Common Side Effects of Vivitrol
What is Vivitrol?
Vivitrol is the brand name for an extended-release form of naltrexone, a medication commonly prescribed to help prevent relapses into alcoholism or drug abuse. This medication is typically administered once a month through an intramuscular injection.
How does Vivitrol Work?
Vivitrol works by binding opioid receptors and subsequently blocking the feelings of euphoria and dissociation associated with heroin and prescription opioids. Vivitrol also blocks the response to natural opioids synthesized by the body, an effect that helps reduce alcohol consumption in patients diagnosed with alcoholism.1
What are the Side Effects of Vivitrol?
Anti-addiction medications like Vivitrol can produce strong physical responses in some users, while others may not experience any unpleasant symptoms at all. Some of the minor side effects that can be caused by Vivitrol include:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Increased thirst
- Muscle or joint pain
- Pain, bruising, swelling, itching, and infection (at the site of injection)
Vivitrol has the potential to cause liver damage and should not be taken by people with a history of liver disease or hepatitis.2
It is also possible to experience minor withdrawal symptoms when being treated with Vivitrol. If there are traces of opioids or opioid recovery medications in your system you can experience more serious side effects that can include:
- Blurred vision
- Severe vomiting and diarrhea
If any of these symptoms are experienced while using Vivitrol you should contact a doctor immediately. To prevent the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms in patients dependent on opioids, patients should be opioid-free for a minimum of 7-10 days prior to starting Vivitrol treatment.
Patients should also be aware that Vivitrol decreases your tolerance to opioids. If the patient has previously used opioids, they may be more sensitive to lower doses of opioids after Vivitrol treatment is discontinued. After completing treatment, patients should inform any doctor who may prescribe medications about previously treated with Vivitrol.
If you are battling an opioid addiction, it is important to know that taking opioids while on Vivitrol is very dangerous. Although Vivitrol blocks the perception of euphoria associated with opioids, it is less efficient at blocking the respiratory and cardiovascular effects of opioids. Attempting to self-administer heroin or any other opioid drug while on Vivitrol highly increases the risk of an opioid overdose.3 This can lead to serious injury, coma, or death.
Can Vivitrol Help Me During Treatment?
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, it is important to consider all available treatment options, including a prescription for Vivitrol. Studies show that Vivitrol is effective in the prevention of relapse following detox, and people who are treated with Vivitrol are more likely to stay in recovery.4 According to the National Institutes of Health, Vivitrol is only helpful when it is used as part of an addiction treatment program.5 It is therefore important that you attend all counseling sessions, support group meetings, education programs, and other treatments recommended by your doctor.
- Jonas, D.E., Amick, H.R., Feltner, C., Bobashev, G., Thomas K., Wines, R., … & Garbutt, J.C.(2014). Pharmacotherapy for adults with alcohol use disorders in outpatient settings: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association, 311(18), 1889-1900.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2009). Vivitrol.
- Wolfe, D., Carrieri, M.P., Dasgupta, N., Wodak, A., Newman, R., & Bruce, R.D. (2011). Concerns about injectable naltrexone for opioid dependence. Lancet, 377(9776), 1468-1470.
- Syed, Y.Y., & Keating, G.M. (2013). Extended-release intramuscular naltrexone (VIVITROL®): a review of its use in the prevention of relapse to opioid dependence in detoxified patients. CNS Drugs, 27(10), 851-861.
- National Institutes of Health. (2017). Medline Plus: Naltrexone.