Naltrexone (Vivitrol)

Vivitrol, also known as Naltrexone, is a brand name drug. This medication is typically used in the management of opioid use disorders as well as alcohol dependence, abuse, and addiction.

Although there are other forms of naltrexone available as oral tablets, the Vivitrol formulation is typically administered intramuscularly once a month. This is because it is available as a solution.

Understanding Naltrexone (Vivitrol)

If you are addicted to opioids, it is essential that you first go through a complete detoxification process before maintaining your abstinence for anywhere between 7 to 10 days before you start taking naltrexone (Vivitrol). This is because the drug could lead to adverse withdrawal symptoms.

In all its forms, naltrexone is effective because it can stop the sedation and euphoria that various drugs that depress the central nervous system can cause. Examples of these drugs include opioids and alcohol.

This is because naltrexone works by binding itself to the receptor sites for these drugs in lieu of them. It also remains at these sites for a relatively long period of time. As a result, if you were to relapse and start drinking or taking opioid drugs, they will not be able to bind to the receptor sites. This effectively means that you will not experience the high that is typically associated with these substances after you have been through a detox process and you are already on naltrexone.

Naltrexone Side Effects

Although naltrexone is mostly useful in the management of opioid and alcohol abuse and addiction, it can also come with some negative side effects. However, these side effects are not considered to be worse than the substance use disorders that the drug can cause. It is for this reason that addiction treatment specialists will still prescribe naltrexone (Vivitrol).

Some of these side effects include but are not always limited to:

  • Diarrhea
  • Exhaustion
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Upset stomach

In other cases, taking an injection of naltrexone could also cause you to experience reactions at the site where you got the injection. There might also be a low to moderate risk that you could develop liver toxicity and eosinophilia pneumonia.

Even so, naltrexone tends to come with many benefits especially when it is used in the management of alcohol and opioid use disorders. This is because it can help you reduce your cravings for these addictive substances but only after you have been through a medically managed detox program and it proved to be successful.

Naltrexone is also unlike other opioid agonist medications that are applied in the treatment of opioid use disorders - such as buprenorphine and methadone. This is because it will not cause you to experience any pleasurable euphoria. As a result, it does not come with any risk of substance abuse, intoxication, and addiction.

Naltrexone for Alcohol Use Disorders

The Food and Drug Administration first approved naltrexone (Vivitrol) in 2006 for use in preventing the risk of relapse among people who were recovering from alcohol abuse and addiction.

The drug is effective because it can significantly minimize your alcohol cravings. However, it works in a way that is different from other alcohol relapse prevention drugs such as disulfiram that will only discourage your continued drinking by ensuring that you become sick whenever you drink alcohol.

Naltrexone can augment your recovery from alcohol addiction in a different way. According to a recent research study, people took this drug alongside counseling to deal with their alcohol use disorders. At the end of the 6 month double-blind research study, these people experienced more than a 25 percent reduction in their total number of heavy drinking days once they had been through the naltrexone treatment program.

Other studies have shown that people who receive a treatment module that comprises both naltrexone and addiction counseling and therapy have a higher chance of spending more time in recovery and abstinence. They also experience much lower rates of alcohol relapse.

Currently, the way that naltrexone (Vivitrol) works is still being studied. However, there are several theories. Some hold that intoxicating drugs like alcohol work by releasing endorphins in the brain. This means that when you drink, it will make you feel good.

This behavior will reinforce itself over time until you get to a point where you intensely feel the need to continue drinking. At some point, you may even find that you can only feel good when you are intoxicated.

While receiving treatment for your substance use disorder, you might get a prescription for naltrexone. This drug would be effective because it blocks your endorphins from attaching to their receptors. As a result, you will not be able to experience pleasure whenever you take alcohol.

Even so, you might still feel some of the other signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication. However, since there will be no good feeling associated with this substance, you might choose to stop drinking altogether. This is why naltrexone is such an effective alcohol cessation drug.

Naltrexone for Opioid Use Disorders

The FDA first approved naltrexone (Vivitrol) in 2010 for use in the treatment of opioid use disorders. Although it was already known by then that the drug was effective in the treatment of alcohol addiction, the drug was not yet being used to help people struggling with opioid abuse and addiction.

However, a study ended up showing that the people who took naltrexone during their rehabilitation would often spend a longer time in their rehabilitation program. They also showed higher rates of remaining abstinent and avoiding relapse even after completing their treatment.

Although naltrexone is effective as a relapse prevention medication for opioid use disorders, it is essential that you first complete the medially managed detoxification process first. You should also not have any traces of opioids in your system or display any withdrawal symptoms before you get started on naltrexone.

This is because naltrexone (Vivitrol) works by removing opioids from the opioid receptors in your brain. This effectively means that if you take it when you are still in a medically managed detox process that involves the use of other medications like buprenorphine, the naltrexone component could stop this medication from working. It might also worsen your withdrawal symptoms.

Getting Help

When you check into an addiction treatment and rehabilitation program suffering with an alcohol or an opioid use disorder, you might get a prescription for naltrexone (Vivitrol) once your withdrawal symptoms have been stabilized. It is recommended that you continue taking this prescription exactly as your doctors recommended to ensure that it helps you achieve a state of sobriety and long term recovery.


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