Vivitrol is an extended-release formulation of naltrexone.
Naltrexone is not an opiate, but it has the ability to occupy opiate receptor sites in the brain. This blocks the effects of opiates and opioids like heroin or Oxycontin.
Naltrexone is non-narcotic and does not result in physical dependence.
Other formulations of naltrexone are already used to treat addiction to opiates. But Vivitrol is different in that Vivitrol is a once-monthly treatment. Monthly dosing has the potential to greatly improve treatment success for people living with opiate addiction.
Formulations of naltrexone that require daily dosing are often not effective because many patients simply skip doses or stop taking the medication as part of a relapse. Since a single dose of Vivitrol is effective for one month, patients are less likely to be able to circumvent the treatment in a weak moment.
Vivitrol is a form of medication-assisted treatment for opiate dependence. But Vivitrol is not an opiate replacement therapy. Opiate replacement therapies are treatments that address problematic use of fast-acting opiates like heroin by prescribing therapeutic doses of longer-acting, less euphoric opiates like methadone or Suboxone under medical supervision.
Vivitrol patients must not have used opiates within 7-10 days of taking Vivitrol. In other words, an opiate-dependent person must detox from opiates before starting treatment with Vivitrol. Detox is a very uncomfortable process for most people. The need to detox before starting treatment with Vivitrol is a barrier to treatment for some patients.
Vivitrol is administered by injecting the medication into muscle.
Patients who try to overcome the blockade effect of Vivitrol by taking large amounts of opiates in an attempt to feel the euphoric effects of opiates may be at increased risk of fatal drug overdose.
Vivitrol is FDA approved for the treatment of opiate dependence (2010) and alcohol dependence (2006).