Vivitrol is a medication used in the treatment of opioid dependency. It contains an extended-release formulation of naltrexone, which is a substance that blocks the euphoric effects of opioids that lead to opioid addiction. The medication is used to prevent relapse in people who were previously dependent on opioids and are participating in an addiction treatment program.
Vivitrol was originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 for the treatment of alcohol use disorder, but the approval was extended in 2010 so the medication could be used to treat patients struggling with opioid use disorder.
Vivitrol injections are given once a month (every 4 weeks) by a qualified health professional in a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program. This form of treatment is done in conjunction with other evidence-based forms of addiction treatment like medical detox, behavioral therapies, and group counseling.
Before an individual decides to undergo Vivitrol treatment for opioid addiction, it is important to be aware of the side effects, interactions, and precautions of the medication.
How Does Vivitrol Work?
According to the FDA, “Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist with the highest affinity for the mu-opioid receptor. Naltrexone has few, if any, intrinsic actions besides its opioid blocking properties.”
In other words, Vivitrol works by blocking the effects of opioids by occupying the mu-opioid receptor in the brain. This causes patients to be incapable of experiencing the intoxicating effects of opioid drugs, even if they consume opioids. Because of this, Vivitrol is considered highly effective in preventing relapse in individuals recovering from opioid addiction.
It is important to note that individuals who are being treated with Vivitrol must have completed a medical detox program. If someone has opioids in their system when receiving a naltrexone injection, the injection may cause precipitated opiate withdrawal.
Before getting the first injection, people must abstain from opioids for 7-10 days.
After detox, patients may receive their first injection in a doctor’s office. Then, the doctor will administer 380mg of the medication once every 4 weeks.
Common Side Effects of Vivitrol
Like any medication, Vivitrol may cause side effects during the first couple of weeks of treatment. These side effects are common, usually dissipating after the body adjusts to the presence of the substance.
The common side effects of Vivitrol include:
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth and increased thirst
- Muscle aches
- Irritation at the site of injection
- Decreased sex drive or difficulty having an orgasm
Severe Side Effects of Vivitrol
Some individuals will not react well to Vivitrol due to personal body chemistry or an allergy. While this is rare, it is important to be aware of the potentially severe side effects.
If an individual experiences the following severe side effects of Vivitrol, they should contact their doctor immediately:
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Depression or thoughts of suicide
- Signs of serious breathing complications associated with pneumonia (i.e. cough, shortness of breath, wheezing)
- Chest pain
- Blisters at the injection site
- Temporary redness of face or skin
- Feeling pins and needles on the skin
- Decreased blood platelets
- High count of white blood cells
- Liver problems (i.e. upper right stomach pain, dark urine, tiredness, jaundice)
- Heart attack
Long Term Side Effects of Vivitrol
While the long-term effects of Vivitrol are rare, they have occurred in some individuals. Skin reactions and allergic reactions are the more common long-term side effects. This could include symptoms of itching, swelling, or infection near the site of injections.
Other long-term side effects of Vivitrol are related to the liver. While uncommon, long-term naltrexone use could result in damage to the liver. This is mostly seen among patients who suffer from pre-existing liver conditions like liver disease or hepatitis.
Vivitrol Drug Interactions and Precautions
Vivitrol should not be taken with other medications without consulting with a doctor first. This is because it may interact negatively with other substances, including:
- Morphine Sulfate Liposome
- Opium Alkaloids
Individuals should check with their doctor if they experience physical symptoms of reaction at the injection site, like blistering, discoloration of the skin, or hives.
Additionally, if individuals notice dark urine, general tiredness or weakness, light-colored stool, nausea, vomiting, yellow eyes, and skin, they should contact their doctor immediately as this could indicate a liver problem.
Individuals who notice the symptoms of eosinophilic pneumonia, such as chest pain, dry cough, fever, general feeling of tiredness or weakness, rapid breathing, skin rash, or trouble breathing should contact their doctor immediately.
Never attempt to overcome the side effects of Vivitrol by using opioid drugs. This could result in serious effects of opioids like overdose, death, and coma, due to a sensitivity to opioid substances caused by naltrexone.
Lastly, it is important to remember that Vivitrol is only one part of addiction treatment. Individuals should continue participating in the other vital aspects of opioid dependency recovery such as behavioral therapy, group counseling, and more.
Find Addiction Treatment With Vivitrol Today
If you or a loved one suffer from an addiction to opioids, Vivitrol treatment may be right for you. While finding a reputable medication-assisted treatment program can be difficult, Addiction Intervention is here to help.
Contact us today for more information on how to find the right addiction treatment program for you.