Vivitrol 101: Five Facts About Vivitrol


In the wake of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Oct. 12 announcement that it had approved the medication Vivitrol for use in the opiate addiction treatment programs, interest in this drug among the general public has risen considerably.

In an effort to provide an introduction to Vivitrol, the following are five fast facts about Vivitrol and its use in medically assisted opioid addiction treatment programs:

Vivitrol Fact #1: Testing & Approval

As noted above, Vivitrol was approved by the FDA for use in opiate addiction treatment programs on Oct. 12. The FDA approval followed a six-month clinical trial in which recovering adults were treated with either Vivitrol or a placebo.

At the end of the six-month study, 36 percent of the patients receiving Vivitrol were still drug-free and in treatment, compared to only 23 percent of those in the placebo group.

Vivitrol Fact #2: Vivitrol & Alcohol Dependence

Prior to the FDA’s Oct. 12 approval of Vivitrol for use in approved opiate treatment programs, the drug was already being used for the treatment of alcoholism.

An extended-use version of the alcoholism-treatment drug naltrexone, Vivitrol was approved by the FDA for use in alcohol dependence treatment. A Vivitrol article on the website EmaxHealth described Vivitrol’s effectiveness in alcohol dependence treatment as follows:

Vivitrol is effective and generally well tolerated for the treatment of alcohol dependence. In clinical trials, when used in combination with psychosocial support, Vivitrol was shown to reduce the number of drinking days and heavy drinking days and to prolong and maintain abstinence in patients who abstained from alcohol the week prior to starting treatment.

Vivitrol Fact #3: How Vivitrol Works

Vivitrol’s effectiveness in opiate addiction treatment is related to the following:

  • Vivitrol works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain.
  • Data indicates that Vivitrol blocks neurotransmitters in the brain.
  • Experts believe that these blocked neurotransmitters are associated with the pleasurable effects of recreational drugs such as alcohol, heroin and morphine.

In a statement on the website of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), NIDA Director Nora Volkow said that the use of Vivitrol in opiate addiction treatment signals “an important turning point in our approach to treatment.”

Vivitrol Fact #4: Dosage Requirements

Before the FDA’s approval of Vivitrol for the treatment of opiate addiction, medication-assisted opiate addiction treatment programs used either methadone or buprenorphine (Suboxone) to treat individuals who were struggling to overcome addictions to heroin, morphine, opioid painkillers and similar drugs.

On the dosage front, there are two striking differences between Vivitrol and methadone/buprenorphine (Suboxone):

  • Unlike methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone), both of which are taken orally, Vivitrol is administered via intramuscular injection.
  • Unlike methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone), both of which must be taken daily, one dose of Vivitrol is effective for 30 days.

Vivitrol Fact #5: Side Effects

The FDA has reported that the following side effects have been associated with Vivitrol use:

  • Nausea, dizziness and vomiting
  • Fatigue and decreased appetite
  • Joint pain, muscle cramps and headaches
  • Depression (including suicidal thoughts)
  • Rashes, hives and swelling around the face
  • Liver damage
  • Pneumonia

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