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Updated on September 14, 2023
4 min read

Is It Safe to Mix Vivitrol and Alcohol?

What Are Vivitrol Injections?

Vivitrol is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved intramuscular injection of the pharmaceutical drug naltrexone. It is classified as an opioid antagonist used to treat alcoholism and drug abuse after an initial detoxification period.

vivitrol logo

Naltrexone differs from other medications for alcohol dependence, such as disulfiram. It works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain, which decreases the desire to drink alcohol.

Vivitrol is part of comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment and drug recovery programs. Anyone currently using opioids, including methadone, should not take it. This may cause opioid withdrawal symptoms to occur.


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Does Vivitrol Work for Alcohol Addiction?

Vivitrol is an effective treatment for alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Other treatments, such as Acamprosate, are designed to promote alcohol abstinence through adverse side effects. Vivitrol is different.

Vivitrol blocks opioid receptors and negates the reward-based feelings of drinking alcohol. It essentially limits alcohol's ability to reach the reward centers of your brain.

What Does the Science Say?

Vivitrol has proven its efficacy. A National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study found that a monthly Vivitrol shot is as effective as a daily pill of buprenorphine and naloxone.

Clinical evidence suggests that Vivitrol is more effective in diminishing heavy drinking among men than women. However, this may be due to the nature of the injections. Vivitrol is better absorbed intramuscularly (inside muscle tissue) than subcutaneously (inside fatty tissue).

On average, men tend to be able to take on more intramuscular medication than women. Regardless of sex or gender, Vivitrol works best when administered as part of a more extensive rehab program or treatment plan. 

Side Effects of Vivitrol Injections

Many people who take Vivitrol injections do not experience any side effects. However, Vivitrol can cause unpleasant and potentially serious physical reactions for some users. These include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Weakness
  • Epidermal irritation at the injection site
  • Liver damage

Vivitrol can also cause neurological side effects, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Nervousness or restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite

When Should You Call A Doctor For Vivitrol Side Effects?

If people have traces of opiate recovery medications in their system, they may develop severe withdrawal symptoms. A healthcare provider should be notified immediately if any of the following occur:

  • Hallucinations
  • Blurred vision
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea

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Dangers of Drinking Alcohol on Vivitrol 

According to the FDA and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there aren't any significant dangers or interactions with drinking alcohol while taking Vivitrol. However, if you're using Vivitrol to treat AUD, you shouldn't drink alcohol.

It is important to start Vivitrol only after drinking has stopped for several days. The FDA only approves using Vivitrol for people who have stopped drinking alcohol and who can avoid drinking during outpatient treatment.

The FDA and NIAAA state that drinking alcohol while taking Vivitrol will not:

  • Alter intoxication based on the amount of alcohol ingested
  • Alter or increase the regular effects of alcohol usage
  • Cause acute illness (unlike disulfiram, which blocks alcohol metabolism and causes nausea, vomiting, headaches, and other symptoms)
  • Increase any long-term effects associated with chronic alcohol abuse
  • Increase any cognitive issues

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Who Should Not Take Vivitrol?

Medical providers commonly prescribe Vivitrol in substance abuse treatment plans. However, the FDA has determined that some people are not qualified to receive Vivitrol. This includes people:

  • Who are allergic to naltrexone or any of Vivitrol’s components
  • With opioid dependence
  • Exhibiting symptoms of opioid withdrawal

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Healthcare professionals typically recognize the most common symptoms of opioid withdrawal symptoms as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Goosebumps
  • Hot flashes
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea 
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Sleeplessness
  • Spasms
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Teary eyes
  • Twitches
  • Vomiting
  • Yawning

Vivitrol Precautions

Vivitrol is generally considered safe when used according to a doctor’s prescription and under the supervision of a health care provider. However, you must keep certain precautions in mind. These include:

  • Tell your prescribing doctor about your allergy history: Vivitrol may contain inactive ingredients that can trigger a severe allergic reaction.
  • Before using Vivitrol, tell your doctor about your medical history: Your doctor should know if you have recently or currently use any opioid drug or have liver problems, kidney disease, or bleeding problems.
  • Avoid activities that require alertness or coordination: Some of Vivitrol’s side effects are dizziness, drowsiness, decreased response time, and poor coordination.
  • Inform your doctor and dentist that you are taking Vivitrol: Undergoing medical or dental treatment while on Vivitrol may affect the procedure.
  • Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or think you are pregnant: Talk to your doctor and discuss the pros and cons before starting Vivitrol.

Even though Vivitrol’s abuse potential is low and not known to be addictive, do not use Vivitrol unless prescribed by a doctor. Taking naltrexone without professional medical advice may do you more harm than good.

Updated on September 14, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on September 14, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Rounsaville, B.J.; O’Malley, S.; and O’Connor, P. “Guidelines for the Use of Naltrexone in the Treatment of Alcoholism.” New Haven, CT: APT Foundation

  2. NIAAA. “Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinician’s Guide.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. NIH Publication 07–3769

  3. Johnson, Bankole A. “Naltrexone long-acting formulation in the treatment of alcohol dependence.” Therapeutics and clinical risk management vol. 3,5 : 741-9.

  4. Syed, Y.Y., Keating, G.M. Extended-Release Intramuscular Naltrexone (VIVITROL®): A Review of Its Use in the Prevention of Relapse to Opioid Dependence in Detoxified Patients. CNS Drugs 27, 851–861 .

  5. Rieckmann, T., et al. "The Vivitrol pilot program (VPP): initial quantitative findings from an extended-release naltrexone study." Addict Sci Clin Pract 10, A54 .

  6. Haglund, Margaret et al. "Vivitrol and Depression, Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment" Sep 2014, Vol 13.  p 147-150 doi: 10.1097/ADT.0000000000000051

  7. Johnson, Bankole A. “Naltrexone long-acting formulation in the treatment of alcohol dependence.” Therapeutics and clinical risk management vol. 3,5 : 741-9.

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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