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Staying abstinent from alcohol or opioids can be difficult. After you’ve overcome the initial withdrawal symptoms and detox, you still need to navigate a world that is full of triggers that can cause relapse. Certain medications like Vivitrol can be prescribed to help you maintain your sobriety, increasing your chances of staying sober.
Vivitrol is a brand name for the medication naltrexone. The drug is FDA-approved to help people stay abstinent from opioids or alcohol addiction. Importantly, Vivitrol is only prescribed to people who have already stopped using these substances and want help staying sober. It is not prescribed to treat acute withdrawal symptoms.
Unlike other dosage forms of naltrexone which are short-acting and taken by mouth, Vivitrol is a long-acting, injectable medication. This makes Vivitrol a good choice for people who might forget to take their medication on a regular basis.
Vivitrol works by blocking mu-opioid receptors in the brain. When taken for opioid use disorder, the drug prevents opioids from working as they otherwise would on mu receptors. When taken for alcohol use disorder, Vivitrol’s action on the mu-opioid receptors prevents the euphoria and reward cycle in the brain linked to drinking. The drug also impacts the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, suppressing the feelings of relaxation a person gets from drinking.
Vivitrol has several benefits over the orally administered versions of naltrexone. Because Vivitrol is long-acting, it only needs to be injected once a month. Oral naltrexone dosage forms need to be taken every day. Giving the drug as a monthly injection can be simpler since you don’t need to remember to take it on a daily basis.
Experts recommend naltrexone products like Vivitrol to help reduce alcohol cravings and stay sober. Specifically, studies have shown that naltrexone can help people:
Vivitrol, buprenorphine and methadone are available medications to treat opioid use disorder. However, experts often recommend methadone or buprenorphine over Vivitrol because people struggling with opioids are more likely to adhere to their dosage schedule. For this reason, Vivitrol has limited use for opioid use disorder.
If you and your doctor choose Vivitrol, it is important not to start Vivitrol until opioids are completely out of your system, as it can cause withdrawal. This includes methadone and buprenorphine, which are opioids prescribed to prevent the high from taking other opioids of abuse. Getting an opioid out of your system can take seven to 14 days.
Vivitrol is only one of several medications that can be used to help treat alcohol or opioid addiction. Knowing how Vivitrol stacks up compared to other options can help you make the best decision about which medication is right for you. Common alternatives prescribed for addiction include:
Vivitrol and Antabuse are both options to treat alcohol addiction. Experts prefer Vivitrol over Antabuse to treat alcohol addiction. Antabuse should be limited to people who have:
Unlike Vivitrol, Antabuse is given by mouth. Further, Antabuse has unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects when mixed with alcohol, so avoiding alcohol while taking Antabuse is essential.
Vivitrol and Revia can both be prescribed to treat either alcohol or opioid addiction. Revia is an oral tablet form of naltrexone that needs to be taken once daily, whereas Vivitrol is a long-acting injectable form of naltrexone that is given once monthly. Although both dosage forms are effective, Revia is available in multiple doses, with some people needing higher doses for the drug to stop cravings. In contrast, Vivitrol is only available in one dose, and higher doses are not needed.
Although there have been no head-to-head comparisons of Revia and Vivitrol, experts believe that people may be more likely to stick to their Vivitrol dosage schedules since it doesn’t need to be taken on a daily basis.
Vivitrol and Sublocade (buprenorphine) can both be prescribed to treat opioid addiction. Despite the fact that they are both long-acting injectable medications given on a monthly basis, there are many differences between the medications.
Vivitrol and Suboxone (buprenorphine) can both be prescribed to treat opioid addiction. Suboxone is an alternative to Sublocade that contains the same active ingredient and is given by mouth on a daily basis. Vivitrol and Suboxone have many differences.
Vivitrol and methadone (Methadose, Dolophine) can both be prescribed to treat opioid addiction. However, there are many differences between the drugs.
Like all drugs, Vivitrol has some side effects. Some of the most common side effects include:
Vivitrol’s side effects can last varying lengths of time, depending on the person. For some people, side effects might resolve quickly, while for others, side effects may remain the entire time you take the drug. Most people’s side effects from Vivitrol are not severe enough to lead to quitting the drug. Overall, 9% of people taking Vivitrol for alcohol dependence and 2% of people taking Vivitrol for opioid dependence stopped the drug due to side effects.
Vivitrol can be expensive, but manufacturer savings programs can help. If your health insurance covers your Vivitrol, you would pay the copay that your insurance requires. However, if you do not have health insurance, a 30-day supply of Vivitrol can cost more than $2,000.
Manufacturer coupon programs are available, however, to help ease the cost of Vivitrol. This includes the Vivitrol Co-Pay Savings Program. Vivitrol’s manufacturer, Alkermes, has a website for a coupon that can reduce your out-of-pocket Vivitrol costs to $0. They can also be reached at 1-800-848-4876.
You should not drink while taking Vivitrol. Doing so risks both interrupting your recovery and liver damage from combining the drug with alcohol.
Drinking while taking Vivitrol can disrupt your recovery. When prescribed for alcohol dependence, Vivitrol is used to reduce cravings and help you stay off alcohol. Drinking alcohol despite being on Vivitrol is, therefore, counterproductive.
In addition, Vivitrol can cause liver problems and should not be taken with other substances, like alcohol, that can increase the risk of liver problems.
Even if you are taking Vivitrol for opioid dependence, you should avoid alcohol. It can be tempting to replace one addiction with another, and it is important to focus on healthy eating and drinking habits to help ease your recovery.
Vivitrol is not a controlled substance. However, alternatives to Vivitrol are often controlled substances. This includes medications that can treat alcohol withdrawal, like benzodiazepines, or opioid withdrawal, like buprenorphine or methadone.
Vivitrol starts to work within about 15 to 30 minutes. However, the full effects can take much longer to kick in. Some people may notice a reduction in cravings within the first week, and the full effect can take three to five weeks.
The length of time you can take Vivitrol can vary from person to person. There is no one duration of Vivitrol therapy that is right for everyone. Factors doctors consider in determining how long someone should remain on Vivitrol include:
If your doctor prescribes Vivitrol, you will come into a doctor’s office or treatment facility once a month to get a Vivitrol injection. Vivitrol is an intramuscular injection, meaning that it is administered directly into a muscle, generally the buttocks.
Vivitrol can only be given by a healthcare professional. For this reason, you are unlikely you’ll pick up a Vivitrol prescription at a community pharmacy. Instead, the medication will likely be waiting for you at your doctor’s office or rehab treatment center.
Denver Mental Health and Counseling offers Vivitrol injections, along with other medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options as medically appropriate. We believe that overcoming addiction involves treating the whole person, not just their addiction. We offer a full array of outpatient mental health services to help you overcome substance abuse and any co-occurring conditions.
If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol or opioids, don’t wait: contact us today to learn more about personalized, evidence-based treatment programs that could be right for you. Our team of licensed addiction professionals is ready to help you on the path to long-term recovery.
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Denver Mental Health Counseling by The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.
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