Vivitrol, also known as naltrexone, blocks the effects of opioid use. That means the feelings of euphoria or pain relief that often lead to substance abuse are halted.
Because of these effects, Vivitrol is used to prevent relapse in people dependent on addictive substances like alcohol or opioids. In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug for this purpose.
Some formulations of the drug can be prescribed orally, but Vivitrol is administered once a month via injection.
How Does Vivitrol Work?
Vivitrol is an effective treatment for those in addiction recovery. This drug works by preventing the sedative-like effects of opioids or alcohol. It binds to opioid receptor sites, acting as an opioid antagonist instead of an addictive substance.
Addiction occurs when opioid receptors are activated in the brain. Your brain enjoys the experience of drinking or using drugs and tells you to continue the behavior that led to that feeling. Vivitrol blocks your ability to get that same sensation from drugs or alcohol.
If someone takes a drug or drinks alcohol after a dose of Vivitrol, the substance will not result in the high that is normally associated with it.
Vivitrol is a medically assisted treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) but is not a cure. It is used in addition to other treatment methods to prevent relapse during treatment.
Because addiction treatment is such a vulnerable time, a medication like Vivitrol can be that extra step to wellness. It reduces cravings by blocking the “feel-good” hormones released in your brain when drinking or using drugs, encouraging sobriety.
Essentially, Vivitrol helps people in rehab or recovery remain sober while they’re still learning healthy coping mechanisms and fighting their addiction.
Many people relapse after detoxing from drugs or alcohol because they haven’t received treatment for underlying problems or addressed what led to the addiction. Vivitrol can be a safeguard during this learning process.
Even so, Vivitrol is not without downsides.
Vivitrol Side Effects
Because Vivitrol stops the brain’s response to drugs or alcohol, it helps prevent relapse, but it can be dangerous for those still craving the sensation of a high.
Vivitrol is given to those who have detoxed from drugs and alcohol. Before the shot is administered, the patient will take a drug test to ensure there are no substances in their system as the combination can be highly dangerous.
This is why Vivitrol is commonly offered to those currently in treatment who have undergone detox. The Vivitrol shot is an extended-release medication that lasts up to 30 days. Throughout those 30 days, its effects will slowly diminish. Vivitrol’s effects will be more potent during the first week after the shot than the days leading up to the next monthly dose.
One risk of Vivitrol is that some people may increase the amount of the substance they use to counteract its effects. Taking Vivitrol means you have detoxed, so your tolerance may already be reduced. However, because it stops the effects of drugs, users might increase their intake, hoping to get the sensation they crave. This can increase the risk of overdose because the drugs are still in the system, just not allowing the typical effects.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states, “Naltrexone [Vivitrol] does not reduce the effects of alcohol that impair coordination and judgment …[and] may reduce your feeling of intoxication and the desire to drink more, but it will not cause a severe physical response to drinking.”
That isn’t to say that drinking is safe during Vivitrol use, but it should not result in violent illness. Drinking while taking Vivitrol is counterintuitive as the drug is used to help you in your recovery.
Should You Try Vivitrol?
It is essential to recognize that Vivitrol is not a cure for addiction, nor treatment in itself. Its use is only beneficial alongside a comprehensive treatment plan.
Vivitrol can help curb your cravings and stop your body from experiencing the sensation you’re addicted to, but it is a temporary physical fix. It will not prevent psychological withdrawal symptoms or ease the emotional struggle throughout recovery.
If you are considering Vivitrol, make sure it is in addition to your treatment, not in place of it. Speak with your health care provider about the best option for you and if you are a candidate for Vivitrol.
As using drugs or alcohol while taking Vivitrol can lead to alcohol poisoning or drug overdose, it is crucial that you are in a stable living environment while getting treatment. A sober living facility, rehab, or addiction center are the best options for those using Vivitrol as it will curb cravings and the physical urge to use while you continue the rest of your treatment.
Vivitrol Is A Treatment For Addiction, Not A Cure
Vivitrol is a relatively new medication used to stop the brain’s chemical response of pleasure from substances like opioids and alcohol. It is most often administered through a shot released throughout the body over the course of 30 days. It is important to note that Vivitrol is not a cure for addiction but an extra form of treatment to add to your current care plan.
It has been shown to reduce the likelihood of relapse in patients during treatment but can also increase the chance of overdose. Some people may attempt to counteract Vivitrol’s effects on the body by using more of a substance than they usually would, leading to a dangerous or fatal outcome. Vivitrol is most effective in a stable environment and under continued medical care.
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