What is Vivitrol?

Vivitrol (naltrexone) blocks the effects of opioid medication, including pain relief or feelings of well-being that can lead to opioid abuse. An opioid is sometimes called a narcotic. Vivitrol is used as part of a treatment program for drug or alcohol dependence.

Vivitrol injection is used to prevent relapse in adults who became dependent on opioid medicine and then stopped using it. Naltrexone can help keep you from feeling a "need" to use the opioid.

Vivitrol injection is also used to treat alcoholism by reducing your urge to drink alcohol. This may help you drink less or stop drinking altogether. You should not be drinking at the time you receive your first naltrexone injection.

Vivitrol is not a permanent cure for drug addiction or alcoholism.

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 opioid receptor sites, acting as an opioid antagonist, 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.

However, Vivitrol is not a complete cure for opioid or alcohol dependence. It is simply a medication that helps patients reduce the risk of relapse while in recovery by reducing cravings. For effective recovery of AUD or OUD, patients will require a comprehensive treatment program that involves the use of medications in conjunction with therapies and counseling.


How is Vivitrol given?

Vivitrol is injected into a muscle. This injection is usually given once a month (every 4 weeks) and can be given only by a healthcare professional. Get your Vivitrol injection regularly to get the most benefit.

You may notice pain, redness, itching, bruising, swelling, or a hard lump where the medicine was injected. Call your doctor if you have this type of reaction, especially if it gets worse or does not clear up within 2 weeks.

Vivitrol injections are only part of a complete treatment program that may also include additional forms of counseling and/or monitoring. Follow your doctor's instructions very closely.

In case of emergency, wear or carry medical identification to let others know you are using this medicine.

After using Vivitrol, your body will be more sensitive to opioids. If you use an opioid medicine in the future, you will need to use less than before naltrexone treatment. Using the same amount you used before could lead to overdose or death.

Vivitrol for Alcoholism

The FDA approved the use of Vivitrol for the treatment of alcoholism in 2006. And has since been proven to be an effective aid in treating alcohol use disorder.

Vivitrol uses a different mechanism to reduce cravings for alcohol. Unlike disulfiram that makes you sick when you drink alcohol, Vivitrol changes the way your brain reacts to the alcohol in your system. It blocks the endorphins from attaching to their receptors and thus blocking the effects of alcohol.

Vivitrol for alcohol addiction treatment takes time. It does not eliminate cravings for alcohol almost immediately. To reap the benefits of Vivitrol, it is important that you take it exactly as prescribed. Skipping or forgetting even one injection can reduce the effectiveness of the next dose significantly. Vivitrol is most effective during alcohol addiction treatment when combined with a comprehensive treatment program that includes therapy, counseling, and 12-step programs.

Vivitrol for Opioid Addiction

The FDA approved Vivitrol as relapse prevention to opioid use disorder following an opioid detoxification program. This approval came after studies indicated prolonged recovery due to its use.

Vivitrol is a more effective treatment option for opioid use disorder than for alcoholism. It directly attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain and blocks the effects of exogenous opioids from interacting with them to reduce opioid cravings. People with OUD who use Vivitrol along with counseling have a 90% chance of achieving abstinence. Individuals on Vivitrol during rehabilitation are also 17 times less likely to have a relapse.

However, Vivitrol should only be used after a period of complete abstinence since the presence of opioids in the system while on Vivitrol can cause opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Alcohol Dependence:

380 mg intramuscularly every 4 weeks/once a month

Usual Adult Dose for Opiate Dependence:

380 mg intramuscularly every 4 weeks/once a month

  • There is no data specifically addressing switching from buprenorphine or methadone to naltrexone, however some patients have reported severe manifestations of precipitated withdrawal when switched from an opioid agonist to opioid antagonist therapy.

  • Patients switching from buprenorphine or methadone may be vulnerable to precipitated withdrawal for up to 2 weeks.

  • Be prepared to manage withdrawal symptomatically with non-opioid medications.

  • Be prepared to manage withdrawal symptomatically with non-opioid medications.

  • This drug is of value only as a part of a comprehensive management plan that includes measures to ensure the patient takes this medication.

Vivitrol Side Effects

Vivitrol can cause adverse physical reactions in certain patients that can range from mild to severe.
Some of such common side effects are:

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Diarrhea /Constipation /Stomach cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion or sleep problems

In some cases, naltrexone injections can also cause reactions at the injection site, eosinophilic pneumonia, and liver toxicity.

Who should not receive VIVITROL?

Do not receive VIVITROL if you:

  • are using or have a physical dependence on opioid-containing medicines or opioid street drugs, such as heroin.
  • are having opioid withdrawal symptoms.
  • are allergic to naltrexone or any of the ingredients in VIVITROL or the liquid used to mix VIVITROL (diluent).

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, or have any other medical conditions.
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if VIVITROL will harm your unborn baby.
  • are breastfeeding.It is not known if VIVITROL passes into your milk, and if it can harm your baby.