Vivitrol or the generic brand Naltrexone is an antagonist (blocking medication) that blocks the effects of opioid medications, including pain relief or high feeling that can lead to opioid (narcotic) abuse. Is it currently used as a part of a treatment program for people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
It is also used to treat people who are addicted to alcohol by lessening their desire to drink alcohol. However, if a person recently drank alcohol, Vivitrol will not reduce the effects of alcohol. The goal of this medication for people who drink alcohol is to help them lessen or stop drinking.
If you are interested in using Vivitrol to aid in your recovery process you may be wondering if Vivitrol is a narcotic or is Vivitrol addictive? Vivitrol (Naltrexone) is not a narcotic and is not addictive. It will not produce any narcotic-like effects or cause mental or physical dependence on the medication.
How Does Vivitrol Work?
Vivitrol is an opiate blocking shot and works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain for one month as a time. People must have already gone through the withdrawal stage and are opioid-free prior to starting Vivitrol. This is because the medication will cause withdrawal symptoms in people who are physically dependent on narcotics. Therefore, this medication needs to be started following detox in order to help prevent relapse.
Once a person is ready to start Vivitrol a family doctor or healthcare provider will inject the medication 1 time each month. Vivitrol is injected into the muscles of a person’s buttock. The medication lasts for about 1 month and it cannot be taken out of a person’s body once it is injected.
Is Vivitrol Effective?
Vivitrol is not a cure for any form of substance abuse. It is only a form of treatment to aid in the recovery process. When used as a part of a treatment plan that includes counseling Vivitrol is an effective treatment. According to a study, people who receive Vivitrol alone without counseling were only 15 percent likely to abstain from opiate drug use. Therefore, taking the medication Vivitrol alone without any further treatment does not seem to be very effective in stopping the use of opiates. However, people who received Vivitrol and counseling were 85.8 percent less likely to have a positive urine drug test. This means that people who were on Vivitrol with therapy abstained from drug use. Another study supported the use of Vivitrol and behavioral therapy. It stated that people who received behavioral therapy and Vivitrol were more likely than those who took Vivitrol alone, to complete treatment and experienced abstinence from opiates use.
Side Effects of Taking Vivitrol
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration’s, Medication Guide, side effects of taking Vivitrol include nausea, sleepiness, headache, dizziness, painful joints, decreased appetite, vomiting, toothache, muscle cramps, cold symptoms, and trouble sleeping. Serious side effects include depressed mood (feeling sad, sleeping more, or feeling hopeless), pneumonia (shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing that doesn’t go away), or serious allergic reactions (skin rash, swelling of the face, eyes, mouth, or tongue, chest pain, and feeling dizzy or fainting).
There is a risk of an opioid overdose when taking Vivitrol. There are two ways a person can accidentally overdose while taking the medication. The first is since Vivitrol blocks the effects of opioids like heroin, a person might take large amounts of opioids to try to overcome the opioid-blocking effects of the medication. This can lead to serious injury, coma, or death. Second, after a person receives a dose of Vivitrol they may become more sensitive to the effects of lower amounts of opioids.
Severe Reactions at the Injection Site
Severe reactions at the site of the opioid blocker shot can occur in some people who take Vivitrol. One of these severe reactions is necrosis (tissue death). Therefore, these injection sites may need surgery. It’s important to speak to your family doctor immediately if you experience intense pain, blisters, a dark scab, lumps, an open wound, a large area of swelling, or the area feels hard.
Liver Damage or Hepatitis
Naltrexone is the active ingredient in Vivitrol and it can cause liver damage or hepatitis. It is crucial to tell your family doctor right away if you experience stomach area pain that lasts longer than a couple of days, dark urine, yellowing of the whites of your eyes, and tiredness. If you experience any of these symptoms your doctor may find it necessary for you to stop using the medication.
Sudden Opioid Withdrawal
It is crucial for a person to be opioid-free for at least 7 to 14 days prior to starting the Vivitrol shot. Opioid drugs include street drugs, prescription pain medications, cough, cold or diarrhea medications that contain opioids, or even opioid dependence treatments such as buprenorphine or methadone. If a person uses opioids in the 7 to 14 days prior to starting treatment with Vivitrol they could experience symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Sudden opioid withdrawal can be extremely dangerous and cause a person to need to be hospitalized.
Is Vivitrol Right For You?
Vivitrol is not right for everyone. Someone who is physically dependent on opioid medications or street drugs should not use the medication because there is a significant risk for opioid overdose. Also, if a person is experiencing symptoms of opioid withdrawal such as anxiety, sleepiness, fever, sweating, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramps then this person should not receive Vivitrol till they are done withdrawing. Vivitrol is not appropriate for people going through the detoxification process because it can cause sudden opioid withdrawal. Finally, the medication is not well suited for a person who experiences an allergic reaction to naltrexone or any of the ingredients in Vivitrol.
Many studies have supported the use of Vivitrol and behavioral therapy to overcome an addiction and abstinence from it. If you are ready to get on your road to recovery a high-quality addiction treatment program can support you in every step of the process. Through the combination of Vivitrol and various behavioral therapies provided at a rehab clinic, you will have the support you need to ease the pain associated with the withdrawal process and get back on your feet living a drug-free healthy lifestyle.
- A Systematic Review on the use of Psychosocial Interventions in Conjunction With Medications for the Treatment of Opioid Addiction. Journal of Addiction Medicine.
- How Vivitrol Works. Vivitrol.
- Medication Guide. FDA.
- Recovery in a Quiet and Welcoming Environment. Sunshine Behavioral Health.
- Recovery Success Through Combined Use of Vivitrol and Counseling versus Pharmacological Treatment Alone in Opiate-Addicted Patients. LMU Digital Commons
- Vivitrol. Drugs.com
- What is Vivitrol? Vivitrol.
Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.
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