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Article Summary

What Is Vivitrol?

Medication-assisted treatment, also commonly abbreviated as MAT, is a common practice in the treatment of substance use disorders. It involves the use of combinations of certain drugs alongside counseling and behavioral therapy to control addiction and lead to recovery.

The main objective of MAT is a holistic approach to rehabilitation designed to increase the chances of successful recovery and treatment. Today, it is commonly used in the treatment of alcohol and opioid addiction.

This is because certain medications have been found useful in alleviating the intense drug cravings that arise from withdrawal. These medications are also useful in providing comfortable transitionary experiences to recovering addicts.

One of the options used in MAT is Vivitrol. Although this drug comes with many benefits, some people wonder if it is possible to develop an addiction to it. Read on learn more about what is Vivitrol, how it works, and why it is useful in treating chemical dependence:

Understanding What Is Vivitrol

Basically speaking, doctors typically prescribe Vivitrol for the treatment of addiction to certain substances like opiates, opioids, and alcohol. It works by preventing patients from abusing these drugs.

The generic name for Vivitrol is naltrexone. It is primarily classified as an opiate antagonist. This means that patients who take it cannot feel the effects of pain relief and wellbeing that come about when they abuse opiates.

Additionally, taking Vivitrol can potentially decrease your desire to continue abusing opiates and alcohol. In many cases, this drugs will take effect about 2 days after a doctor administers it and you will feel its effects for about 30 days.

In many cases, doctors will prescribe Vivitrol alongside other therapy and counseling options, including outpatient and inpatient opioid and alcohol addiction therapy. This compounds its effects in helping patients overcome their substance dependence and addiction.

However, Naltrexone is like other medications in the sense that it also comes with adverse side effects. The most common of these include trouble sleeping, tiredness, anxiety, dizziness, headaches, and nausea. If you experience these side effects and they start worsening, you should talk to your primary physician about them.

In other instances, you might experience intense opiate withdrawal minutes after taking Vivitrol. Some of these withdrawal symptoms and effects include a runny nose, mood changes, joint pains and aches, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain. When you experience these effects, it is also advised that you talk to your doctor about them.

In some rare cases, you can also develop liver disease as a result of taking Vivitrol as part of your MAT. If this happens, you should stop taking the drug and inform your doctor immediately. Some of the symptoms of this disease include persistent vomiting and nausea, yellow eyes, yellow skin, dark urine, and severe stomach pains.

As a prescription medication, Vivitrol is commonly used in the treatment of alcohol and opioid addiction. It comes in the generic name of naltrexone - but Vivitrol is the monthly version of this generic drug that should only be administered using a valid prescription from a medical professional.

Vivitrol is a long-lasting and extended release drug. Other versions of the generic naltrexone are designed to be ingested orally once per day. However, most patients find Vivitrol easy to use because you don't have to use it on a daily basis.

As we mentioned above, Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist. This means that it works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and the CNS (or the central nervous system). It is different in the sense that it does not cause the release of dopamine - unlike many other prescription medications.

As a result, Vivitrol is unlike prescription opioids in the sense that it does not create any intense feelings of pleasure or euphoria. Instead, it blocks the opioid receptors in your system - meaning that if you relapse and start taking alcohol and opioids while on this drug, you will not experience any of the effects that you desire. Still, you might experience other adverse effects like respiratory depression.

Even so, Vivitrol was never intended as a single-use medication that you just use on its own. It is also not the only cure for addiction available. However, it is still useful when you combine it with a more comprehensive rehabilitation program.

It can, for instance, help to eliminate the drug cravings you are likely to experience while undergoing addiction treatment. In this way, it effectively mitigates any risk of relapse that you might suffer. This means that it can allow you to focus on your ongoing recovery and counseling sessions.

Before using Vivitrol, however, you first need to detox fully from the opioids that you are addicted to. This is because if you still have opioids in your system and you take naltrexone, you might experience immediate withdrawal symptoms.

Vivitrol also blocks some of the pleasurable effects that you may feel when you abuse alcohol. This means that this drug is effective at blocking alcohol cravings if you are dependent on it.

Even though Vivitrol comes with many benefits, it also carries some potential risks. For instance, you might suffer an opioid overdose as a result of using this opiate antagonist.

Since naltrexone effectively blocks the pleasurable effects of opioids - including heroin and some painkillers - you might try to overcome these block effects by taking higher doses of your favorite opioid. This could easily cause you to suffer a fatal overdose. In particular, these adverse effects occur when you have abstained from opioids for a period, meaning that you may be more sensitive even to low doses of your opioid of choice.

Vivitrol Uses

Vivitrol is available in the form of an injectable suspension. Doctors typically administer it through intramuscular injections. The drug is only supposed to be used in a single dose of 380 mg.

Healthcare professionals administer this medication in the form of gluteal injections of 4ml. After you receive the medication, it will release into your system continuously over a given period.

Typically, you will receive a dose of 380mg of Vivitrol after every month (or 4 weeks). However, your doctors will require you to be free of opioids for a minimum of 7 to 10 days before you receive this injection.

While looking for answers to the "what is Vivitrol?" question, you should ensure that you do not use street drugs, heroin, or any other narcotic medication if you are on Vivitrol. You should also prevent yourself from trying to overcome the effects of this drug by taking opioids in large doses because doing so has been known to lead to dangerous effects like coma and death.

It is also advised that you never drink alcohol while receiving naltrexone as part of your addiction treatment and MAT. Where possible, ask your doctor before you use any medications to treat pain, diarrhea, coughing, and colds. This is because some of these drugs might contain alcohol and narcotics that could interact with the Vivitrol and create adverse effects.

In some cases, Vivitrol can impair your reactions and thoughts. Therefore, you should ensure you do not operate heavy machinery or drive a car until you are aware of the effects of this medication.

Vivitrol Addiction

There is controversy surrounding most MAT options. This is because some of the medications used in the treatment of opioid and alcohol addiction are sometimes habit-forming. A good example is methadone.

If you are trying to overcome your opioid dependence, your doctor might recommend methadone. However, you might find that you are becoming tolerance and dependent on the methadone medication.

In these cases, Vivitrol is usually the go-to drug. This is because it is impossible to become addicted to this medication because it does not create a reward or dopamine response inside the brain. Instead, it works by blocking the pleasurable effects of most opioids while also reducing any cravings you might have for these substances.

Even so, you should never receive this drug if you are experiencing any adverse withdrawal symptoms or if you have abused opioids within the past 14 days or are still drinking alcohol actively. This is because doing so could cause you to develop some of the signs of a liver problem like jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin), clay-colored stools, dark urine, loss of appetite, tiredness, itching, pain in the upper stomach, and nausea.

In high doses, Vivitrol can also cause severe liver damage. This is why doctors will typically never prescribe this medication if you display some of the symptoms of acute liver failure or if you have hepatitis.

To this end, you should never receive this medication if you:

  • Are allergic to naltrexone
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms as a result of alcohol or drug addiction
  • Have used buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Zubsolv, or Butrans) or methadone within the past 2 weeks
  • Have used opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin, fentanyl, and others in the last 10 days
  • Still abuse opioids

To ensure that this medication is safe for your use, you should inform your physician if you have:

  • A blood-clotting or bleeding disorder like hemophilia
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease

At the moment, it is not yet known whether naltrexone can harm unborn babies. As such, you need to inform your doctor if you are planning to become pregnant or if you are already expecting.

In the same way, naltrexone sometimes passes from nursing mothers through breast milk and to babies. This is why you should never breastfeed if you are on this medication.

Vivitrol Side Effects

Some patients do react to Vivitrol and experience allergic reactions. When this happens, you might experience swelling of the throat, tongue, lips, and face, as well as difficulty breathing and hives.

In the same way, if you use opioids while on Vivitrol, you might experience adverse opioid withdrawal that comes with symptoms like restlessness, trouble sleeping, body aches, goosebumps, runny nose, watery eyes, diarrhea, vomiting, shaking, chills, fever, sweating, irritability, and yawning.

As far as possible, get in touch with your doctors immediately you experience the following adverse effects following your Vivitrol injection:

  • Blistering
  • Changes in appetite
  • Confusion
  • Dark scabs
  • Depression
  • Drowsiness
  • Feeling like you are about to pass out
  • Hard lumps where the drug was injected
  • Liver problems like jaundice, dark urine, loss of appetite, feeling tired, itching, nausea, and pain in the upper stomach
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Severe dizziness
  • Severe pain
  • Shallow or weak breathing
  • Skin changes
  • Sleep problems (or insomnia)
  • Stuffy nose
  • Swelling
  • Thoughts about hurting yourself or committing suicide
  • Tooth pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing
  • Worsening or new coughs

However, this is not a complete and comprehensive list of all the side effects of using Vivitrol. If you need more advice about all potential side effects of taking this medication, you should talk to your doctor.

Drug Interactions

While trying to understand what is Vivitrol, it is also essential to learn a little about how this medication interacts with other drugs. In most cases, naltrexone will usually block the effects of other narcotics that you might - including prescription drugs for diarrhea, cough, and pain). When this drug interaction happens, it could potentially lead to other harmful side effects.

Herbal products, vitamins, over the counter medications, and prescription drugs can all interact with Vivitrol. As such, you should talk to your healthcare providers about all the drugs you use as well as any that you stop or start using.

Vivitrol Withdrawal

The most effective way to detox from Vivitrol is to stop taking it altogether. However, you should never stop taking this drug cold turkey unless you experience some of the symptoms of liver disease.

In case you would like to discontinue your naltrexone treatment, ensure you first talk to your doctor. They will gradually taper off your dose of the drug. Even so, you might experience some withdrawal symptoms in this process - although these will depend on your unique physiology, age, organ functions, the frequency of Vivitrol use, and metabolism.

Overall, it is crucial that you find the right Vivitrol treatment center to ensure that you have a shot at lasting recovery. Talk to your doctor, and they will point you to the right naltrexone center depending on how long you were taking this medication and the dosage amounts that you received.

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