Some people experienced severe reactions at the site of Vivitrol injections, including the death of the tissue in the area. In some scenarios, surgery has been required. The main signs that you are having a severe injection site reaction include:
- Hard feeling underneath, the skin
- Intense pain
- Open wounds
You must not have any opioids in your system. This is crucial to keep in mind because you could go through a sudden opioid withdrawal if you do. You must stop taking opioids or street drugs at least seven days before beginning Vivitrol. If you can control it 14 days before starting Vivitrol, that is even better. There’s an active ingredient in it that can cause liver damage or hepatitis. If you notice these symptoms, please get in touch with your doctor:
- Dark urine
- Lasting stomach pain
- Yellow eyes
- You’ll need to fill your doctor in
Always speak with your doctor on the details of your current health before beginning Vivitrol treatment. These details include the history of drug abuse, liver problems, hemophilia, or kidney problems. Also, connect on the following if necessary:
- Pregnancy or plans to become pregnant
- Active breastfeeding
- Current medications (including OTC and herbal remedies)
How It Works?
- For Opioid Dependence
Vivitrol contains naltrexone, an opioid antagonist with the highest affinity for the mu-opioid receptor. Naltrexone has little or no opioid agonist activity. It is believed that the occupation of opioid receptors by naltrexone may block the effects of endogenous opioid peptides. In addition, it markedly attenuates or completely blocks, reversibly, the subjective effects of exogenous opioids. This makes the blockade produced potentially surmountable. Naltrexone has few, if any, intrinsic actions besides its opioid blocking properties.
- For Alcohol Dependence
Occupation of opioid receptors by naltrexone may block the effects of endogenous opioid peptides. Thus, it markedly attenuates or completely blocks, reversibly, the subjective effects of exogenous opioids. The neurobiological mechanisms responsible for reducing alcohol consumption observed in alcohol-dependent clients treated with naltrexone are not entirely understood. However, the involvement of the endogenous opioid system is suggested by preclinical data.
Vivitrol is not suitable for everyone. In addition, there are significant risks from VIVITROL treatment, including the risk of opioid overdose, injection site reactions, and sudden opioid withdrawal.
At We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We work as an integrated team providing support through evidence-based treatment and therapies. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists and to learn more about Vivitrol treatment. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.
Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.
FDA – Label (fda.gov)