Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Vivitrol is a drug that was created to help people who are struggling with addiction. It’s used primarily for people who are trying to break free from an addiction to alcohol and for people who wish to remain clean and sober from opioids. This drug, also known as naltrexone, is an opioid antagonist and is usually administered via injection on a once-a-month basis. It has saved many lives but it also often comes with side effects. Read on to learn more about the good and bad of this medication.

What is Vivitrol?

Naltrexone, or Vivitrol, was first developed in 1965 but wasn’t approved for medical use until 1984.  Since then and today, this drug is highly prescribed in the United States. In 2021 alone, more than 1 million prescriptions were written for naltrexone. That year, it was the 254th most commonly prescribed medicine in the United States.  According to the World Health Organization, it’s an essential medication, and it is listed on the organization’s List of Essential Medicines.

Although there are off-label uses for this medication, the vast majority of people who take it do so to help them stay clean and sober from alcohol or opiates. Both alcoholism and opioid addiction are common in the United States and around the world, so the fact that this drug is so popular and that it is so heavily prescribed should not be a surprise to anyone. 

Although it would be wonderful to live in a world where alcohol or drug addiction did not exist, many thousands of people are thankful that naltrexone exists. It has helped so many people break free from their addictions, stay off drugs and away from alcohol, and go on with happy, healthy, and productive lives.

Vivitrol Uses

Again, the primary Vivitrol uses – the most common brand name for naltrexone – are to help support people in their personal struggles for recovery from addiction. For many, it is quite effective in aiding these people in reaching their recovery goals. 

How does Vivitrol work? What happens if you drink on Vivitrol? This drug is most commonly used for addiction to or dependency on alcohol. When a doctor offers and administers naltrexone to someone who is alcohol dependent and is seeking alcohol addiction treatment, this drug works effectively because it lowers the level of dopamine that is released when that person consumes alcohol. Because this dopamine response is reduced, the dependent individual has a lowered desire to drink.   In turn, it helps people to disassociate the connection between alcohol consumption and positive feelings.

Vivitrol also has a similar effect on people who have struggled with opioid dependency. Because long-acting, injectable naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, it blocks the effects of opioids if they are consumed – much like methadone and buprenorphine do.  If an opioid user were to return to using opioids after a dose of Vivitrol, he or she would not experience much – if any – effect from the opioids. In most cases, simply knowing that this fact is the case will keep post individuals in recovery from opioids from using again.

Naltrexone is available in oral tablet form, but most people opt for the long-acting injectable version of the drug. It’s administered into the buttocks quarterly; this way, patients using naltrexone don’t even have to think about taking the drug – it’s always in their system already.

Vivitrol Side Effects

Vivitrol may sound like a wonder drug, and in many ways it is. It certainly has saved countless lives by helping people break free of their deadly addictions. However, everything good also comes with some bad, and Vivitrol side effects are numerous. More than 10% of people who take naltrexone report that they have difficulty sleeping, abdominal pain, joint and muscle pain, anxiety, and headaches. However, these side effects are relatively minor and can be treated with over-the-counter medications.

There are other side effects for some, although less than 10% of people taking Vivitrol report these more serious and chronic issues. Some people who take naltrexone find that they experience loss of appetite, erectile dysfunction, constipation, chills, dizziness, irritability, and depression. Again, many of these symptoms can be treated and lessened in other ways by medical professionals. Most people find these side effects to be a small price to pay for a comfortable, happy and healthy clean and sober lifestyle.

Some studies have suggested even greater side effects, such as liver damage when too much is taken as well as sexual problems or the development of sex addiction, but further research is required to confirm or deny these issues.

Considerations Before Starting Vivitrol

If you are interested in trying Vivitrol, you must be honest with your doctor about your desires, goals, and current drug and alcohol use. Vivitrol should not be given to people wishing to break free from opioid addiction until they have been off opioids for at least seven to ten days because the blockage to opioid receptors caused by this drug may put the individual into acute withdrawal. Anyone wishing to use Vivitrol to stay off opioids must already have stopped using them before beginning a Vivitrol regimen for their safety.

Challenges and Controversies Surrounding Vivitrol

Some controversies around Vivitrol make this drug a hot topic in the medical and pharmaceutical world. First and foremost, this drug was approved by the FDA based on the findings of a single study that took place in Russia which was funded by the drug’s manufacturer. Although the drug offered positive results in that study, it was tried against a placebo instead of other common, similar drugs like methadone and buprenorphine.

After that study, Vivitrol has been marketed as superior to those other solutions, but many people in the field disagree with this assessment. This is certainly something to consider when pursuing Vivitrol as a solution to or support to addiction recovery efforts.


Vivitrol, or naltrexone, has saved many lives and has helped countless people break free from addictions to alcohol, opioids, and other substances. However, every individual who makes the challenging but rewarding choice to walk on their own path of addiction recovery is different. This drug may help some people, but others may find that it does not help them reach their recovery goals. It’s important to talk to your doctor and to addiction recovery professionals to determine the best solution for you or your loved one as every person is an individual and is unique.

If you are struggling with addiction to opioids and want to use Vivitrol to stay clean and sober for the short and long-term future, you’ll need to detox from opioids first. We believe that Clear Sky Recovery is the best place to take the first steps on your recovery journey. Our innovative ibogaine treatment will help you get to the root of your addiction and find out why you became addicted to drugs or alcohol in the first place; then, you can move forward from there. Our facility in Cancun, Mexico is beautiful and welcoming, and our experienced staff is on hand to answer any questions you may have about our program and methods. Give us a call today. We can’t wait to help you!