Vivitrol for Alcohol — How It Works

June 13, 2022

In the United States, alcohol use disorder is the third leading preventable cause of death. A survey done in 2109 found that over 14 million Americans (age 12 and older) suffered from alcohol use disorder. One possible solution is the use of Vivitrol for alcohol.

Due to many different factors (such as people working/staying at home more), the number of people suffering from alcohol addiction remains very high. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you or someone you know struggles with drinking alcohol and may be interested in safe ways to stop drinking.

If physically dependent on alcohol, it can be very dangerous to try to quit cold turkey. In fact, alcohol withdrawal can actually kill you. Since withdrawal from alcohol is so dangerous, it also makes the idea of quitting drinking seem extremely difficult and/or virtually impossible.

There are many medications being prescribed currently that are used as part of treatment methods to help people addicted to different substances. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) makes use of medication and psychotherapy to help people with drug and alcohol withdrawal as well as help reduce cravings so that long-term sobriety is more attainable.

One of the most effective MAT medications for alcohol use disorder is Vivitrol. It’s an extended-release form of the drug naltrexone that is injected intramuscularly into the buttocks once a month. It has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of alcohol relapse and help people maintain abstinence long-term.

How Vivitrol Works

Vivitrol belongs to a class of drugs known as opioid antagonists. Vivitrol blocks the euphoric effects of drinking alcohol and can greatly reduce physical cravings for alcohol during alcohol withdrawal.

Vivitrol is different from Antabuse. Antabuse will make you violently ill if you drink alcohol while taking it. Vivitrol just affects the brain's response to alcohol consumption, keeping endorphins produced by alcohol from attaching to receptors in the brain.

Since you won’t experience the euphoria when you drink alcohol while on Vivitrol, it deters many people who struggle with alcohol abuse from drinking. Vivitrol is very effective because of the fact that you only need to have it injected once a month.

That way when you get the injection, you know that drinking alcohol over the next 30 days is not going to give you the effect you want. When used in conjunction with therapy, Vivitrol can help a person get free from the bondage of alcohol addiction.

Potential Sife Effects of Vivitrol

Vivitrol is considered to be an extremely safe medication to use however (like many medications), there are possible negative side effects. These side effects include:

You need to let your doctor know immediately if you have any negative side effects associated with Vivitrol use. They can either reduce your dosage or find an alternative medication to Vivitrol.

What Happens When You Drink on Vivitrol?

If you drink while using Vivitrol, it’s unlikely you will experience any life-threatening reaction. 

Here are some things you won’t experience if you drink alcohol while taking Vivitrol.

However, you might experience:

Who is Vivitrol For?

Vivitrol has proven to be most effective when the person taking it has a high resolve to stop drinking alcohol altogether. If you are just looking to cut down on the amount you drink, Vivitrol is probably not the right medication for you.

You will undergo screening and tests by healthcare practitioners to see if you have any liver diseases or have any signs of allergic reactions to carboxymethylcellulose, polylactide-co-glycolide, Naltrexone, and other Vivitrol ingredients. 

If you meet the criteria and conditions, you will be eligible for a monthly Vivitrol shot. Vivitrol is effective for short-term and long-term use. Some people may find that they need to stay on a Vivitrol for a few months. Other people feel like they need to stay on it for years.

Whether you want to use it short or long-term depends on you and your specific treatment goals. 

Many healthcare professionals will recommend that you stay on Vivitrol at least one year for it to be the most effective.

You should not take Vivitrol if:

Since Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist, it blocks the euphoric effects produced by opioid consumption (such as shooting heroin). If you are physically dependent on opioids and you take Vivitrol, you will go into sudden opioid withdrawal.

Therefore you need to be free from taking opioids for at least a week or 2 before a healthcare professional will give you Vivitrol.

Medication is only one piece of the puzzle if you are truly trying to recover from alcohol use disorder. If you are severely physically addicted to alcohol, it’s highly recommended that you go to an inpatient rehab facility to have a medically supervised detox. 

Once at an inpatient facility and safely detoxed, you can talk to a doctor about MAT. They may even start you on naltrexone or the Vivitrol shot while you are in rehab and set you up for appointments when you get out.

Once inpatient treatment is completed, you can step down to lower levels of care, such as a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or an intensive outpatient program (IOP). These types of programs will give you added support and accountability as you integrate back into daily life.

You will also have the benefit of being able to talk about your experience with Vivitrol with addiction recovery professionals.

Recovery is a journey, not a destination. Vivitrol can help you take that very first step.

IOP at ASIC Recovery

Looking for substance abuse treatment in Texas? At ASIC Recovery, our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is dedicated to helping individuals develop healthier coping skills and build a supportive recovery network. Click to learn more.

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