Vivitrol: Effective Medication-Assisted Treatment

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Vivitrol is an injectable form of naloxone that blocks the effects of opioid medications. Opioid addiction in the form of opioid use disorder responds favorably to MAT (medication-assisted treatment), so what role can Vivitrol play in a comprehensive treatment plan?

What is Vivitrol?

Vivitrol is classified as an opioid antagonist for the way it counters the rewarding effects of opioids. The main application of this medication is to help address the cravings associated with the withdrawal stage of alcoholism or opioid addiction. 

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The medication is an injectable form of naltrexone in extended release form. Naltrexone was approved by the FDA for the treatment of alcohol dependence in 2006. By 2010, Vivitrol earned FDA approval for the treatment of opioid dependence, making Vivitrol the first non-narcotic and non-addictive treatment for opioid use disorder. 

When you take Vivitrol, the medication binds to opioid receptors located in the brain, preventing further opioid use from activating those sensors. This means that taking opioids while Vivitrol is in your system does not result in the euphoric high typically triggered by opioids.

Before the FDA approved Vivitrol for treating opioid use disorder, addiction to opioid painkillers or heroin was traditionally treated using either methadone or suboxone (a combination medication containing buprenorphine and naloxone. 

In mid-2017, Tom Price (U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services) stated that conventional treatment for opioid dependence was achieving nothing more than “substituting one opioid for another”. Price suggested that Vivitrol would be a superior medication to either suboxone or methadone because it cannot be abused and also removes the barrier of daily administration due to its extended-release form. 

What is it Used For?

Vivitrol is indicated in these scenarios: 

  • For preventing relapse to opioid dependence once you have detoxed and you have opioids in your system.
  • As part of a comprehensive treatment plan including behavioral interventions such as counseling and psychotherapy.
  • For the treatment of alcohol dependence if you have already stopped drinking.

Like any medication, Vivitrol is not recommended in all cases. 

Vivitrol is contraindicated in these scenarios: 

  • If you are still using opioids.
  • For those psychologically dependent on opioids.
  • If you are hypersensitive to Naltrexone.
  • During the acute phase of opioid withdrawal prior to detox.

If you have liver or kidney problems, consult your physician before taking Vivitrol as you could be at heightened risk of experiencing adverse side effects from the medication. 

Exercise caution before taking Vivitrol if you are pregnant.

An image of an individual considering the treatment of vivitrol, an effective medication-assisted treatment

Vivitrol for opioid addiction

Opioid use disorder is a chronic, relapsing disease triggering physical and psychological side effects when use is discontinued. Without the benefit of MAT, opioid withdrawal can be physically uncomfortable and emotionally demanding. 

The most significant study comparing the effectiveness of Vivitrol was roughly equivalent to that of the leading competing medication, suboxone. Researchers found that approximately half of those with opioid addiction who took Vivitrol were still abstinent six weeks later. 

In the double-blind Vivitrol clinical trial used to gain FDA approval, over half of patients with heroin use disorder remained abstinent throughout the six-month study. Vivitrol was shown to be three times as effective at averting relapse than daily doses of naltrexone. 55% of study participants reported a significant reduction in cravings for heroin. Researchers reported that those taking Vivitrol were much less likely to relapse than those given a placebo. Treatment retention was also improved among those taking Vivitrol. 

While Vivitrol is not a cure for opioid addiction, the medication can be highly effective for reducing cravings and preventing relapse when used as one component of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Vivitrol for alcohol use disorder

According to NSDUH 2020, the most recent SAMHSA report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 28.5 million over-12s in the United States have alcohol use disorder. This represents a significant increase from the 14.5 million with alcohol use disorder reported in 2019. 

With rates of alcoholism soaring in the U.S., and over 85,000 deaths each year associated with alcohol abuse, MAT is a core component of many treatments plans for alcoholism. 

Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist. Unlike disulfiram, an abstinence-based medication, Vivitrol is not intended to stop you from drinking alcohol by triggering side effects. Instead, the medication blocks your brain’s natural opioid receptors, meaning alcohol will be unable to activate those receptors. This should result in reduced cravings for alcohol and fewer reward-based feelings. 

Vivitrol has no potential for abuse when used for the treatment of AUD and it does not lead to the formation of physical dependence. 

How Does Vivitrol Work?

Vivitrol is administered as a monthly intramuscular injection. This streamlines treatment compliance as there is no chance of missing a dose, whether intentionally or deliberately. 

By tightly binding to the brain’s opioid receptors, Vivitrol blocks the rewarding effects of alcohol, prescription opioids, or heroin. Since taking the drug becomes pointless, Vivitrol treatment should inhibit further substance abuse. 

Each month, you will receive one 380mg dose of Vivitrol administered by an intramuscular injection. The medication must be administered by a medical professional. 

Once Vivitrol is in the system, the substance is gradually and continuously delivered in extended-release form. 

Before commencing treatment with Vivitrol, you should be opioid-free for at least one week. Accordingly, Vivitrol is typically administered following the completion of detox.

How Long Does It Last?

Vivitrol is a monthly injectable. The extended-release nature of the medication means

the effects will diminish during the month. You then receive another injection.

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Vivitrol and MAT at California Detox

Vivitrol can be an effective part of MAT for the treatment of both OUD (opioid use disorder) and AUD (alcohol use disorder). 

If you are addicted to opioids or alcohol, we can help you address the physical and psychological components of addiction here at California Detox

We provide treatment programs at all levels of intensity on ASAM’s continuum of care, including: 

  • Inpatient rehab (residential rehab)
  • OPs (outpatient programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • Virtual IOPs (remote rehab)

Whether you feel inpatient or outpatient rehab makes the right fit for you, you can take advantage of a supervised medical detox at our luxury beachside facility. MAT can reduce the severity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making detox as safe and comfortable as possible. 

For those who have an addiction to opioids or alcohol co-occurring with a mental health condition, our dual diagnosis treatment program is designed to address both conditions simultaneously through integrated therapy. 

All of our treatment programs draw from the following EBTs (evidence-based treatments): 

  • MAT
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Counseling (individual and group)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies

If Vivitrol is involved in your treatment plan, it will be administered in combination with counseling and psychotherapy, helping you to create a solid foundation for sustained recovery. 

Reach out to the friendly team today to find out how you can beat alcoholism or opioid addiction and embrace sober living. Call 949.567.8790 for immediate assistance.


Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist used for the treatment of alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder. The medication works by blocking the rewarding effects of the substances, reducing cravings.
Vivitrol is considered generally safe to use and is approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). The medication has no potential for abuse.


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