What Is Vivitrol? | What Is Vivitrol Used For?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on April 25, 2022

Vivitrol (naltrexone) is an extended-release, injectable medication that is FDA-approved to treat alcohol dependence and opioid use disorder. Vivitrol can reduce alcohol and opioid cravings and help individuals maintain sobriety.

What Is Vivitrol Used For?

Vivitrol is an extended-release, injectable form of naltrexone. Naltrexone is a medication that is FDA-approved to treat alcohol and opioid use disorder, or addiction.

Scientific research shows that Vivitrol can:

  • help reduce the desire to drink alcohol
  • reduce cravings for alcohol and opioids
  • reduce the risk of relapse
  • help individuals maintain abstinence

Vivitrol is a non-addictive medication. It is administered monthly by a licensed healthcare provider in the form of an intramuscular injection.

Find out more about using Naltrexone during addiction treatment

What Does Vivitrol Do?

Vivitrol is a long-acting medication that blocks the effects of the illicit opioid heroin and prescription opiates such as oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl, and hydrocodone.

Vivitrol can also reduce cravings for alcohol and help people who are abstinent from alcohol maintain their sobriety, essentially by blocking the pleasurable effects of alcohol.

How A Vivitrol Injection Works

Vivitrol is the brand name for an extended-release injection containing naltrexone, an opioid antagonist that blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of opioids.

This is not a take-home medication. Receiving this medication requires monthly appointments with a healthcare professional.

Who can administer Vivitrol:

  • physicians
  • physician assistants
  • nurse practitioners
  • pharmacists

Vivitrol is injected intramuscularly into the buttocks every four weeks, or once a month, after an individual has fully detoxed from other opioids.

After this injection, Vivitrol will begin to take effect about two hours after administration, then peak again two to three days later.

Read more about how the Vivitrol shot works

What Are The Side Effects Of Vivitrol?

Like any prescription medication, Vivitrol can cause certain side effects.

Common side effects of Vivitrol include:

  • nausea
  • upset stomach
  • decreased appetite
  • headache
  • anxiety
  • drowsiness
  • joint pain

Some of these side effects, including nausea, may fade with time as the body adjusts to the drug.

Serious side effects, while rare, can also occur. If you or someone you know does experience an adverse reaction, contact your prescribing doctor right away.

Read more about the side effects of Vivitrol

Liver Damage

Vivitrol may not be suitable for people who have a history of liver failure or severe liver disease. Before taking Vivitrol, tell your doctor if you have a history of liver damage.

Read more about how Vivitrol affects the liver

Sleep Troubles

People who are taking Vivitrol may have difficulty falling or staying asleep while receiving this medication.

Read more about insomnia caused by Vivitrol

Withdrawal Symptoms

Vivitrol is not habit-forming and does not result in withdrawal from stopped use.

However, it can precipitate severe opioid withdrawal in people who take it with opioids in their system. For this reason, Vivitrol is only recommended for use following detox.

Learn more about precipitated withdrawal from taking Vivitrol

Effects On Pregnancy

Before taking Vivitrol, be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are currently breastfeeding. The effects of Vivitrol on pregnancy are not well-documented.

If needed, Vivitrol may be taken during pregnancy if your doctor determines that the benefits of your treatment outweigh the potential risks of discontinuing your use of Vivitrol.

Read more about taking Vivitrol while pregnant

Effects Of Mixing Vivitrol With Other Substances

Vivitrol can interact with other substances, including certain illicit drugs and prescription drugs.

Effects Of Taking Opioids While On Vivitrol

Taking opioids while on Vivitrol should be avoided, for two reasons. First, Vivitrol can cause opioid withdrawal symptoms if it is taken after recent opioid use.

Second, taking opioids while on Vivitrol is also a risk factor for overdose, due to the fact that Vivitrol can make it harder to know when you’ve taken enough to overdose.

Read more about taking opiates/opioids while on Vivitrol

Other Vivitrol Drug Interactions

Certain medications and substances can interact with Vivitrol, or modify its effects. This includes opioid-containing cough, cold, or antidiarrheal medicines.

Read more about how Vivitrol interacts with other drugs

Vivitrol Dosing

Vivitrol is only available in a single, 380 milligram (mg) dose. This dose is administered once every four weeks, or once-monthly.

When To Start Taking Vivitrol

Vivitrol should not be taken before or during detoxification. Getting Vivitrol with opioids still in your system could cause acute opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Read more about how long you should be sober before taking Vivitrol

When To Start Taking Vivitrol For Opioid Use Disorder

You should wait at least seven days after last use of a short-acting opioid (e.g. heroin), or up to 14 days after last use of a long-acting opioid (e.g. methadone) before taking Vivitrol.

When To Start Taking Vivitrol For Alcohol Use Disorder

For people with alcohol use disorder, Vivitrol should not be taken if you are still physically dependent on alcohol. Vivitrol should only be taken following detox.

Vivitrol Duration: How Long Does The Injection Last?

Vivitrol is an extended-release injection with effects that last about 30 days for most people. To provide the maximum benefit, it is administered every four weeks, or once a month.

Read more about how long Vivitrol lasts

Length Of Vivitrol Treatment

Vivitrol can be safely taken for weeks, months, or even years, depending on your treatment goals and other personal needs related to your continued recovery.

Read more about how long Vivitrol treatment lasts

Alternatives To Vivitrol

Vivitrol is one of several medications approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to treat substance use disorders, along with other psychosocial support services.

Alternatives To Vivitrol For Opioid Use Disorder

Vivitrol (naltrexone) is one of three medications that are FDA-approved to treat opioid dependence and addiction, with the others being:

  • Methadone: A full opioid agonist and long-acting medication, also known by brand names Dolophine and Methadose.
  • Buprenorphine: A partial opioid agonist medication, also known as Subutex, Suboxone (with naloxone), and Zubsolv (with naloxone).

Alternatives To Vivitrol For Alcohol Use Disorder

Vivitrol is one of three medications that are FDA-approved as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options for alcohol dependence, also known as alcoholism.

Alternatives to Vivitrol include:

  • Acamprosate: Also known as Campral, acamprosate is a drug that is taken in tablet form up to three times a day to help prevent drinking.
  • Disulfiram: An alcohol antagonist medication, also known as Antabuse, that can make a person feel physically sick if they drink alcohol.
  • Oral naltrexone: A tablet or pill form of Vivitrol that is typically taken once a day.

Is Vivitrol The Same As Naltrexone?

Vivitrol is a brand name for a drug that contains naltrexone. Although a generic version of Vivitrol isn’t available, naltrexone is available in pill form, also known as oral naltrexone.

Switching From Other Medications To Vivitrol

Switching to Vivitrol from another medication for opioid use disorder, such as methadone or Suboxone, is possible with clinical support.

Switching From Methadone To Vivitrol

Making the switch from methadone to Vivitrol for opioid addiction treatment is a process that can take up to two weeks or longer.

The amount of time this takes will depend on factors such as how long you’ve been taking methadone, your maintenance dose, and other health-related factors.

Read more about switching from Methadone to Vivitrol

Switching From Suboxone To Vivitrol

Those who have been maintained on Suboxone who wish to start taking Vivitrol for opioid addiction treatment should be fully detoxed off Suboxone before starting Vivitrol.

Depending on how long you’ve been taking Suboxone, this may require a tapering process, which can take anywhere from one to several weeks.

Read more about switching from Suboxone to Vivitrol

Getting Your Vivitrol Prescription

Unlike methadone or buprenorphine, Vivitrol can be prescribed by any medical practitioner that is licensed to prescribe medications, including a primary care doctor.

Vivitrol can only be administered by a medical professional, and is typically prescribed as one component of a full treatment plan that integrates other substance use treatment services.

Read more about how to get a Vivitrol prescription

Vivitrol FAQs

Having questions about Vivitrol is common. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Vivitrol for substance abuse treatment.

Vivitrol is not an opioid, making it different from drugs like methadone and buprenorphine, which are both opioid-based.

Vivitrol is a non-addictive opioid antagonist. It binds to opioid receptors in the brain and blocks the effects of other opioids, which can prevent a person from getting high.

Drinking alcohol while on Vivitrol is not recommended.

While Vivitrol can prevent individuals from experiencing pleasurable effects of alcohol (“the buzz”), it does not prevent alcohol-related impairment.

Read more about what happens if you drink while on Vivitrol

Vivitrol does not cause euphoric effects, also known as a drug “high”.

Furthermore, Vivitrol also prevents you from getting high if you use opioids like heroin or drink alcohol within a month of receiving your last Vivitrol dose.

Read more about getting high while taking Vivitrol

Vivitrol is injected intramuscularly into the gluteal muscle of the buttocks, alternating buttocks for each subsequent injection.

In order to receive the maximum benefit, this medication should not be injected subcutaneously (under the skin) or intravenously (into a vein).

The effects of Vivitrol can be reversed with high doses of opioids. This should not be attempted without clinical support, due to a high risk for respiratory depression.

An emergency attempt to reverse Vivitrol should only be done in a medical setting that can offer respiratory support as needed.

Read more about how Vivitrol can be reversed

Without insurance, Vivitrol can cost $1,176.50 per month, when administered as part of an opioid treatment program.

With insurance, the cost of Vivitrol may be fully or partially covered under your health plan, depending on your insurance provider, your insurance policy, and other factors.

Read more about the cost of Vivitrol with and without insurance

Vivitrol is covered by Medicaid in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Co-payment, prior authorization, and other eligibility requirements for receiving Vivitrol coverage may apply.

Read more about Medicaid coverage for Vivitrol

Finding Addiction Treatment With Vivitrol

Vivitrol is a leading addiction medication that can help individuals achieve and sustain recovery from opioid and alcohol addiction, when taken as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Begin your recovery journey today. Call our helpline now to find Vivitrol treatment options for yourself or a loved one at a drug rehab center near you.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on April 25, 2022
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