Vivitrol is the injectable form of naltrexone, an opioid antagonist medication that can reduce cravings and alcohol use in people recovering from alcohol use disorders.
What is Vivitrol?
Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist that also goes by the brand name ReVia, which is the immediate-release pill form of naltrexone.
The extended-release version allows for fewer administrations of the drug. Depending on the person, the drug may remain active for up to 30 days in its injectable form. This allows for fewer complications and is the major advantage of using Vivitrol. Users do not have to remember to take their pills in the morning. They only need to see their physician once a month for an injection.
Abuse Potential of Naltrexone (Vivitrol)
The various forms of naltrexone have essentially no potential for abuse. They do not produce any forms of euphoria, and their mechanism of action is to block receptor sites in the brain. Forms of naltrexone do not produce physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms. While Vivitrol is not a controlled substance, it does require a prescription from a doctor.
Vivitrol and Alcohol Use Disorders
In its various forms, naltrexone is one of the few drugs that is approved for the treatment of alcohol use disorders by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
According To Research Studies Investigating The Use Of Naltrexone In The Treatment Of Alcohol Abuse, Vivitrol May:
- Reduce overall alcohol use. It is associated with a reduction in the number of times an individual drinks alcohol. It also is associated with a decrease in heavy alcohol use.
- Decrease urges or cravings to drink alcohol. This occurs in individuals who have started drinking.
- Lessen cravings for alcohol. This occurs in individuals who are not actively using alcohol.
The research also suggests that the use of Vivitrol or some other form of naltrexone should continue for at least three months for individuals to achieve optimal effectiveness from the drug.
What Vivitrol Will Not Do
According To The FDA And The National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism (NIAAA), Vivitrol Will Not:
- Lead to a person being able to drink more alcohol than they usually would be able to drink. It does not increase one’s tolerance for alcohol or other drugs.
- Reduce the intoxicating effects of drinking alcohol or eliminate other effects, like reaction times, physical coordination, and problems with judgment and thinking.
- Address withdrawal symptoms associated with discontinuing alcohol.
- Lead to an individual becoming abstinent from alcohol.
- Cure an individual of their alcohol use disorder. There is no cure for addiction, but it can be effectively managed.
- Address the other effects associated with having an alcohol use disorder, such as problems with physical health, relationship issues, and legal issues.
What Vivitrol Can Do
The advantages of using Vivitrol include not having to take the drug daily. For instance, the pill form of naltrexone, ReVia, requires daily use. Another advantage is a possible reduction in alcohol cravings.
Vivitrol can be useful only if the person actually takes the drug as scheduled. Research studies investigating the effectiveness of medications used in the treatment of alcohol use disorders indicate that compliance is a major issue. People will often stop taking them when they decide they want to start drinking again.
Vivitrol is most effective in lessening cravings after the person has maintained a period of abstinence. This is, most often, seven to 10 days of total abstinence from alcohol. Vivitrol is not a substitute for participation in a substance use disorder treatment program that includes therapy, peer support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, group therapy, and professional attention to other co-occurring issues. Virtually every research study indicates that the use of naltrexone products is only effective when they are combined with other aspects of an effective substance use disorder treatment program.
Does Vivitrol Have Any Potential Side Effects?
Although every medication has a potential side effect profile, naltrexone has relatively few side effects. In fact, most people can use the drug safely while under the supervision of a physician.
According To The U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA), Some Of The More Common Side Effects That Might Occur With Vivitrol Are:
- Flu-like symptoms, including headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomachache or stomach cramps, muscle cramps, and stiffness.
- Issues with sleep in some individuals. This may include insomnia, feeling lethargic, and sleeping too much.
- Jittery or anxious feelings while taking the drug.
- The exacerbation of liver damage in people who have liver complications as a result of drug abuse.
- Some soreness or a rash around the site of injection.
- Liver damage.
- Allergic reactions can include swelling, hives, itching, anxiety, and other symptoms. Individuals with suspected allergic reactions should stop using the drug and contact their physician.
Can Someone Administer Vivitrol on their Own?
Individuals with a history of substance use disorders may be controlling. While they often want to be in control of their recovery, their desire to be in control of their drug-abusing behavior is what led to their problems in the first place.
Letting go of complete control, particularly when one needs professional help, is something an individual in recovery must learn to do.
Prescription medications require a prescription from a physician to protect people from drugs that could be potentially dangerous. Individuals should not take Vivitrol unless they are under the care of a physician.