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Vivitrol Side Effects, Uses, Interactions, and Precautions

Vivitrol is a brand-name prescription medication containing naltrexone, a medication that is used to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders. Since it is formulated as a monthly injection, Vivitrol is thought to be a much safer alternative to many other opioid treatment medications. Studies have also found that Vivitrol is just as effective as acamprosate, another alcohol treatment medication.[1] However, like any prescription medication, Vivitrol may cause side effects.

Learning about the Vivitrol side effects, uses, interactions, and risks can help patients better understand whether or not Vivitrol is right for them.


What is Vivitrol (Naltrexone XR)?

Vivitrol is a once-monthly injection of extended-release naltrexone. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that is used to treat opioid and alcohol dependence after detox.[2] Similarly, the Vivitrol shot is also used for people who are recovering from opioid or alcohol addiction.

Before taking Vivitrol, patients must abstain from alcohol and stop taking opioids for at least 7-10 days prior to their first injection. It should also always be used in combination with counseling, education, and support groups.

As an injection that must be administered by a certified health professional in the buttocks, Vivitrol has little to no risk for abuse. And, since it is given once a month, patients don’t have to worry about keeping up with a daily pill.

Vivitrol Side Effects

Vivitrol may cause side effects, but most are minor and subside within a few days. The most common side effect reported among people taking Vivitrol is redness or irritation at the injection site. Fortunately, these symptoms usually subside within days or weeks and are considered completely normal.[2]

Other common side effects of Vivitrol include:

Vivitrol side effects

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Constipation
  • Increased thirst
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weakness
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Difficulty having an orgasm
  • Insomnia
  • Impotence

It is important that Vivitrol is administered by a medical professional who can monitor for potential side effects. The physician should also ensure that the patient has fully detoxed from opioids or alcohol before receiving his or her first injection. This is because administering Vivitrol while traces of opioids are still in the system can cause the patient to experience withdrawal symptoms.

Taking Vivitrol too soon can cause:

  • Stomach cramping
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint or bone pain

Other less common, yet more severe side effects of Vivitrol may include:

  • Irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Sores or blisters at the injection site

Patients who experience any of these symptoms should seek medical attention quickly.

In rare cases, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction. While this is rare, possible signs of a reaction to Vivitrol are:[3]

  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing

A suspected allergic reaction to Vivitrol may also warrant immediate medical attention.

Vivitrol Drug Interactions

It is not recommended to take Vivitrol with other medications unless advised by a physician. Doing so may cause severe side effects or interactions.

Vivitrol may interact negatively with the following:

  • Narcotic pain relievers (buprenorphine, hydrocodone, morphine, methadone, oxycodone, codeine, etc.)
  • Heroin
  • Alcohol

While there is no evidence of negative interaction with most other prescriptions or herbal supplements, patients should always discuss all of their medications with their doctor.

Risks & Precautions

Even though Vivitrol has a lengthy list of side effects, it is considered an extremely safe and effective medication. And, people that do have side effects report that they are mild and go away fairly quickly. If a physician prescribes Vivitrol, he or she does so because the benefits outweigh the risks.

With that said, few medications are entirely risk-free. According to Vivitrol’s official website, there are four primary risks associated with the shot.[4] These are:

  1. Risk of opioid overdose – Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids, so some users may try to overcome the blocking effect by taking large amounts of opioids. This can easily lead to coma, overdose, or death.
  2. Risk of reactions at the injection site – Some people have reported severe injection site reactions, including intense pain, area feeling “hard” after injection, excess swelling, blisters, lumps, open wounds, dark scabs.
  3. Sudden opioid withdrawal – Vivitrol that is administered too early after the patient stops taking opioids can cause them to go into sudden opioid withdrawal. This can be serious and require inpatient hospitalization.
  4. Hepatitis or liver damage – In some patients, naltrexone can cause hepatitis or liver damage. Symptoms of this include jaundice, prolonged stomach pain, dark-colored urine, and fatigue.

The best way to avoid these risks when taking Vivitrol is to always follow the guidance provided by the prescribing physician.

Start Treatment With Vivitrol in Massachusetts Today

At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, our medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program provides Vivitrol in the Woburn and Boston, Massachusetts areas to help people struggling with opioid or alcohol addiction embark on their sobriety journey. We combine FDA-approved treatment medications with evidence-based therapies to provide the highest quality substance abuse treatment in the state.

If you or a loved one think Vivitrol may be right for you, pick up the phone and contact one of our dedicated treatment providers now.



Ready to Make a Change?

We know that overcoming addiction is not easy and requires courage to ask for help. At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, our team of professionals has decades of combined experience in helping men, women, and families overcome substance abuse.

For Confidential Help, Call: