Vivitrol Side Effects, Precautions, and Drug Interactions

Vivitrol is a brand-name prescription medication containing an extended-release form of naltrexone, an opiate antagonist that is used to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders. It is commonly used in drug and alcohol treatment programs across Florida to help individuals avoid relapse. When taken correctly, Vivitrol is safe and effective. However, like other medications, Vivitrol may cause side effects.

How Does Vivitrol Work?

As an opiate antagonist, naltrexone binds to opioid receptors without activating them. It is able to block the feelings of euphoria associated with other opioids while reducing cravings for drugs and alcohol.

While naltrexone is available in tablet form and can be taken daily, Vivitrol is a once-monthly intramuscular naltrexone injection. This extended-release formulation reduces drug and alcohol cravings for 28-30 days at a time. Vivitrol can only be administered in-office by a licensed medical professional.[1]

Minor Side Effects of Vivitrol

Addiction treatment medications such as Vivitrol may cause a very strong physical response in some people. At the same time, others may experience no symptoms at all. The most common side effects that occur when taking Vivitrol are minor and usually subside within a few days. These include:[2]

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Constipation
  • Irritability
  • Increased thirst
  • Restlessness
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose

The most commonly reported side effect of Vivitrol is injection site reactions including pain, bruising, swelling, itching, and irritation at the injection site.

Furthermore, taking Vivitrol too soon after the last dose of opioids was consumed can result in negative side effects. If there are traces of opioids in a person’s system when they take Vivitrol, they may experience hallucinations, blurry vision, confusion, and anxiety. As a result, patients need to abstain from opioids for at least 7-10 days before starting treatment with Vivitrol.

Serious Side Effects of Vivitrol

On rare occasions, some people may develop severe side effects. The most common severe side effect involves serious injection site reactions which may involve:[3]

  • Cellulitis
  • Hematoma
  • Induration
  • Abscess
  • Necrosis

While mild injection site reactions go away on their own, others may require medical treatment such as ointments or surgery.

Other serious side effects of Vivitrol that require immediate medical attention include:

  • Severe depression
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Pneumonia
  • Liver damage
  • Shortness of breath
  • Allergic reaction (rash, trouble breathing, swelling of the face/tongue/lips/mouth)
  • Chest pain
  • Liver disease

These rare side effects can be treated and usually resolve when people stop taking the medication.

Possible Drug Interactions

Vivitrol may interact negatively with certain medications, including both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and even herbal products. First and foremost, patients should never take opioids while taking Vivitrol. Doing so can cause sudden opioid withdrawal symptoms and other adverse side effects.

Other medications people should avoid taking while on Vivitrol include:

  • Abilify
  • Albuterol
  • Clonidine
  • Cymbalta
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Diphenoxylate
  • Enoxaparin
  • Fluoxetine
  • Gabapentin
  • Suboxone
  • Wellbutrin
  • Warfarin

Some drug interactions can change the way Vivitrol works and increase the risk of severe side effects.

Long-Term Side Effects of Vivitrol

Vivitrol is generally safe and effective, even for long-term use. The primary concern regarding the long-term side effects of Vivitrol is the risk for liver damage and liver disease.

In some patients, Vivitrol leads to increased liver enzymes called alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Increased liver enzymes can affect the function of the liver and lead to diseases such as hepatitis. Doctors may order tests to check the liver enzymes of long-term Vivitrol patients.[4]

Signs that liver injury has occurred include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Dark urine
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes

Only a very small number of patients who take Vivitrol develop increased liver enzymes. Because alcohol can also harm the liver, it’s important to abstain from alcohol while taking Vivitrol. This can reduce the risk of liver injury.

Find a Vivitrol Treatment Program Near You

When it comes to using Vivitrol to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. Vivitrol is not habit-forming, unlike other opioid treatment medications, and it has no risk for abuse since it is administered in a doctor’s office. It is also very unlikely to produce severe side effects, but it can also significantly reduce the risk for alcohol and opioid relapse.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and think Vivitrol treatment may be right for you, give us a call today. Our team at Suboxone Treatment Clinic in Palm Beach County, FL can help you find the most trusted, reputable Vivitrol treatment providers in the state. Don’t wait any longer. Start your recovery journey today.