What is a Vivitrol Shot? | Side Effects, Uses, & How it Works
alcohol treatment prescription medication

vivitrol shot alcohol treatmentAddiction is a disease that is currently impacting 23 million Americans. Although drug abuse has been around for centuries, it wasn’t until 1987 that addiction was classified in the medical community as an actual disease. The general consensus now is that addiction is, in fact, a complex disease of the brain and body. Because of its complexities, substance abuse and the disease of addiction can feel monumental in overcoming. However, with evidence-based programs, co-occurring mental health treatment, and even various medications, an individual has a chance at living substance-free. What types of medications are now being offered to help battle through addiction? What is a Vivitrol shot? We’re discussing more below. 

Addiction involves compulsive use of one or more substances despite serious health and social consequences. Many struggles on the road to recovery due to the changes in the functioning of the brain and body. The medical and pharmaceutical companies have launched into research on medications that may be used to treat addictions related to opioids, alcohol, cocaine, and other substances. The development of methadone and Vivitrol were two resulting outcomes of this research. We’re uncovering some must-knows about Vivitrol.  

What is a Vivitrol shot? 

There are various pathways to take in the journey to recovery. Choosing sobriety as a lifestyle goes beyond abusing substances. A specific addiction occurs because of the exposure to a drug and the way in which that drug changes the brain. As a result, there’s often a multi-pronged approach when discovering methodology in overcoming addictions. What is the  Vivitrol shot and how does it fit into the methodology of treatment? 

Vivitrol is a brand-name prescription medications used to:

  1. Treat alcohol dependence. For heavy drinkers and individuals battling with Alcohol Use Disorder, or AUD, Vivitrol may help to reduce drinking. 
  2. Prevent opioid dependence after opioid detoxification. Opioids are well-known prescription medications used to treat chronic pain. Opioids are also a highly addictive substance. Vivitrol is meant to help individuals avoid becoming dependent on opioids again after you’ve used them in the past. You must stop using opioids for at least seven to ten days before taking Vivitrol.  

Vivitrol is most effective when used with other evidence-based treatment programs, mental health counseling, and support groups. 

What Does the Vivitrol Shot Block?

According to Medical News Today, for the treatment of opioids dependence, researchers found that 36% of people who took Vivitrol didn’t use any opioids throughout the 24-week study. In comparison, only 23% of people who took a placebo (no treatment) didn’t use any opioids for this timeframe. In a separate clinical trial, individuals who used the approved dose of Vivitrol had 25% fewer heavy drinking days. 

What is a Vivitrol shot, though, and how does it work? 

Naltrexone is the generic version of brand-name Vivitrol. All forms of naltrexone work by stopping the euphoria and sedation that central nervous system depressants, specifically alcohol and opioids, can cause. Vivitrol effectively blocks opioid and alcohol neurological effects, binding to receptor sites in place of drugs. 

Who Should Not Take Vivitrol?

vivitrol shot treatmentMedical research conducted by the FDA shows that certain patients are not good candidates for Vivitrol. They include:

  • Those who are using or have a physical dependence on opioid-containing medicines, or opioid street drugs like heroin. Your healthcare professional can test for dependence by giving you a small injection of naloxone. 
  • Those who are having opioid withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms could include anxiety, sleeplessness, yawning, fever, sweating, teary eyes, runny nose, goosebumps, the shakes, hot flashes, muscle aches, spasms, or twitches, restlessness, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramps.
  • Those who are allergic to naltrexone or any other Vivitrol ingredients.

Origins of Vivitrol

NPR notes that, in 1963, Naltrexone was synthesized in 1963 by a small pharmaceutical company in New York City called Endo Laboratories. It is sold under several brand names including Vivitrol.

Vivitrol Side Effects

Vivitrol’s website reports several potential side effects. While not all patients experience side effects, Vivitrol providers note that those who get Vivitrol shots may suffer from some degree of these side effects:

1. Increased Risk of Opioid Overdose 

Patients may experience accidental overdose in two ways:

  • Vivitrol can block the effects of opioids, such as heroin or opioid pain meds. An accidental overdose can occur if the patient attempts to overcome this effect by increasing opioids. 
  • If you continue your use of street or prescription opioids after you’ve had Vivitrol, it can lead to overdose and death. Even lower amounts of opioids can be dangerous.

2. Severe Injection Site Reactions 

Some patients experience severe injection site reactions. These can include tissue death. Surgery may be required.

Vivitrol must be prescribed and injected by a healthcare professional. 

If you experience injection site problems, call your healthcare provider immediately. Injection site symptoms include:

  • Severe pain 
  • Hardness in the area 
  • Swelling 
  • Lumps
  • Blisters 
  • Open wound 
  • Dark scabbing

3. Sudden Opioid Withdrawal 

Sudden opioid withdrawal can occur if you do not stop taking any type of opioid. This includes street drugs, prescription pain medicines, cough, cold, or diarrhea medicines that contain opioids, or opioid-dependence treatments, including buprenorphine or methadone.

To avoid opioid withdrawal it is crucial to stop taking any opioid product a week or two before starting Vivitrol. Sudden opioid withdrawal can be severe and may require hospitalization.

4. Liver Damage or Hepatitis

The active ingredient in Vivitrol is Naltrexone. It can cause liver damage or hepatitis. Watch for these symptoms:

  • Stomach pain that lasts longer than a few days
  • Dark urine
  • Yellowing of the whites of your eyes
  • Fatigue

Tell your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms arise. You may need to stop taking Vivitrol. These signs are symptoms of a serious liver problem.

5. Behavior Side Effects

what is a vivitrol shotVivitrol can sometimes cause depression. This may lead to suicide, or suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behavior.

6. Pneumonia

Some people have contracted a type of pneumonia caused by an allergic reaction to Vivitrol. Seek medical attention immediately. This may require hospitalization.

Other Allergic Reactions

  • Skin rash
  • Swelling of face, eyes, mouth, or tongue
  • Wheezing, difficulty breathing 
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or fainting

Common Side Effects

  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness and/or insomnia
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Muscular aches
  • Cold-like symptoms

What Happens if You Drink on the Vivitrol Shot?

vivitrol shot

If you are a candidate for  Vivitrol to treat alcohol dependence, it is imperative that you refrain from starting Vivitrol until after you’ve stopped drinking. Those who can resist drinking in an outpatient setting are good candidates for Vivitrol. 

What happens if you drink on the Vivitrol shot? Some believe you can drink small amounts of alcohol while on Vivitrol. But, manufacturers and healthcare professionals warn that this can often further increase alcohol addiction.

Vivitrol reduces cravings for alcohol or drugs. If you drink alcohol while on Vivitrol you won’t feel worse than you would normally feel after drinking the same amount of alcohol. You will get the same symptoms of intoxication like poor coordination, slowed responses, and less lucid.

Vivitrol Facts

  • It is not a miracle drug but it can help diminish the appeal of alcohol or opioid drugs.
  • Vivitrol is injected monthly. This makes it easier to take than daily oral medications.
  • It may stabilize blood pressure levels.
  • Vivitrol is not addictive.

Where Can I Get a Vivitrol Shot?

Vivitrol can be prescribed by a healthcare professional who is working with you to treat alcohol or opioid addiction.

It is also part of the treatment used in addiction rehab facilities.

Because of often-severe side effects, it is important that Vivitrol not be injected by anyone who is not a healthcare professional.

Vivitrol Therapy at AspenRidge Recovery

Only medical physicians can write a prescription to supply and administer Vivitrol shots. The safest, most effective way to receive Vivitrol shots is in conjunction with a Colorado addiction treatment program. As a standalone drug, Vivitrol is not meant to be used in lieu of cognitive therapy, mental health counseling, and evidence-based substance abuse treatment modalities. Instead, it should work alongside these other forms of treatment. 

At our AspenRidge locations, we offer specialized addiction treatment. Part of our inpatient rehab program includes creating an individualized treatment program. If you meet the criteria, your therapy team may suggest Vivitrol shots. However, to qualify for these injections you must have ongoing psychiatric counseling. Part of our treatment involves strengthening your mental health and helping you learn coping strategies and behaviors that assist in avoiding relapse. 

Our programs treat addiction, mental health, and trauma through group and individual therapy. Our knowledgeable, board-certified and licensed therapists will work with you in individual and group therapy. Our ultimate goal is to help you learn to manage your life sober. For more information on AspenRidge’s use of Vivitrol or to tour our AspenRidge facilities call our 24/7 phone line at (866) 977-8625

 

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