Vivitrol (Naltrexone)

Vivitrol (Naltrexone) is an alcohol anti-addiction medicine for the treatment of alcohol addiction, delivered by injection once a month. It helps to prevent addiction relapse by decreasing cravings for alcohol by up to 90%. If one does drink alcohol, Vivitrol blocks the desired effects. Drinking alcohol while taking Vivitrol may create some symptoms of intoxication, like driving or walking poorly, without any of the seemingly pleasant effects of alcohol.

Enterhealth utilizes alcohol anti-addiction medicines like Vivitrol because with them, our patients are more likely to stop alcohol or drug use and addiction for good. Patients who require the use of Vivitrol can continue receiving the alcohol anti-addiction medicine injections once a month from their own private physician.

The FDA approved Vivitrol in June 2006 for the treatment of alcohol addiction, but the anti-addiction medicine within the injection – naltrexone – has been approved for use in treating alcohol addiction for over 13 years. However, the problem with taking Naltrexone orally is that patients with any chronic illness, who have to take medications on a daily basis, many times forget or stop taking the anti-addiction medication for a variety of reasons.  Therefore, it is important that individuals who take anti-addiction medications monitor and closely adhere their medical treatment plan. 

Vivitrol (naltrexone) is an alcohol anti-addiction medicine that works by blocking the interaction or the stimulation of the dopamine system (your body’s main rewarding system) by the alcohol molecule. When you drink alcohol, the alcohol molecules get into your blood stream through your stomach. The molecules, which are toxic to your own cells, travel throughout your various organ systems, killing all kinds of cells as they go. It is when these molecules reach the brain that they stimulate a variety of neuroreceptors with each different set of receptors basically causing different effects. Activation of some receptor systems cause you to get sleepy (or sedated), yet others cause you to stop breathing resulting in death (alcohol overdoes or poisoning). Vivitrol (naltrexone) is thought to block the link between your dopamine system (pleasure or reward system) and your internal endogenous endorphin/enkephalin (opioid) systems. 

Vivitrol is made up of molecules that are called microspheres, which are dissolved in a liquid and injected directly into one cheek of the buttocks. The major scientific breakthrough of Vivitrol delivering this very effective alcohol anti addiction medication for 30 days without stopping is a huge advance in battling the devastating, life-threatening disease of alcohol addiction. 

An alcohol addiction patient's response to Vivitrol can usually be seen within the first 2-3 days of starting the first injection of alcohol anti-addiction medication. Patients on Vivitrol are overwhelmingly positive about its alcohol anti-addiction effects. In theory, those suffering from alcohol addiction should not be actively drinking when you receive your initial injection of Vivitrol, having already gone through medical detox or alcohol detox. Vivitrol should be used as part of a comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment program, and that’s why it is utilized at Enterhealth’s residential treatment center. Taking alcohol anti-addiction medicines while in a treatment program emphasizes the appropriate coping skills needed to deal with everyday stresses rather than using alcohol or drugs as a primary coping skill. 

Another critical success factor for the use of Vivitrol for the treatment of alcohol addiction is that family or support systems can significantly influence compliance. Once a patient has been prescribed Vivitrol and received the injection, their family now knows that for the next 30 days the patient will not be able to feel intoxicated.

Vivitrol (Naltrexone) – Dosage and Effects - Alcohol Anti Addiction Medication, Medical Detox, Alcohol Detox

Vivitrol is an injection of alcohol anti-addiction medication that you receive in the gluttial (buttock) muscle once a month. During that month period, it slowly releases alcohol anti-addiction medication called naltrexone into your blood stream. The Vivitrol (long-acting naltrexone) basically helps to prevent relapse to alcohol addiction use by causing three things to occur. 

Consequently, Vivitrol works very quickly and has very few side effects. The primary side effects of this alcohol anti-addiction medication are nausea (which only occurs sometimes, and usually only during the first 2-3 days of the first injection), occasional headache, some tenderness at the injection site for a short time afterwards, and some drowsiness. All of these symptoms are mild in most cases and much less toxic or evident than are the side effects alcohol addiction. Consequently, Vivitrol is very safe, well tolerated (meaning it has few side effects), and is not addictive. 

One of the reasons that Vivitrol has few side effects is the unique way that it gets into the blood stream. By being injected into the muscle and then released into the blood stream from the muscle, the naltrexone alcohol anti-addiction medication initially avoids going through the liver before it goes into the rest of the body. One of the liver’s main functions is to break down different substances (including medications). When any medication is able to bypass the liver initially, less of it is destroyed, so more of it is available to be used by various parts of the body. Therefore, theoretically, you need a much lower dose to be effective. 

Fortunately this is the case with Vivitrol. Remember that Vivitrol is just a time-released naltrexone. If you take naltrexone by mouth (orally), you need to take 50 mg/day for 30 days. At 50 mg/day oral naltrexone is safe, well tolerated, and has the same types of side effects as described above for Vivitrol. Because Vivitrol bypasses the liver, you only need 380 mg/month of Vivitrol to treat alcoholism. Consequently, the fact that you need almost a 70% smaller dose of naltrexone through the use of Vivitrol in your body each month, may account for the minimal side effects experienced by most patients on it. 

In addition to the nausea issue mentioned above, there is what the FDA calls a “black box warning” on the package insert for both Vivitrol and naltrexone alcohol anti-addiction medicines. This black box warning merely suggests that you might get significant medical problems if you use Vivitrol or naltrexone for a long period of time without appropriate monitoring of the liver’s functions with blood tests. In fact, the black box warning for Vivitrol specifically states that there is no evidence of toxicity with Vivitrol.

Enterhealth’s medically driven alcohol addiction treatment and drug rehabilitation treatment offers personalized residential and outpatient programs in Texas, uniquely suited to where you are in your recovery journey.  

Call Enterhealth 24/7 at 800.388.4601 or email us for more information.  Don’t just get clean/sober.  Get well.