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Vivitrol Naltrexone for Opiate Addiction Treatment

Vivitrol is an injectable, long-lasting form of naltrexone. This prescription drug blocks opiates' power, so you can't get high if you slip up and relapse. It could help to reduce drug cravings too.

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Counseling, support group meetings, and Vivitrol can combine in an effective treatment program for opiate addiction. Use Vivitrol alone, and you’re less likely to change your life and achieve long-term sobriety.

How Is Vivitrol Used?

Vivitrol is a prescription medication, so you must get it from a doctor in a series of appointments. You’ll use the drug in combination with other therapies for addiction.

Researchers can’t find one group of people that benefits from Vivitrol more than another. Anyone with an addiction to opiates could benefit from the help this medication provides.

Your doctor will run tests and perform a physical exam to ensure you’re healthy enough for shots. Then, you’ll get an injection into a major muscle group (like your thigh) every four weeks.

Vivitrol works differently than buprenorphine and methadone. These drugs attach to opioid receptors inside your brain and body, reducing cravings. Vivitrol is a blocker, so it won’t allow opioid particles to bind to receptors.

Some people feel craving reductions on Vivitrol. Others report that their cravings fade because they experience no results from opioids while on Vivitrol. When they use heroin, they feel nothing. That unexpected change jolts the brain into new thought patterns.

Medications are just part of your treatment program for addiction. Your team may also suggest the following:

  • Group counseling: You’ll meet with other people also struggling with addiction, and work through exercises and conversations guided by a therapist.
  • Individual counseling: Talk one-on-one with a mental health professional to address the root causes behind your substance abuse.
  • Family therapy: Bring important people in your life to your appointments, heal broken relationships, and discuss how to maintain your sobriety.
  • Support groups: Connect with others in sobriety and help one another to make good choices. Learn from the experiences of others and provide vital support to them when they need it.

Medications like Vivitrol don’t replace the work you’ll do in your appointments and meetings. Instead, medications can make it easier to focus on the other aspects of your recovery. The two approaches should work together.

Is Vivitrol Safe?

Vivitrol is not an opioid, it is not addictive, and it won’t cause you discomfort when therapy is through. You can’t abuse the drug, as your doctor administers the shots. And if your dosing is wrong, you can’t get high.

You may notice slight interactions at the injection site, such as these:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Bruising

These reactions tend to fade within a few days. If they don’t, your doctor can help.

Some people taking Vivitrol experience a spike in suicidal thoughts, and some attempt to take their lives. Talk with your doctor about any mental health challenges you experience.

Be sure to talk through your feelings in all of your therapy sessions. Mood swings can be caused by drug withdrawal and the recovery process too. Remember to be patient with yourself and be proud of the progress you’ve made.

Your opiate cravings may persist, and you might be tempted to take very large heroin doses to get high. If you take enough, you could, in theory, overcome the blocking power of Vivitrol. But those very high doses could also suppress your body’s vital functions, and you could overdose.

If you’re tempted to relapse, take action. Talk to your support group sponsor, ask for an intake appointment at a residential program, or connect with your counselor. Your life is too important to risk.

Does Vivitrol Work?

Each injection blocks the power of opiates so you can’t get high if you relapse. If your goal is to protect yourself from a mistake you might make in the future, Vivitrol could be right for you.

In a study of effectiveness, researchers found that about half of all people were abstinent a year after they started using injectable naloxone. That number may sound low, but it’s very hard to recover from opiate addiction. If you’re part of that successful group, you might be happy you used Vivitrol.

You will need to keep your injection appointments, and some people don’t. If you’re tempted to skip your shots so you can get high, you may need a different form of therapy.

Is Vivitrol the Only Answer?

As the opiate crisis continues to take lives, researchers scramble to find effective solutions. Vivitrol is just one of them.

Medications like buprenorphine and methadone are proven to help reduce drug cravings. Take them at the proper dose, and you won’t get high. Instead, you’ll just feel normal and better equipped to handle therapy.

Some people say medications like this are more humane, as they address the foundational causes of addiction. You’re not blocking a drug as much as healing your brain.

You could also attempt recovery without medications at all. You may have to learn to live with cravings, and you’ll need deep support to make it happen. But it is another available approach.

Remember that any choice you make now could change in time. If your recovery is in jeopardy, talk to your team and change tactics.

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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated May 1, 2023
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  6. Efficacy of Long-Lasting Injectable Naltrexone. Drug Policy Facts.
  7. Injectable Extended-Release Naltrexone (XR-NTX) for Opioid Dependence: Long-Term Safety and Effectiveness. (May 2013). Addiction.
  8. Vivitrol Offers the Fantasy of Being Drug Free. But That's Not the Most Important Thing in Tackling Addiction. (June 2017). Stat.
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