Vivitrol is a prescription drug and brand name for naltrexone. It’s most commonly prescribed to people who have been addicted to opioids. While naltrexone formulations are available in oral tablet form, it is usually administered as an intramuscular solution as well. The goal of a Vivitrol prescription is to prevent an addict from using opiates and also to decrease the desire to drink alcohol. Naltrexone is often prescribed and taken alongside addiction therapy programs because after a couple of weeks of dosing it may decrease cravings and makes getting high on opiates more difficult.
How It Works
Vivitrol comes in two common formulations, as a pill and as a once a month injection. When in pill form, 50mg of naltrexone is administered daily while 380mg of the drug is administered monthly in an injectable extended-release form. Either way, naltrexone works to stop the euphoria and sedation associated with the intake of central nervous system depressants such as opioids and alcohol. It binds and blocks opioid receptors in place of the addictive substance in order to suppress cravings.
Whenever a person on Vivitrol prescription falls into a relapse, no “high feeling” is experienced. This is because naltrexone prevents the opioid from binding to the opioid receptor sites. If you are on naltrexone treatment, it is strongly advised to steer clear of using opiates. Since it does not cause euphoria, naltrexone has no intoxication or abuse potential.
Side Effects of Vivitrol
Generally, Vivitrol has several side effects such as headache, restlessness, diarrhea, muscle or joint pain and stomach upset. Following the results of a premarketing trial (controlled and uncontrolled) of Vivitrol on over 1100 individuals with either alcohol or opioid dependence, specific adverse effects leading to the discontinuation of the treatment were observed.
For alcohol-dependent patients, 9% of those administered with Vivitrol discontinued treatment following adverse reactions while 7% who were administered with placebo stopped treatment due to similar outcomes. The reactions among the dropouts treated with 380mg Vivitrol include nausea, injection site reactions, headache, and suicidal tendencies. The only adverse event from the placebo group was due to an injection site reaction. In the case of opioid-dependent patients, 2% discontinued treatment due to adverse reactions for both Vivitrol and placebo test groups.
Both cases consist of controlled trials over a period of 6 months or less as in the case of alcohol-dependent patients.
Treating Substance Addiction with a Combination of Vivitrol and Counseling
In a six-month double-blind placebo-controlled study, alcohol-dependent patients treated with a combination of Vivitrol and rehab counseling experienced a 25% greater reduction in the number of heavy drinking days post-treatment. On the other hand, opioid-dependent patients who use Vivitrol in combination with therapy and rehab were found to be 17 times less likely to experience a relapse compared to others who did not use Vivitrol. They also had 90% opioid-free weeks when compared to 35% in the placebo control group.
Vivitrol can help individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder as much as it can help to prevent an opioid relapse. The medication was approved by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in 2010 for this purpose. In spite of this, it is important to complete a detox program to remove any trace of opioids from the body before starting Vivitrol treatment.
Being an opiate antagonist, naltrexone will remove all opioids from the opioid receptors in the brain. A person undergoing medically assisted detox using opioid agonist medications such as buprenorphine will have their medication less effective. Also, it will most likely lead to terrible withdrawal symptoms.
Overall, a lingering perception of Vivitrol as being ineffective in treating substance abuse stems from a “one-prong” treatment involving the medication alone in tablet form where compliance can is low. Substance addiction should be addressed holistically along with medication to make a relapse less likely. In other words, a combination of naltrexone, detox, rehab, and counseling will produce better results.
At Allure Detox, we focus on addressing withdrawal symptoms ahead of time. Our medically assisted detox program ensures the removal of all drugs from the patient’s system as a first approach to full recovery. Is your loved one struggling with substance abuse or opioid dependence? Contact our admission officers today and we will be glad to help.