Do You Have Questions About Addiction? Call Our Recovery Experts Now.

Northpoint Seattle at Northpoint is Now Offering Vivitrol Injection Services

It’s very exciting for us to announce that we are now offering Vivitrol injection services for all qualified patients.

Vivitrol injections are once-a-month shots that can help:

  • Block cravings for alcohol and opioids
  • Prevent the euphoric feelings from these drugs, thus removing the incentive to use again
  • Make quitting these addictive substances much easier when combined with a complete recovery program

Studies have shown that Vivitrol is scientifically proven to help treat both opioid addiction and alcoholism. It’s also approved by the FDA. And best of all, it’s also not a narcotic and is believed to be entirely non-addictive.

If you are addicted to either alcohol or opioids, Vivitrol is a medication you should consider. It is the safest form of medication assisted treatment (MAT) on the market. And when used correctly, it can make recovery easier, faster, and far more successful.

What Is Vivitrol?

The generic name for Vivitrol is naltrexone (not to be confused with naloxone). And if you’re at all familiar with addiction treatments, you’ve probably heard about how amazing this drug can be for treating a substance use disorder.

Naltrexone is a medication that has been shown to reduce cravings and prevent opiates from working in the body on a molecular level. It works so well because it effectively blocks the opioid receptors in the body. With that barrier in place, the alcohol and opiate molecules cannot get through.

As a result, anyone taking opioids or alcohol while using naltrexone won’t get the same pleasurable effects they’re used to when abusing these drugs.

Vivitrol injections

Instead of coming in the form of a pill, though, Vivitrol is an actual injection that needs to be taken once every a few weeks. Rather than a daily dose, then, Vivitrol is administered just once a month.

This makes Vivitrol much easier to use and takes away the risk of missing a dose too – a simple mistake that can often lead to a full-blown relapse and reversing weeks, months, or even years of hard work.

Vivitrol is not meant to be the only component of a recovery program. And despite its effectiveness, it is no magic treatment or cure for addiction. In order to get the most out of it, patients need to stick to the many other aspects of their recovery plan – attending support meetings, staying in contact with sponsors or addiction professionals, and also completing detox and rehabilitation programs.

Vivitrol is not available over the counter. Patients can only get this form of MAT by prescription. A doctor prescribes it, and then a nurse must administer it. It is very effective and using it has helped many people who are serious about their recovery achieve long-term sobriety.

The key to Vivitrol’s effectiveness is its main ingredient, naltrexone. This unique compound is perfect for treating certain types of addictions because it’s an opioid antagonist.

To explain, drugs like heroin, OxyContin, alcohol, and many other substances all release chemicals in the brain that home in on these opioid receptors and stimulate them. Once these receptors are activated, they can cause a variety of effects in the body, from pain relief and sedation to extreme euphoria. This is the “high” that addicts continually seek.

Drugs like these that stimulate the opioid receptors are called opioid agonists.

Naltrexone, however, is an opioid antagonist. That means that it finds these receptors, attaches to them without activating them, and essentially stops other drugs from stimulating these receptors. As a result, if someone takes opioids or drinks while on naltrexone, they won’t be able to feel the euphoric effects that they’re after.

And since it doesn’t produce the same euphoric effects that they did before, recovering addicts have far less of an incentive to start using again. This, of course, results in fewer relapses and more viable long-term sobriety.

Since Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist, it makes sense why it can be used to help treat a substance use disorder involving opioids like heroin or prescription painkillers. After all, since these drugs are opioids themselves, they work by directly stimulating the opioid receptors.

And if naltrexone blocks those specific receptors off, it seems pretty obvious that it can be helpful in curbing opioid abuse.

But why does Vivitrol help when it comes to alcoholism?

Unfortunately, researchers still haven’t pinned down exactly how naltrexone helps during alcohol addiction recovery. But many hypothesize that alcohol interacts with a variety of different kinds of receptors, one type of which is the opioid receptor.

This receptor in particular is responsible for the pleasure associated with drinking. Other effects, like lack of coordination, poor judgment, nausea, and sedation, are at least in part caused by alcohol affecting different kinds of receptors.  

As a result, someone who chooses to drink while on Vivitrol (which is highly dangerous and not recommended) will still experience the impairing effects without the beneficial ones like euphoria or stress relief.

Consequently, someone trying to kick their alcohol addiction will be far less likely to fall off the wagon for two reasons in particular.

  1. They’ll have less of a desire to have a drink since it doesn’t produce the same pleasurable response.
  2. If they do end up relapsing, they won’t be as likely to keep on drinking since their judgment won’t be as clouded by the euphoria associated with alcohol.

Vivitrol, then, can end up being just as helpful for alcoholics as it is for opioid addicts.

Naltrexone was first synthesized in 1963 by Endo Laboratories in New York. Researchers noted that compared to other opioid antagonists like naloxone, naltrexone had a longer effective duration and less of the negative side effects of other drugs on the market.

By 1969, Endo had been acquired by the major chemical company, DuPont. Four years later, clinical trials began on testing the effectiveness of naltrexone for treating opioid dependence.

During the late 60s and early 70s, the United States was in the middle of an enormous upsurge of drug use. Driven by the “hippy” culture and the return of soldiers from Vietnam, heroin abuse in particular had risen to near epidemic levels. And as a result, health agencies and the public at large were frantically searching for new ways of healing an increasingly addicted population.

It isn’t any surprise, then, that once the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) learned of the potential effectiveness of naltrexone for treating opioid dependence, it began a close collaboration with DuPont to help develop the drug.

It was cleared by the FDA to treat this form of addiction in 1984 under the brand name Trexan and later to treat alcoholism in 1995 under the name ReVia. Both of these versions of naltrexone were administered orally in the form of a swallowable pill.

It wasn’t until 2006 that an intramuscular injection version of the drug (which allowed for gradual and long-lasting release of naltrexone) called Vivitrol was manufactured by Alkermes and approved by the FDA for opioid dependence. It was later also approved for use in treating alcohol dependence in 2010.

How Does It Compare to Oral Naltrexone?

How Does It Compare to Oral Naltrexone?

Alcohol or opioid addicts considering using naltrexone to help them achieve sobriety are often stuck between two choices: should they take the oral version of naltrexone, ReVia, or should they use the injectable form, Vivitrol?

This is an especially important question for individuals who may be a bit put off by the idea of needles and a monthly appointment with a doctor.

And it’s true that Vivitrol may not be right for everybody.

But there are a few pretty substantial benefits to opting for injectable naltrexone rather than taking it in pill form.

One problem with nearly any medication is the fact that patients themselves are often responsible for taking it. And unless a recovering addict is enrolled in an inpatient rehabilitation program, this problem also extends to anyone using ReVia, the pill form of naltrexone.

Whether it's an especially hectic morning, a last-minute emergency, or a lost pill bottle, there is an infinite number of reasons why someone may not be able to take their prescribed dose of ReVia in a given day. And while that might not be the end of the world for some medications, with naltrexone it could be incredibly costly, and even dangerous.

Since the oral version of this drug typically lasts around 24 hours, missing just one dose can mean the onset of intense cravings and opening up the door to the pleasurable effects of using opioids or alcohol again. And that can mean the risk of a full-blown relapse can skyrocket just because of a single missed dose.

Vivitrol, on the other hand, only needs to be administered once every a few weeks. So the stresses and distractions of daily life aren’t anywhere as likely to prevent someone from getting their much-needed daily dose of naltrexone.

And that alone can be a real lifesaver.

Similar to the previous benefit, Vivitrol supplies a continuous dosage of naltrexone to the bloodstream. This is because Vivitrol comes in the form of what’s known as a “depot injection” – a form of administration where the drug is injected into a localized mass in the body known as a depot. In the case of Vivitrol, this mass is typically the buttocks.

And when it comes to a drug that’s designed to help reduce severe cravings, this continual release can be incredibly important.

To explain, when taken orally via ReVia, naltrexone is slowly degraded by the body over the course of 24 hours. Consequently, the drug becomes less and less effective with each passing hour. And that can mean overpowering cravings may pop up along the way.

Now, when the exact proper dosage is taken at the exact proper time, this usually isn’t a problem. But as with other medications, figuring out the right dose is a process. And that means the first prescription isn’t necessarily the amount needed to truly prevent the cravings that can lead to relapse throughout the entire day.

Thanks to Vivitrol’s controlled and continual release, however, this isn’t nearly as much of a problem.

Finally, Vivitrol is especially effective when it comes to preventing the lack of compliance that often springs up among recovering substance abusers. While having a lot of self-control can certainly go a long way in getting clean from a substance abuse problem, overcoming an addiction isn’t just about willpower.

That’s because addiction is an actual mental disorder – studies have shown that it causes very real physical changes in areas of the brain that are, in the words of NIDA, “critical for judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavior control. Scientists believe that these changes alter the way the brain works and may help explain the compulsive and destructive behaviors of a person who becomes addicted.”

As a result, even the most determined individuals are still likely to slip and want to get high again. With drugs like ReVia, it’s as simple as skipping a dose and going out for a drink or shooting up. With a potential high that’s so easily within reach, the temptation is difficult for many to overcome. And that can mean months or years of hard work down the drain.

Vivitrol, on the other hand, entirely prevents this scenario from unfolding. Even if the allure of a buzz becomes overpowering, individuals on Vivitrol have no way of achieving it in the short term. And once that fleeting desire passes, logic and reason will kick in again, helping them remember why they’re getting sober in the first place.

Vivitrol, then, is particularly helpful in recovery because it protects recovering addicts from their #1 risk – themselves.

What Does the Science Say About Vivitrol?

Since its introduction to the field of addiction treatment, naltrexone has long been thought to be a powerfully effective prescription medication for treating various forms of substance abuse.

However, the number of conclusive studies on the matter have historically been lacking. The main reason for this gap in data is that patients using oral naltrexone (ReVia) are notoriously bad at complying with a treatment schedule. Many intentionally don’t take their prescribed dosage so that they can achieve a high from using again. And that means it’s especially difficult to tell if the drug actually works since many people don’t take it correctly.

What Does the Science Say About Vivitrol?

As we’ve seen, Vivitrol effectively solves that problem of non-compliance. And as a result, a few conclusive studies have been released showing how this particular drug can aid in combating both alcohol and opioid dependence.

The official Vivitrol website points to one study in particular that showed some pretty dramatic and impressive results when it comes to treating alcoholism.

This 6-month study, which was randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled, tested the number of heavy drinking days following treatment. The test population, which was made up of 414 patients, was split into two groups: one that received Vivitrol treatment alongside counseling (205 people) and another that received a placebo with counseling (209 people).

Within the Vivitrol population, patients demonstrated a 25% reduction in heavy drinking days compared to the other sample.  

Another study showed that patients under the same conditions (Vivitrol + counseling vs. placebo + counseling) responded even more dramatically to the drug if they abstained from alcohol completely during the week prior to their treatment.

Patients in this study who used Vivitrol experienced:

  • 92% fewer heavy-drinking days
  • Significantly fewer drinking days
  • More abstinent days per month
  • More success maintaining continuous abstinence

When combined with proper counseling, then, Vivitrol can apparently be quite beneficial for helping recovering alcoholics stay sober.

As with alcohol dependence, the science seems to land on the side of Vivitrol when it comes to treating opioid addiction as well.

One study in particular showed that Vivitrol was far superior to placebo when combined with counseling. Similar to the studies involving alcohol dependence, this 6-month study was randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled. It also tested a population using Vivitrol alongside counseling compared to a placebo group with counseling.

Researchers in this study found the following:

  • The proportion of weeks of confirmed abstinence was 90% for Vivitrol and just 35% for the placebo group.
  • The self-reported median of opioid-free days was 99.2% for Vivitrol and 60.4% for the control group.
  • The Vivitrol group reported a 55% decrease in cravings while the placebo group’s increased by 3%.
  • Retention in the recovery program was 168 days for Vivitrol patients compared to just 96 days for the control.
  • The Vivitrol group was 17 times less likely to relapse during the study compared to the placebo group.  

Another study (also randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled) found that over the course of 19 weeks, 36% of patients using Vivitrol were able to achieve total opioid abstinence. For the placebo group, that number was just 23%.

Ultimately, the science seems to show that for opioid dependence, Vivitrol can be incredibly helpful when it comes to kicking the habit.

What to Expect with Vivitrol Services at Northpoint

What to Expect with Vivitrol Services at Northpoint

Vivitrol is a drug that is available by injection only. Users must go through the detoxification process before they can begin treatment with this medication. This can take a period of about 7 to 14 days. 

Patients will meet with our Medical Director to discuss the treatment options. If the doctor feels that Vivitrol is the right treatment option, they will prescribe it for the patient. Usually, a nurse will administer the injection into the buttocks area. It is no more painful than any other shot would be. 

Patients must be careful to take Vivitrol on a strict schedule. The shot is good for a few weeks because the medication is in an extended release format. Vivitrol is most effective for recovering addicts when taken every a few weeks, so it’s important that they always make their scheduled injection times. 

Once a patient has had their injection, the medication will work right away. Some people experience almost immediate relief from cravings. The opioid receptors are blocked immediately, preventing opiates from euphorigenic feelings (or getting “high”) as soon as it is administered. 

After receiving the medication, many patients notice that their cravings for alcohol and/or opiates are significantly decreased. This protection should last for the duration of the entire a few weeks. 

Vivitrol Services

The Importance of Vivitrol Combined with Therapy

Going to therapy while taking Vivitrol is very important. In fact, many providers won’t prescribe this drug without a recovery program on board as well. A patient needs to have therapy in order for it to be as effective as possible.

While addressing the physical cravings and withdrawals of addiction is important for recovery, it’s also essential to get to the root of why an addict continues to abuse alcohol and/or opioids. Only then can they address the problem and change their behaviors.

Treatment programs that work with Vivitrol

For many addicts, substance abuse is about self-medicating. They may be trying to cope with the symptoms of past emotional trauma, underlying mental disorders like depression or anxiety (often called co-occurring disorders), or may simply feel like their life is lacking meaning or purpose. It can also be the result of a number of different reasons.

Whatever the cause, addressing this core problem is vital to preventing further substance abuse. Otherwise, patients are simply treating the symptoms of addiction rather than the cause.

Since therapy is a key component of a recovery plan with Vivitrol, this means that recovering addicts have a few different options when it comes to treatment and therapy, namely inpatient, outpatient, and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs).

Inpatient Programs – choose to go to an inpatient treatment center for addiction. An inpatient program requires patients to stay on campus grounds throughout the course of their therapy. Eating, sleeping, and engaging in treatment sessions all take place within the program facility.

And as Vivitrol continues to grow in popularity, many of these programs have begun offering Vivitrol treatments alongside traditional therapies like counseling, group talk, and behavioral therapies.

Outpatient Programs – An outpatient program is another option that’s available too. This type of program tends to offer a bit more flexibility when it comes to recovery plans. Treatment sessions typically take place in the evenings and patients are free to spend their day however they’d like. Rather than a kind of “recovery boot camp” as with inpatient, outpatient is more like taking a “recovery class.”

Since administration of the Vivitrol treatment is quick and relatively simple, many outpatient programs have started using this medication to help their patients too.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) – These programs offer flexibility as with outpatient but provide more focused and extensive treatment than a normal outpatient program. Evening sessions are usually longer and may take place more frequently throughout the week as well. They’re great options for individuals who can’t commit the time or the money to an inpatient program but still need a higher level of care.

IOPs like Northpoint Seattle have also started offering Vivitrol treatments for patients as well.

Inpatient and outpatient treatment
Vivitrol Shot Reviews

The Naltrexone Shot Cost & What You Can Expect

It is expensive to take Naltrexone if you have to pay for it yourself. Many people don’t have health insurance, and so this is an expense they need to cover. You may find yourself paying $1,500 a month for just one injection. 

But depending on where you receive treatment, a single injection (which lasts for a few weeks) usually costs around $1,300 without insurance.

If you don’t have insurance, there are still ways that you can get help to pay for Vivitrol. You can contact the company that makes it and ask about their savings program. It could potentially provide this medication to you at no charge.

Each year, more states are allowing Vivitrol to be covered under their Medicaid programs. This is encouraging because it means that a lot more people will have access to this treatment. If you have private health insurance, there's no need to worry. Your health insurance company may cover your treatment as well.

For those who have reached their deductible on insurance, Vivitrol should be completely covered. If you haven’t reached your deductible, assistance programs are available to help with the costs of Vivitrol. Our staff works tirelessly to handle this paperwork process for you so you can focus on treatment.

When you first inquire about your treatment, the rehab program will also verify your insurance. This will help to answer a lot of questions about your care and what you qualify for.

There are plenty of benefits to using Vivitrol, but understandably, the price may be a bit too much for some people. This is especially true for individuals who have suffered from a particularly severe addiction as substance abuse can often have a devastating impact on finances.

However, Vivitrol’s manufacturer actually offers a savings program directly through the company called the Vivitrol Co-Pay Savings Program. This program is designed to provide access to the enormous benefits of this drug without having to bear the burden of costs all on your own. And when you look at the terms of the savings program, it really can mean a world of a difference.

The Vivitrol Co-Pay Savings Program, as the official website says, “covers up to $500/month of co-pay or deductible expenses for eligible patients with a VIVITROL prescription.”

And since doses are administered once a month, qualifying patients can receive $500 off of the costs of their shots in a single month – effectively reducing the price to less than $1,000 in most cases. It’s also worth noting that this savings program works with both private insurance and for individuals who do not have or are opting out of using private insurance.

When combined with private insurance, this can reduce the cost of Vivitrol to nothing. In fact, according to data from Alkermes itself, “90% of insured patients using the program had no out-of-pocket expenses for Vivitrol.”

Unfortunately, not everyone will qualify for this savings program. Patients with commercial health insurance or who do not have or are opting out of insurance are eligible. But anyone using federal or state healthcare do not qualify. These types of programs include:

Side effects of vivitrol

Are There Any Side Effects?

When you begin taking Vivitrol, you may notice some side effects. You might have some pain and tenderness at the injection site as you would any injection. There could be a bruise, and the area might itch. Tell your doctor if you feel concerned about it.

Other side effects you might experience can include:

  • Injection site tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • A decreased appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps and/or joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo (dizziness)

It’s also worth noting that in rare cases, patients have experienced a severe reaction at the site of the injection. These reactions have included tissue death and have even required surgery in the past. This is not a common reaction and, in most cases, patients feel little or no discomfort as a result.

However, if you experience any of the following side effects, speak to a doctor immediately.

  • Intense pain
  • Lumps
  • An open wound
  • The area feels hard
  • Blister
  • A dark scab
  • Swelling

There are some rare side effects that can occur. These need to be reported to your doctor immediately. It may be necessary to stop Vivitrol if you experience any of the following:

  • A fast or irregular heart rate
  • Severe depression that includes suicidal thoughts
  • The onset of pneumonia
  • Blisters at the site of the injection

Added to that, some side effects may indicate a severe medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. If you experience any of the following side effects, contact emergency medical help right away.

  • Have trouble breathing
  • Become very drowsy with slowed breathing
  • Have slow, shallow breathing (little chest movement with breathing)
  • Feel faint, dizzy, confused or have other unusual symptoms

If you notice a rash, swelling or severe itching, this could indicate an allergy. You need to report this as well.

One of the more severe side effects of Vivitrol is the potential for serious liver damage. Because of this potential, Vivitrol is required to have what’s known as a “Black Box Warning” which indicates the risk of serious side effects while taking the drug.

Naltrexone, the active ingredient in Vivitrol, has been shown to have the capacity to cause damage to liver cells when taken improperly. As a result, patients who are currently suffering from liver damage or other diseases that impact this organ’s functioning may not be suitable for taking Vivitrol.

This is especially worth mentioning because both alcoholism and opioid dependence are associated with high rates of liver damage.

Liver Damage in Alcoholics – Over time, alcoholism can very easily lead to severe health problems. In fact, a new report has even shown that alcohol consumption is the leading cause of death for young adults across the world.  

One of the major dangers of chronic alcohol consumption is the dangerous impact it can have on the liver. Because alcohol is primarily broken down in the liver, too much can overload this essential organ, causing a buildup of fats, severe inflammation, and even permanent scarring.

There are three major diseases of the liver caused by heavy drinking:

Liver Damage in Opioid Addicts – Opioid-dependent drug users are also at a higher risk of developing liver damage compared to the rest of the population. The reason for this is threefold.

  1. Harmful Additives – Many illicitly used opioids have a variety of additives in them. This includes fillers and adulterants in street drugs like heroin as well as chemical and structural compounds in prescription pain medications. And when these additives are injected directly into the bloodstream (a common way of abusing opioids), they can cause serious and direct damage to organs like the liver.
  2. Lack of Oxygen – Opioids cause respiratory depression. And when they’re taken at especially high levels, respiration can drop so much that it cuts off oxygen to the liver – particularly in the case of an overdose. This is what’s known as “ischemic hepatitis.”
  3. Bloodborne Pathogens – Finally, the intravenous nature of opioid abuse poses a particular risk to the liver of opioid users because of viral hepatitis, a disease transferred via blood-to-blood contact. Despite the massive amount of information out there decrying the practice, needle sharing is still quite common among opioid addicts. And that makes transmitting liver-damaging diseases like Hepatitis C is especially common in this population. One study even found that the average hepatitis-infected intravenous drug user is likely to infect 20 more users over the course of their addiction.

While taking this drug with an already-compromised liver can be dangerous in some cases, it’s worth mentioning that the FDA has determined that the harmful dosage of naltrexone is actually five times larger than the suggested dosage. Added to that, healthy liver functioning was restored back to normal soon after patients stopped taking naltrexone in most studies.

Ultimately, then, the slight potential of liver damage from naltrexone often isn’t reason enough to not take Vivitrol. And when used properly, this treatment poses little risk to patients who are looking to control their substance abuse.

That being said, patients should always trust the advice of a medical professional and disclose any liver problems they may have had before using Vivitrol

Vivitrol liver toxicity

What to Know About Opioid Precipitated Withdrawal & Vivitrol

When it comes to using Vivitrol to treat opioid dependence, there is one condition in particular that both physicians and patients need to watch out for – precipitated withdrawal. This condition is brought on when an opioid-dependent patient takes Vivitrol or naltrexone too soon after detoxification. And like regular opioid withdrawal, it can be incredibly uncomfortable.

Luckily, there are a variety of guidelines that physicians use to prevent this condition from developing.

Precipitated withdrawal is the near-instantaneous onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms brought on by administering opioid antagonists before detox is fully complete. And that can mean experiencing a host of incredibly uncomfortable symptoms on top of those a patient is already going through.

On a molecular level, it works like this…

During detox, the body gradually breaks down opioid molecules or flushes them from the system entirely. However, this takes a bit of time – usually about 7 to 10 days from start to finish.

And during this time, many opioid molecules are still stuck to the various opioid receptors throughout the brain and the body.

When naltrexone or another opioid antagonist is introduced into the system while these opioid molecules are still around, the antagonists essentially rip these molecules out of the receptors. And the sudden displacement (and replacement with naltrexone molecules) causes the body to go into immediate withdrawal.

In a nutshell, it’s it makes it so that the body doesn’t actually have time to acclimate to functioning without the help of opioids. And that means the symptoms are far more painful than they have to be.

Some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal from opioids like heroin that come on almost immediately during precipitated withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Cravings
  • Cramps
  • Crying spells
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Itching
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Runny nose
  • Sleep changes
  • Sneezing
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sweating
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting
  • Yawning

Alkermes, Vivitrol’s manufacturer, patients should be opioid-free for a minimum of 7 to 14 days before beginning treatment. This should allow for an adequate amount of time to avoid precipitated withdrawal. However, physicians will usually evaluate the patient using a number of methods to ensure they are safe from these uncomfortable symptoms.

The first step is judging the stage of withdrawal based on the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale, also known as COWS. This scale rates the severity of specific symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal and assigns each a value. At the end, the physician adds up these values to a total score (their COWS score) which indicates whether a patient is experiencing mild, moderate, moderately severe, and severe withdrawals.

The symptoms evaluated include:

  • Resting pulse rate
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Restlessness
  • Yawning
  • Pupil size
  • Irritability
  • Bone or joint aches
  • Gooseflesh skin
  • Runny nose or tearing

If the patient’s COWS score is 4 or less, then physicians move on to either what’s called a Naloxone or Naltrexone Challenge. Here they administer a low dose of one of these opioid antagonists via injection (as with naloxone) or oral tablet (as with naltrexone) and wait to see if there are any changes in the COWS score.

If the COWS score remains the same or increases by only 1 point, the patient is cleared to start using Vivitrol. If the score increases by more than 1 point, however, they must wait another day or two to reevaluate.

As long as both patients and physicians adhere to this system of checks, then the risk of precipitated withdrawal is practically eliminated.

Precipitated withdrawal only occurs with Vivitrol in patients who are opioid dependent. As a result, alcoholics do not have to worry about going through this condition and may begin using Vivitrol at any time during their recovery.

It’s worth noting, however, that Vivitrol does not help ease the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal – it only helps reduce cravings and prevents the euphoria associated with drinking.

Also, patients using Vivitrol for alcoholism that also take opioids regularly (whether via a legitimate prescription or illicitly) must tell their doctors. Neglecting to do so can cause them to experience precipitated withdrawal too.

For reference, some of the most commonly used opioids include:

Vivitrol Compared to other Medication Assisted Treatments (MATs)

Medication assisted treatments are exactly what they sound like – physicians prescribe certain medications (in addition to counseling and traditional therapy) in order to reduce the risk of relapse and make recovery more comfortable, easier, and ultimately more successful.

There are a number of medications used to treat alcoholism and opioid addiction being used already. So what makes Vivitrol different?

In addition to naltrexone, there are two medications in particular that are approved by the FDA for treating alcoholism: disulfiram and Acamprosate.

Disulfiram – Also known as Antabuse, disulfiram is one of the oldest MATs used to treat alcoholism. This drug treats alcoholism on the principle of aversion therapy. When someone on disulfiram consumes even the smallest amount of alcohol, they are subjected to a number of incredibly uncomfortable symptoms, such as:

  • Extreme Nausea
  • Copious, Uncontrollable Vomiting
  • Throbbing Headache
  • Excessive Sweating, combined with Extreme Thirst
  • Intense Neck Pain
  • Physical Weakness
  • Shortness of Breath, combined with Hyperventilation
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Chest Pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Blurred Vision
  • Confusion
  • General Uneasiness

And while this can be an incredibly effective method of keeping alcoholics from turning back to drinking, this drug does not help normalize brain functioning like Vivitrol. On top of that, it does not help reduce cravings either – it just adds a severe punishment for giving into them.  

Acamprosate – The newest drug to approved by the FDA for use in treating alcoholism, Acamprosate is sold under the brand name Campral. Like naltrexone, it helps prevent cravings and relapse by affecting the brain on a molecular level.

Rather than affecting the opioid receptors like naltrexone, however, researchers believe that this drug helps modulate activity in the glutamate and GABA systems.

One of the major differences between Acamprosate and naltrexone is the fact that Acamprosate does not alter the effects of alcohol. A patient on naltrexone, for instance, won’t get the same pleasure out of drinking that they used to. But a patient on Acamprosate will likely still experience the typical euphoria.

Suboxone is a drug that is frequently given to people with opioid addictions. They take it as a part of opioid replacement therapy (or ORT). Rather than blocking opioid receptors like naltrexone, these types of treatments instead stimulate the receptors to a small degree. This in turn can make withdrawals easier to withstand and cravings much less intense.

Suboxone works, but it’s not without its problems – one of the biggest being the risk of secondary addiction. Also, Suboxone is only available orally, which means it's not as convenient. It's very easy to miss a dose of your medication when you need to take it on a daily basis, and if you miss a dose of Suboxone, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. This is not the case Vivitrol- if you miss a dose of Vivitrol you will simply not have the benefits it provides.

Vivitrol has been shown to be just as effective at treating opioid addiction as Suboxone. According to a study that was recently done by NIDA, more doctors are switching to Vivitrol. They’re finding that their patients are responding very well, avoiding relapse, without the disadvantages to Suboxone and Methadone therapy.

Methadone is another popular ORT that used to be the go-to for opioid replacement therapies before Suboxone. Administering methadone was harder to control since it comes in a liquid form and it’s also been shown to have a higher risk of abuse as well.

But as with Suboxone, Vivitrol is much easier to use and offers no risk of abuse or addiction. And for many, that means it’s the superior option.

If you haven’t done well with Suboxone or methadone drugs, it’s worth trying Vivitrol instead. You may find that it’s the key to your recovery that you have been looking for.

Who Vivtrol is wrong for

How do You Know if the Naltrexone Shot is Right for You?

Vivitrol isn’t right for everyone. It can cause serious health complications in some cases, may increase the dangers of overdosing, and may also interact with other health issues.

As a result, physicians need to be careful about who they advise Vivitrol treatment for. So, the question is, who is wrong and who is right for Vivitrol?

While Naltrexone has been shown to benefit a large number of people, it’s not right for everyone. You might not be a candidate for the shot if you:

  • Have liver disease or cirrhosis.
  • Have a history of hemophilia or other bleeding problems.
  • Are pregnant or planning to become pregnant soon.
  • Have kidney disease.

Most people who abuse alcohol and opioid drugs do not fall into the above categories. If you are an addict, and none of the above applies to you, you may be a good candidate for Vivitrol. Your doctor will tell you if they think it’s something you should try.

Good candidates for Vivitrol include those who are addicted to or abusing:

  • Opiates/Opioids
    • Including Heroin and Prescription Pain Medications
  • Alcohol

Good candidates also should not have any conflicting health concerns, including:

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney problems
  • Pregnancies

And finally, qualified patients should have already been opioid-free for at least 7 to 14 days before treatment begins.

Who Vivitrol is right for

Vivitrol Shot Reviews from Clients Who Have Used it

You may find it helpful to see some reviews from people who have used Vivitrol. This is what a few of them had to say.

Becky says, “My prescription drug addiction progressed until I was way out of control. I quickly went from taking one or two Oxycodone pills a day to taking more than 200 in a weekend. It wasn’t long after that when I turned to heroin because Oxy wasn’t working anymore. I tried recovering a lot of different ways, but I would always relapse. Looking back, I’m lucky that I didn’t overdose. When the doctor started me on Vivitrol, I could see that this time was going to be different. I took the shot for a year, and today, I’m like a new person. It’s amazing how much Vivitrol helped me gain control over my life again.”

Jim says, “Alcohol was my drug of choice. The funny part was that I thought I had it all under control. I didn’t even drink every day. I only drank on the weekends and a few times during the week. Still, I looked forward to those days when I knew alcohol would be waiting for me. My family encouraged me to get help, and I reluctantly went to rehab. Needless to say, it didn’t work. Or rather, I didn’t work it. I had no motivation to stop drinking. It was something that I enjoyed, and I didn’t see the harm in it. Finally, a doctor started me on Vivitrol during my last rehab stint. It turns out that was the key for me. Vivitrol helped by controlling my cravings. It wasn’t long before I just didn’t want to drink anymore. I can’t imagine where I would be today without it.” 

Is it Dangerous to Drink or Use Painkillers While Taking Vivitrol?

Yes, it can be dangerous to use opiates or drink while taking Vivitrol. First of all, if you decide to use, you’re setting yourself up for a relapse. This could quickly lead to an overdose, depending on the type of drug you’re using.

If you drink alcohol while taking Vivitrol, you won't feel any ill effects. It's not a drug that will make you feel sick if you drink while using it. Also, you may notice that you are still able to feel "drunk." Vivitrol is not going to block the effects of alcohol on your body, but it will make alcohol much less appealing since the pleasurable feelings you may have once experienced with alcohol are no longer there.

There is a much larger risk of using opiates while taking Vivitrol.  While the opioid receptors block opiates from making you feel high, the opiates still affect your body (blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate). When some people attempt to use opiates while taking Vivitrol and aren’t able to get high, they sometimes attempt to overcome this blockage and use more. This could mean that their dosages reach dangerous levels and an overdose might be the result. When you consider the fact that overdose rates are at an all-time high, this is very concerning.

On top of that, tolerance levels to opioids drop particularly quickly. And that means that a relatively safe dosage for a chronic opioid abuser can actually be life-threatening for someone who has been off of the drugs for just a week or two. This is one of the main reasons why accidental overdoses are so high among recovering opioid addicts.

Please, remember why you started taking Vivitrol- this medication is to be used for those truly seeking sobriety. Remain in treatment and allow the medication to do its job. You don’t need to use drugs or alcohol to enjoy your life.

Northpoint Seattle

Steps to Take to Begin Vivitrol/Naltrexone Services at Northpoint Seattle at Northpoint

If you want to begin treatment for your addiction with Vivitrol, talk with a professional. Here at Northpoint Seattle at NorthPoint, we’re always available to help you. We can talk with you about your options for recovery. If you are interested in Vivitrol, we can take note of that and arrange for you to talk with a doctor.

If you’re addicted to opiate drugs or alcohol, there’s no better time than now to recover. It is possible, and Vivitrol may be a big part of your success.

Do you have additional questions about our Vivitrol services? Contact us today and let us know how we can help you.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

(425) 629-0433 Contact Us

Full Infographic

Now offering Vivitrol injection services