Learn About Vivitrol®
What is Vivitrol?
Vivitrol (generic: naltrexone) is a medication used to aid in the treatment of opioid addiction by helping to prevent someone from relapsing and taking opioids again after detoxing. Vivitrol focuses on the physical portion of the addiction by blocking opioid receptors in the brain. Vivitrol is an antagonist which, when attached to the opioid receptor, causes it to not release dopamine. Once attached, this antagonist creates a barrier that does not allow opioid molecules to attach to the opioid receptors. Unlike other medications that are used to treat opioid addiction, such as buprenorphine and methadone, Vivitrol does not help with cravings or withdrawal, but rather it keeps patients from feeling the effects or “high” they would normally feel from taking opioids.
Vivitrol is most effective when used in conjunction with counseling after detox, as counseling can help with the emotional and mental components of the addiction and help a patient to deal with depression, cravings and any damaged relationships. In fact, during a six-month study, patients who took Vivitrol and received counseling were shown to be 17 times less likely to relapse due to physical dependence compared to those who took a placebo with counseling. Vivitrol is to be taken once per month by injection and it is non-addictive and non-narcotic.
The recommended dosage of the medication is 380 mg per monthly dose. This single monthly dose removes the hassle of taking a daily pill and if makes it easier to stay on a medication regimen even when not living close to a hospital or treatment center.
Opioid drugs make changes to the brain by creating artificial endorphins. The normal purpose of these endorphins is to block pain, however using opioids also tends to make the user feel good. In time, the brain begins to depend on these false endorphins, even to the point where it stops producing its own natural endorphins. The longer one uses opioid drugs, the more likely this dependence is to occur. Additionally, a user’s tolerance builds up, so greater and greater amounts of opioids are needed to get the same effect.
Common signs of opioid addiction are:
- Poor Coordination
- Physical Agitation
- Avoiding or Abandoning Responsibilities
- Change in Sleeping Habits
- Mood Swings
Vivitrol Side Effects
The side effects and dangers of taking Vivitrol are numerous and range from mild to quite severe. Perhaps the greatest danger is opioid overdose, which could happen if one were to take large amounts of opioids to try to overcome the blocking effect of Vivitrol. Overdose could also occur if a patient relapses, as Vivitrol reduces one’s overall tolerance for opioids. In either case, the consequences could be overdose, injury, coma or even death.
Another danger of Vivitrol is intensified opioid withdrawal. In order to minimize the risk of this, at least one to two weeks before starting Vivitrol, the patient must stop taking any opioids or opioid-containing medications, including methadone or buprenorphine. A healthcare provider may decide that a patient does not need to complete detox first if the patient is in a medical facility that can treat sudden opioid withdrawal. This lessens the risk of some of the more severe consequences and reactions that can occur with withdrawal.
Severe reactions at the injection site are another one of the more serious side effects of Vivitrol. The more severe of these side effects could even require surgery. Some of these severe reactions at the site might include:
- Intense Pain
- Dark Scabbing
- Open Wound
Lessor and more common side effects of Vivitrol include:
- Muscle Aches
- Joint Aches
- Increased Thirst
- Loss of Appetite
- Sexual Dysfunction