Addiction is a complex disorder that requires comprehensive medical and psychiatric treatment. Medications like Vivitrol are used as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help people overcome addictions to alcohol and/or opioids. When combined with an individualized addiction treatment program, Vivitrol can help people live sober, fulfilling lives.
What is Vivitrol?
Vivitrol is a brand-name extended-release formulation of naltrexone that comes in the form of an intramuscular injection which is administered once monthly. The medication is administered to individuals struggling with addiction who are trying to recover from an addiction to alcohol or opioids.
Vivitrol was initially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 to treat alcohol use disorder. In 2010, its FDA approval was extended to be used in the treatment of opioid use disorder. Clinical trials revealed that people who used counseling alongside Vivitrol to treat substance use disorder had a 25% reduction in the number of heavy drinking days.
Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist that is used to treat alcohol and opioid use disorders. It is available in a pill form that is taken on a daily basis, however, Vivitrol is the first extended-release formulation of the drug.
Naltrexone works by binding to opioid receptor sites in the body without causing feelings of euphoria like opioids do. Instead, it stops the euphoria and sedation that central nervous system depressants like opioids and alcohol cause. This mechanism of action accomplishes two things:
- Reduces cravings for drugs and alcohol
- Preventing feelings of euphoria if opioids are taken
These two features, combined with therapy, can reduce the risk of relapse for people in recovery.
How Does The Vivitrol Shot Work?
People must detox from opioids or alcohol first before starting Vivitrol. Taking the medication too early while the body is still physically dependent on opioids can result in severe side effects known as precipitated withdrawal. As a result, individuals should be closely monitored at a medical detox facility or by a healthcare provider for 7-10 days before receiving their first injection.
Once detoxed, patients will visit their doctor to get their first shot. Prior to receiving the shot, patients will receive a physical examination, a liver function test, and undergo toxicological screenings to ensure opioids are no longer in the system.
Vivitrol injections must be prepared and administered by healthcare professionals as an intramuscular (IM) injection. The recommended dose is 380mg each month and the injection is administered in the buttocks. The shot provides the body with a steady dose of naltrexone that lasts for up to a month.
After 28-30 days, patients must return to their healthcare provider for their next injection.
Vivitrol Side Effects
All medications cause side effects, but the side effects associated with Vivitrol are minimal, and most go away within a couple of days or weeks after receiving the injection. The most common side effects are injection site reactions such as:
These symptoms are isolated to the injection site and are completely normal reactions. As the medication is slowly used up in the body, the injection site reactions will subside. However, if these symptoms get worse or persist for more than two weeks, patients should speak with their doctor.
Other common side effects of the Vivitrol shot include:
- Loss of appetite
As previously mentioned, people cannot start taking Vivitrol until they have completely detoxed from opioids. Starting the medication too early can result in sudden and severe opioid withdrawal symptoms (such as anxiety, vomiting, diarrhea, mood changes, and hallucinations.)
What to Expect During Addiction Treatment With Vivitrol
Vivitrol, like other medications used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT), is most effective when combined with a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program that uses behavioral therapy, counseling, and peer support. Many addiction treatment centers offer Vivitrol injections to qualified candidates during and after treatment.
While Vivitrol can help reduce cravings and the risk for relapse, it does not treat the root causes of addiction. To achieve long-term recovery, patients should actively participate in group counseling, individual therapy, and peer support groups such as the 12-Steps. Therapy and peer support provide a foundation for recovery that medications cannot.
Addiction treatment typically consists of:
- Behavioral therapy
- Holistic therapies
- Family counseling
- Medication management
- Case management
- Aftercare planning
Individuals should never stop taking Vivitrol without speaking with their doctor about doing so. Quitting the medication before one is ready to do so can result in a relapse.
Find a Vivitrol Treatment and Recovery Program in New Jersey Today
Vivitrol may not be right for everyone, so it’s always important to consult with a medical provider before starting a new medication. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to alcohol or opioids, a Vivitrol treatment program in New Jersey may be right for you. Contact a team member at Moving Mountains Recovery today to learn more about your treatment options and get started on your recovery.