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The use of Medication Assisted Treatment is becoming more of a popular topic in addiction treatment and the world of recovery.  As more people are dying from overdose-related deaths, practitioners and treatment providers are attempting to reduce overdose-related deaths by using Medication Assisted Treatment along with counseling and other recovery-based models of support such as 12-step meetings and fellowship.

How It Works

Vivitrol is a brand of naltrexone in an extended-release injection that works to block the effects of opioid medication.  It is known as an antagonist, which attaches to opioid receptors in the brain but does not cause the release of dopamine, as an opioid narcotic would do.  The Vivitrol medication blocks the opioid receptors one month at a time, while making it so that opioid molecules cannot attach to the opioid receptors.  It essentially takes the place of the opioid molecules that would normally provide a euphoric effect, making the body think that the opioids are in the system.  If someone were to use opioids while on Vivitrol, the opioid molecules would not be able to attach to the receptors and the person would not feel the effect of the opioids.

Where to Start

If you’re interested in starting Vivitrol or learning more about it, you will need to contact a Vivitrol provider.  To find one, you can search directly on Vivitrol’s website or you can contact your health insurance company to get more information on coverage and providers near you.

If you’re currently using opioid medication or narcotics such as heroin, you will need to discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to starting Vivitrol.  There are some very serious risks and potential complications with starting Vivitrol or naltrexone if you still have opioids in your system.  One of these risks is that it could cause precipitated withdrawal, which is extremely uncomfortable and may require hospitalization or medical monitoring in a detoxification facility.

Vivitrol providers will ask that you’ve had at least 7-14 days free of any opioid medication or other medications that may contain opioids.  Because of this, it’s best to start Vivitrol after completion of a detox period in a medical facility.  Many people have great difficulty in ceasing the use of opioid medications on their own, especially after a period of time in which they were physically dependent.  Going to a medical detox facility or licensed treatment center will provide the security and medical support for a proper detox protocol so that someone can achieve the abstinence necessary to receive the Vivitrol injection.

Possible Side Effects

There are some possible side effects associated with Vivitrol, so it’s important to communicate with your healthcare provider if you experience any adverse reactions.  Some possible side effects include; nausea, sleepiness, headache, dizziness, vomiting, decreased appetite, pain in joints, muscle cramps, cold symptoms, trouble breathing or toothaches.  Pain in the injection site may also happen, so make sure to keep your healthcare provider updated on any pain, redness, swelling or leaking from the injection site.  Some providers may prescribe the oral version of naltrexone prior to starting the Vivitrol injection in order to assess any adverse reactions to the medication.

Vivitrol and Alcohol Dependence

Vivitrol is also known to be used to help treat alcohol dependence along with psychosocial supports such as therapy and meetings.  Vivitrol reportedly helps to reduce cravings for alcohol and in clinical trials it was found that Vivitrol helped to reduce the number of drinking days and to prolong abstinence in those that have stopped drinking prior to starting Vivitrol.

When thinking about Medication Assisted Treatment for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to discuss the options with a healthcare provider or addiction treatment professional.  There are a lot of factors to be considered when thinking about starting Vivitrol, and a healthcare provider can best assess what is most appropriate for an individual.  Vivitrol can provide an effective support to someone’s treatment and recovery program when paired with additional supports such as therapy or counseling and involvement in a recovery program.  Vivitrol has worked to support the recovery of many people, including those that have had no previous attempts at abstinence as well as those that have many attempts to abstain and have been unsuccessful.  There are many supports available for those on Medication Assisted Treatment, including therapists, Outpatient Programs and community-based recovery meetings that are available to anyone.  Reach out to an addictions specialist today to get more information about Vivitrol and other supports.


VIVITROL® (naltrexone for extended-release injectable suspension). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vivitrol.com/opioid-dependence/how-vivitrol-works