Vivitrol is a medication given to treat alcohol dependence and opioid dependence in conjunction with substance abuse counseling.
Vivitrol is not a narcotic and is non-addictive.
Patients taking Vivitrol are instructed to carry a wallet card or a written note to let emergency responders know they are using this medication. They are asked to let all of their healthcare providers know they are using Vivitrol.
Vivitrol for Opioid Addiction
This medication works by blocking the effects of narcotics such as codeine, morphine and heroin in the brain. A patient who has been dependent on opioids must stop using all drugs in this class for at least one week before starting on Vivitrol.
It works by stopping the urge to use opioids in patients who have been through detox.
Side Effects of Using Vivitrol for Opioid Addiction
Risk of Opioid Overdose
If someone who is using Vivitrol for opioid addiction starts using opioids, he will have a much lower tolerance for the drugs than before he started Vivitrol treatment. Taking narcotics while on Vivitrol will put a patient at risk for an accidental overdose, which has the potential to be fatal.
Risk of Developing Depression
Some patients being treated with Vivitrol report feeling depressed while on the medication. It’s important that family members and friends know about this possible side effect of taking the medication. Contact a healthcare provider if any of the following symptoms develop or worsen over time:
- Lack of interest in seeing friends or family
- No longer spending time on activities that used to be enjoyable
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling exhausted constantly
- Sleeping much more or less than usual
- Feeling hopeless or helpless most or all of the time
- More irritable or angry than usual
- Noticeable changes in appetite (not interested in food or eating much more than usual)
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Risk of Pneumonia
Some patients being treated with Vivitrol have developed a specific type of pneumonia due to an allergic reaction. It can be a very serious condition requiring hospitalization. Patients who experience the following symptoms should contact their healthcare provider right away:
- Coughing that doesn’t subside
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
Vivitrol for Alcohol Addiction
Vivitrol was originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid dependence. It has now been approved for treating alcohol abuse.
The precise way this medication works for treating alcohol abuse is not fully known. Patients who have been successfully treated with Vivitrol report the following results:
- It can reduce a person’s desire to drink alcohol.
- If a person does drink alcohol, it can hinder his desire to continue drinking if he slips and has a drink.
- It can help patients stay sober.
What Happens When Someone Drinks Alcohol While Using Vivitrol?
Vivitrol blocks the feeling of intoxication that someone gets from drinking alcohol. If the pleasurable effect is taken away, there is less incentive for someone to drink or continue drinking.
However, it should be noted that a person who drinks while using Vivitrol isn’t immune to the other effects of alcohol — such as lack of coordination and poor judgment — even though she may not be feeling drunk.
Who Should Not Use Vivitrol?
This medication is not recommended for patients being treated for chronic pain who have been prescribed an opioid pain medication.
Women of childbearing age are advised to use a reliable method of birth control while using this medication. If a menstrual period is missed, take a pregnancy test immediately. If a pregnancy is confirmed, stop using Vivitrol immediately.
Get the Care You Need at Great Oaks
The decision about which form of substance abuse treatment is right for you or your loved one is a very personal one. Great Oaks Recovery offers caring, compassionate residential treatment for its clients.