Addiction Coping and Recovery Overcoming Addiction Vivitrol Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 30, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE Medically reviewed by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Table of Contents View All Table of Contents How It Works Administration Is It Right for You? Vivitrol vs. Other Medications Side Effects Effectiveness Vivitrol is an extended-release formulation of naltrexone, an opioid receptor antagonist used in the treatment of alcoholism and opioid addiction. While naltrexone hydrochloride is for both daily and once-a-month dosages, Vivitrol is the once-a-month form of the medication. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Vivitrol for the treatment of alcohol abuse in 2006. How Vivitrol Works Vivitrol works by blocking the effect that opioids have on the brain, and reduces the cravings that many people experience after they quit. Physicians prescribe Vivitrol for patients who have already stopped drinking and using opioid drugs (such as morphine, heroin, and prescription pain medications) and who have gone through a detoxification process. With alcohol, it is not certain how Vivitrol actually works, but it seems to change how the brain responds to alcohol consumption. Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares strategies for coping with alcohol cravings and other addictions, featuring addiction specialist John Umhau, MD. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts Administration You administer Vivitrol by intramuscular injection once a month. One of the main problems with the daily dosages of naltrexone was medication compliance; patients had to remember and be willing to take the pills each day. With the once-a-month shot, medication compliance is less of a factor in the treatment plan. Once-A-Month Naltrexone Injection for Substance Use Disorders Is Vivitrol Right for You? Patients already completely detoxed from alcohol and opioids are candidates for Vivitrol. It is not intended to help someone stop drinking. According to the FDA, patients "must not have any opioids in their system when they start taking Vivitrol; otherwise, they may experience withdrawal symptoms from the opioids. Also, patients may be more sensitive to opioids while taking Vivitrol at the time their next scheduled dose is due. If they miss a dose or after treatment with Vivitrol has ended, patients can accidentally overdose if they restart opioid use." Patients with acute hepatitis or liver failure should not take Vivitrol. Vivitrol vs. Other Medications Vivitrol is the first non-narcotic, non-addictive, extended-release medication approved for the treatment of opioid dependence. Methadone and buprenorphine, also approved for opioid addiction treatment, can be addictive. Methadone is available only through specialized clinics. Buprenorphine is available through doctors' offices, but it and methadone require daily doses. Side Effects According to the FDA, side effects of Vivitrol during trial studies include: DizzinessHeadacheMuscle crampsNausea and vomitingPainful jointsTiredness Other potentially serious side effects of Vivitrol include: Allergic reactions, such as hives, rashes, facial swellingFeeling depressedLiver damagePneumoniaReactions at the injection site, which can be severe and may require surgical interventionSuicide, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behavior If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Alkermes, the drug's manufacturer, claims the main side effects are: Increased liver enzymesInflammation of nasal passagesInsomnia Effectiveness Vivitrol works best in conjunction with an overall treatment program. Research shows it is more effective than medications requiring a daily dose and double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials show Vivitrol effectively prevents relapse and reduces drug cravings. FDA trials found Vivitrol patients are more likely to stay in treatment and to refrain from using illicit drugs and 36 percent were able to stay in treatment for the full six months without using drugs, compared with 23 percent in the placebo group. Naltrexone for Alcoholism and Opioid Addiction 8 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Alanis-Hirsch K, Croff R, Ford JH, et al. Extended-release naltrexone: a qualitative analysis of barriers to routine use. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2016;62:68-73. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2015.10.003 Maisel NC, Blodgett JC, Wilbourne PL, Humphreys K, Finney JW. Meta-analysis of naltrexone and acamprosate for treating alcohol use disorders: when are these medications most helpful?. Addiction. 2013;108(2):275-93. Jarvis BP, Holtyn AF, Subramaniam S, et al. Extended-release injectable naltrexone for opioid use disorder: a systematic review. Addiction. 2018;113(7):1188-1209. Lee J, Kresina TF, Campopiano M, Lubran R, Clark HW. Use of pharmacotherapies in the treatment of alcohol use disorders and opioid dependence in primary care. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:137020. doi:10.1155/2015/137020 Whelan PJ, Remski K. Buprenorphine vs methadone treatment: A review of evidence in both developed and developing worlds. J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2012;3(1):45-50. doi:10.4103/0976-3147.91934 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VIVITROL. Medication Guide. Mysels DJ, Cheng WY, Nunes EV, Sullivan MA. The association between naltrexone treatment and symptoms of depression in opioid-dependent patients. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2011;37(1):22-6. doi:10.3109/00952990.2010.540281 Alkermes, Inc. Vivitrol. Additional Reading National Institute on Drug Abuse. Important Treatment Advances for Addiction to Heroin and Other Opiates. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Approves Injectable Drug to Treat Opioid-Dependent Patients. By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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