What is Vivitrol & How Does it Work?

What is Vivitrol & How Does it Work?

Addictions not only have have damaging effects on the addicted but also their family and friends. This is true with opioid addiction. Opioid addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease that affects the patient both psychologically and physically. The good news is that opioid addiction is a treatable disease. It is usually treated via counseling and medication. But, how effective are these routine treatments? Most medications become addictive in the course of use. But Vivitrol is different.

What Is Vivitrol?

Vivitrol can be used to treat opioid addiction. It is the first of its kind, and has a major, unique characteristic in that it is non-addictive and non-narcotic. It is an injectable that contains naltrexone as a major ingredient for extended release. It is simply a blocking medication that is an antagonist, administered monthly as a single dose of 380mg intramuscular gluteal injection.

What Is Vivitrol Used For?

Vivitrol is a medication that blocks the effect of drugs known as opioids, which include heroin, morphine and codeine. It has also been approved by the FDA to treat cases of alcohol dependence.

How Does Vivitrol Work?

Vivitrol works on the opiate receptors of the brain, inhibiting the opiate molecules from attaching. As a result, the opiate is unable to generate the much-desired feeling of pleasure or euphoria. It does not cause the release of dopamine and so it is non-addictive. This blockage lasts for a month and then wears off, thereby helping prevent a relapse in opioid-dependent patients. However, it is best administered after a detox to allow the patient to focus on counseling. Treatment success can be significant when Vivitrol is combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Benefits Of Taking Vivitrol

  • It is convenient; patients do not need to take a daily pill.
  • It is non-aversive.
  • It is non-addictive and does not result in any adverse reaction when it is discontinued.
  • It does not interfere with other types of pleasure.
  • It can give instant relief.

What Are The Side Effects Of Vivitrol?

Vivitrol is generally well-tolerated by most people. But as is the case with most other medications, it may manifest some side-effects, which can be dependent on how it’s used. In some cases, it may not be right for the metabolism of some individuals. People who are heroin- or morphine-dependent must stop their drug use at least seven days prior to the use of Vivitrol. Pregnant women should not take the medication as no completed studies have been taken to quantify the side-effect on the mother and child.

Major Side Effects

If these effects are observed, a doctor should be contacted immediately, although some are more common than others.

Opioid Overdose: An accidental overdose can occur if an opioid is taken in a bid to overcome the effects of Vivitrol or after the commencement of the use of Vivitrol, whether in large or small quantities. This can result in serious injury, coma or eventual death. This is why Vivitrol is recommended after detox.

Sudden Opioid Withdrawal: Opioids or medications that contain opioids must be stopped before the administration of Vivitrol for at least seven to 14 days. This is to prevent sudden opioid withdrawal symptoms. It is advised that Vivitrol be administered in a facility that can handle opioid withdrawal in a case where the above precaution cannot be taken.

Some symptoms of withdrawal are:

  • abdominal or stomach pain (severe)
  • blurred vision, aching, burning, or swollen eyes
  • chest pain
  • confusion
  • discomfort while urinating or frequent urination
  • fever
  • hallucinations or seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there
  • itching
  • depression or other mood or mental changes
  • ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of the face, feet, or lower legs
  • weight gain
  • skin rash

Minor side effects

Minor side effects usually occur temporarily. In most cases, they can be attributed to the fact that the body is just trying to get used to the medication, and they may disappear after a few days. You can also seek medical assistance to alleviate some of the effects or if they arouse any genuine concerns. These effects include:

More common:

  • abdominal or stomach cramping or pain (mild or moderate)
  • anxiety, nervousness, restlessness or trouble sleeping
  • headache
  • joint or muscle pain
  • nausea or vomiting
  • unusual tiredness

Less common:

  • chills
  • constipation
  • cough, hoarseness, runny or stuffy nose, sinus problems, sneezing, or sore throat
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • fast or pounding heartbeat
  • increased thirst
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • sexual problems in males

Some side effects associated with extended-release injectable solutions can be classified in the following terms:

Dermatologic side effects: These side effects are reported primarily by female patients, usually in the area surrounding the injection site. They include pain, tenderness, induration, swelling, erythema, bruising, pruritus, abscess, sterile abscess, and necrosis. Some cases require surgical intervention, including debridement of necrotic tissue. Some cases can result in significant scarring.

Psychiatric side effects: Anxiety, sleep disorder, and depression have occurred more frequently, while irritability, decreased libido, abnormal dreams, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, euphoric mood, and delirium have been reported to occur rarely.

Gastrointestinal side effects: These include some earlier-mentioned effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and dry mouth. On the other hand, constipation, toothache, tooth abscess, flatulence, gastroesophageal reflux, hemorrhoids, colitis, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, paralytic ileus, gastroenteritis, and perirectal abscess have been rarely reported.

Nervous system side effects: Side effects often include dizziness, headache, syncope, somnolence, insomnia, and sedation. Attention disturbance, mental impairment, and convulsions, meanwhile, have rarely been reported.

Musculoskeletal side effects: These frequently include arthralgia, arthritis, joint stiffness, and muscle cramps. Meanwhile, limb pain, muscle spasms, and joint stiffness have been reported rarely.

Hepatic side effects: They rarely include cholelithiasis, increased aspartate aminotransferase (AST) level, increased alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level, and acute cholecystitis.

Endocrine side effects: Those associated with opioid antagonists have included a change in the baseline levels of hypothalamic, pituitary gland, and gonadal hormones.

How Long Should You Use Vivitrol?

It is generally recommended that a patient remain on Vivitrol for 13 months for opiate dependency. After this, an evaluation is required for the need for further treatment using Vivitrol, considering the patient’s improvement and /or relapse tendencies.

Vivitrol is a tool and not a cure, but it has brought relief and recovery to many opiate-dependent patients. As long as the dosage is followed and treatment is continuous, Vivitrol can definitely help.

Opiate addiction does not have to ravage and destroy before it can be checked on its tracks. There is light at the end of the tunnel and professionals who can readily answer questions and of course, the support of friends and family is important too. As with any addiction, get assisted recovery and you will get your life back.

To find out more information check out our Vivitrol services and speak with an expert today!