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At Shanti Recovery and Wellness, in Portland, Oregon, we offer patients medication assisted treatment for some substance use disorders, like Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). There are several medication options for these disorders, and one of them is called Vivitrol. This blog post will explain the basics of Vivitrol, including what it is, how it works, who can use it safely, the benefits and drawbacks of this medication, and the effectiveness studies that have been done on Vivitrol. 

At Shanti, we never just prescribe a medication to treat addiction outside the context of a larger, holistic treatment plan. When these medications are used, they are only used as one tool within the context of comprehensive counseling, nutritional support, and medical support. 

Please note that only a doctor can help you decide if Vivitrol, or any other medication, is a good fit for you or your loved one. We provide information about Vivitrol here to help patients understand their options and raise awareness about medication options for addiction treatment. 

What is Vivitrol?

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Vivitrol is a medication that can be used by people in recovery to reduce cravings for and consumption of opioids and alcohol.

Vivitrol is a brand name for Naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, which blocks the effects of opioids in the brain. It is not addictive and it has no abuse potential. It does not make you feel “high.” In fact, naltrexone will block the euphoric effects of drugs like heroin if you do try to use while taking the medication. 

While Vivitrol can reduce cravings for both alcohol and opioids, naltrexone does not block the euphoric effects of alcohol as it does the euphoric effects of opioids. In other words, you can still “get drunk” while taking naltrexone if you choose to drink while using the medication. 

What do you need to do before starting Vivitrol? 

Vivitrol is not for patients who are not able to discontinue their substance use in an outpatient setting. Vivitrol is only for patients who have already managed to discontinue their use of opioids and/or alcohol. Vivitrol helps patients who are in the maintenance phase of recovery reduce their cravings and prevent relapse. The FDA recommends that patients have at least 10 days of “clean time” before beginning treatment with Vivitrol. 

What are some of the benefits of Vivitrol for Opioid Use Disorder? 

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Unlike methadone, which requires daily dosing, Vivitrol can just be administered on a monthly basis. This makes Vivitrol an easier lift for patients who do not want to remember to take their medication or travel to a clinic everyday. 

Vivitrol is not a controlled substance, unlike methadone and suboxone, and has no abuse potential. Patients do not develop a “tolerance” to Vivitrol, nor do they develop any symptoms of physical or psychological dependence on the medication. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to back up any claims that “Vivitrol replaces one addiction for another,” as Vivitrol does not activate any of the neural pathways of drugs of abuse. If anything, it does the opposite. 

What are some of the downsides of Vivitrol for addiction treatment? 

Vivitrol is not for every patient who struggles with alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder. The medication is contra-indicated for some patients, including patients who: 

  • Have liver problems 
  • Have kidney problems 
  • Have bleeding problems 
  • Are pregnant, are trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding
  • Are allergic to naltrexone 
  • Are on any opioid medications
  • Are not detoxed from opioids 
  • Have not discontinued drinking 

How does Vivitrol treatment work? 

Vivitrol is typically delivered as an injectable, or via “intramuscular extended release,” by a doctor in an outpatient setting. At Shanti, patients come to our office to receive extended-release Vivitrol shots when prescribed, often every four weeks or once a month. There is also a daily pill form of Vivitrol that is appropriate for some patients.  

How effective is Vivitrol for alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder?

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In one study, Opioid Use Disorder patients who received Vivitrol treatment as part of a holistic treatment plan achieved 13% more success in maintaining abstinence than patients who received a placebo. 

Another study found that patients who take Vivitrol experience 25% fewer heavy drinking days than Alcohol Use Disorder patients who do not take Vivitrol. 

What you’ll find at Shanti Recovery and Wellness… 

Portland residents tend to gravitate towards our programs because we offer a warm, family-style environment with knowledgeable clinicians in a comfortable setting. Our building is a converted craftsman that looks and feels more like a chiropractor’s office or a naturopathic family medicine clinic than it does an addiction treatment center. We tailor our patient-centered treatment plans around your preferences and goals, taking the whole patient into consideration, rather than treating addiction in isolation. 

Interested to learn more about how we can help? Give us a call today to begin your journey to freedom from addiction!