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Everything You Need To Know About Vivitrol and Alcohol

Graphic chart demonstrating the side effects of Vivitrol addiction.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the third most significant avoidable cause of death in the United States. A 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 14.5 million US residents who are 12 years old and older, including 9 million males and 5.5 million females, have an alcohol use problem.

There are now just three FDA-approved medications on the market for the treatment of alcoholism: Antabuse, Campral, and Vivitrol. 

Today, in this article, we will talk about Vivitrol, how it works, and its effects on an addicted person. 

Key Takeaways 

Vivitrol is the brand name of naltrexone. It is used to treat drug use disorders like alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) and opioid use disorder. 

  • Vivitrol is prescribed as a key part of a therapy and treatment plan. 
  • Vivitrol helps those addicted to alcohol or opioids feel less compelled to use these substances.
  • Only begin Vivitrol for alcoholism when you have completely stopped drinking.
  • People who are alcohol addicted are usually advised not to drink alcohol while taking Vivitrol.

If you are suffering from addiction, talk to expert healthcare providers at the Haven Detox-New England. Our expert doctors will help you recover with personalized treatment for your situation. 


Vivitrol is an injectable long-acting version of naltrexone, which is used to treat drug use disorders such as opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder (alcoholism). 

Vivitrol is prescribed as part of a therapy plan. It helps those who are addicted to alcohol or opioids feel less compelled to use these substances.

Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist that inhibits μ-opioid receptors. It also reduces the quantity of alcohol you want to drink by altering the way your brain, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland interact. 

Vivitrol prevents the intoxication, euphoria, or “high” caused by alcohol and narcotics. It also prevents opioids from providing pain relief.

Vivitrol progressively releases naltrexone (the active component) after injection for nearly a month. The US Food and Drug Administration originally authorized Vivitrol in 2006.

Vivitrol and the Brain

Vivitrol inhibits the brain’s responses to alcohol during withdrawal by acting as an opioid antagonist (inhibitor). Despite Vivitrol not stopping drinking, it does reduce the consequences of alcohol consumption. 

Consequently, this medicine reduces drinking behaviors until sobriety is achieved.

Unlike Antabuse (disulfiram), which brings sickness when you consume alcohol, Vivitrol changes the way your brain reacts to alcohol in your bloodstream. 

Vivitrol does this by inhibiting the attachment of alcohol-induced endorphins to their receptors.

Vivitrol, an alcohol use disorder (AUD) drug, takes time to work because it does not immediately lessen the alcohol cravings. 

As a result, it is vital not to miss any Vivitrol doses in order to get the complete advantages of this drug. Missing a planned injection can significantly reduce the efficacy of the subsequent dosage.

Vivitrol works great when combined with other components of a complete therapy program to help people in recovery lower their chance of relapse, lessen cravings, and sustain long-term sobriety.

Vivitrol Therapy

Vivitrol therapy must be combined with other alcohol or drug rehabilitation programs, such as counseling, to be effective. This therapy may not be suitable for everyone. It is unknown if Vivitrol is both safe and effective in children or young adults.

Drinking Alcohol While Taking Vivitrol

There are no obvious pharmacologic contraindications for the combination of alcohol and naltrexone listed, but certain concerns may occur as a result of Vivitrol’s harmful side effects. 

Some adverse effects, for example, may be exacerbated in people who have developed major physical conditions due to prolonged, excessive consumption of alcohol.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has published a clinician handbook outlining pharmacologic alternatives for treating individuals with alcohol use disorders.

  • Naltrexone medicines do not minimize the intoxicating effects of alcohol, such as delayed reflexes and decreased coordination, as well as the typical effects on mental performance.
  • Using naltrexone does not allow a person to drink more alcohol than usual; naltrexone does not raise one’s tolerance for alcohol.
  • After starting to drink, naltrexone may help diminish cravings or desires to continue drinking.
  • The effects of naltrexone appear to be effective in lowering total alcohol consumption.
  • Though naltrexone can help reduce cravings and the amount of alcohol consumed, it should be used in combination with treatment to optimize its therapeutic efficacy for persons in recovery from an alcohol use disorder.

Though the NIAAA recommendation mainly explains its function in assisting persons with alcohol misuse concerns to reduce their alcohol intake, naltrexone is also advised in the treatment of opioid use disorders (e.g., heroin usage, the abuse of prescription narcotic pain drugs, etc.).

Furthermore, consuming alcohol while taking Vivitrol will not:

  • Make the user feel exceedingly unwell.
  • Reduce the detrimental results of alcohol use.
  • Decrease the long-lasting results of chronic abuse of alcohol, including liver damage, heart problems, renal damage, and a grown risk of neurological problems such as heart stroke, attacks, or dementia.

Risks of Long-Term Vivitrol Use

Long-term usage of Vivitrol for alcohol or opiate addiction has been proven to be both safe and effective. 

One-year research published in 2010 discovered that naltrexone, when paired with counseling or treatment, helped 65% of prescription patients maintain opioid abstinence for 18 months, indicating a high clinical trial completion rate. 

There were no reports of severe adverse reactions or major injection site responses, and there was a low rate of clinical adverse events and injection site discomfort. 

An allergic response was the most prevalent reaction, which was treated in the clinic. Serious allergic reactions or injection site responses are conceivable but highly infrequent.

Acute adverse effects such as mental state changes, breathing depression or irregularity, and gastrointestinal difficulties may be severe enough to necessitate hospitalization. 

However, they will go away if the person receives immediate medical assistance.

Naltrexone does interact with some other medicines, particularly those containing low amounts of opioids. Therefore clinicians must be aware of all medications their patients are taking before giving naltrexone treatments like Vivitrol.

This medicine is typically safe. However, it should not be taken without a doctor’s recommended medicine and under the supervision of a healthcare professional. 

It is not a cure for opioid or alcohol addiction; rather, it is a vital maintenance medicine that works with treatment and peer support groups to manage addiction. However, it is safe for the majority of people and has minimal long-term side effects.

Side Effects of Vivitrol Addiction 

Vivitrol and other naltrexone-containing medications have few adverse effects. Most people consider the substance safe to use; nonetheless, every prescription or treatment has a serious side effect profile.

  • Depression. 
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions.
  • Allergic responses. 
  • Pneumonia. 

Vivitrol Treatment 

Patients can use Vivitrol for as long or as little as they need based on their treatment goals since it is safe and effective for both short- and long-term use. 

While some people will require Vivitrol injections for a long period, others may require them for a few months. However, most healthcare providers suggest that Vivitrol be taken for a minimum of a year in order to have the best results.

While Vivitrol is a great MAUD therapy, it is not suitable for everyone. As a result, Vivitrol must not be used by those people who are:

  • Physically addicted to opioid medicines.
  • Allergic to Vivitrol injectable chemicals.
  • Have hepatitis or serious liver disease.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

What happens if you drink alcohol while taking naltrexone?

Vivitrol is another name for naltrexone. It is offered as a once-month long-acting intramuscular injection. Or as a once-daily oral pill (generic). It is designed for adults above the age of 18. When you drink alcohol, naltrexone reduces the enjoyable effects and symptoms of drunkenness.
This allows people with alcohol use disorder to limit their drinking patterns enough to stay in treatment, avoid relapses, and take medication. 
Your craving for alcohol will fade with time. Naltrexone will not prevent you from becoming drunk. If you intend to drive or engage in other activities while under the influence of alcohol, do not use naltrexone.

What to avoid when taking Vivitrol?

If you are in any of the following situations, you should not take Vivitrol:
You’re taking opioid painkillers.
You are opioid dependent.
You are experiencing acute opioid withdrawal or have any opioid withdrawal symptoms.
You failed a naloxone challenge test or have a positive opioid urine screen.
You have acute hepatitis or hepatic failure.
You are allergic to naltrexone, polylactide-co-glycolide (PLG), or any other diluent or inactive component in the product.
To avoid opioid withdrawal, inform your doctor or other health care provider of any recent opioid usage or history of opioid dependency before beginning naltrexone. 
Your doctor may order a naloxone challenge test or a urine test.

What is the best way to receive Vivitrol?

A healthcare professional injects Vivitrol roughly once a month.
A healthcare provider must inject Vivitrol. Please do not attempt to inject this drug into oneself. Serious responses, some of which may necessitate hospitalization, are possible.
Vivitrol is injected into a muscle in the buttocks with a particular needle that comes with it.
Vivitrol remains in the body for a month after injection and cannot be removed.
Whenever you require medical attention, inform the treating physician that you are taking Vivitrol injections and when you last received one. This is significant since this drug can also interfere with the effects of opioid-containing medications that may be administered.

When does Vivitrol start working?

Vivitrol (naltrexone) begins to function the day it is administered and has a one-month duration of action. The drug’s initial peak in your blood comes roughly 2 hours after injection. The medicine is then gradually released over the next month.
The naltrexone in Vivitrol injection is specifically manufactured to be encapsulated in little spheres of a polymer material. These spheres are suspended in the injected liquid. The spheres gradually release naltrexone into the bloodstream.
Because Vivitrol begins to act immediately, it is critical that you do not have any alcohol or opioids in your system when the medicine is administered. 
Before using Vivitrol, you should be opioid-free for at least 7 to 14 days (depending on which opioid you’ve been using) or have undergone alcohol detoxification. If you are not free of opioids and alcohol, Vivitrol can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that may necessitate hospitalization.

Get Addiction Treatment With Haven Detox-New England

If you require help and treatment for your alcohol use disorder (AUD), we are always here to support you in building your belief and momentum toward the life you want. 

Haven Detox-New England offers treatment services for people with opioid, alcohol, and other substance use disorder (SUD) or substance abuse. 

Our treatment program includes residential treatment and detox services. We also treat various types of drug addictions, such as alcohol, heroin, and cocaine. Don’t wait! Get on the path to recovery now. 

To get immediate help for your addiction, call (844) 933-4145 to speak with an addiction treatment specialist.