Vivitrol: Monthly shot provides new option for alcoholism treatment

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Vivitrol: Monthly shot provides new option for alcoholism treatment

Vivitrol, the first injectable drug to treat alcoholism, offers alcoholics new hope.

What happened? A new treatment for alcoholism gives alcoholics another way to cope with the disease.

Vivitrol, a version of the drug naltrexone, is the first injectable drug to treat alcohol dependence. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Vivitrol for alcoholics in counseling who haven't had a drink for at least a week. A similar medication has been available in pill form for some time, but the injectable version of the drug may be easier for people recovering from alcohol dependence to use consistently.

Vivitrol is injected in the buttocks once a month by a health care professional. It may reduce the urge to drink by blocking neurotransmitters in the brain thought to be associated with alcohol dependence. Vivitrol doesn't affect alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

In a six-month study, participants receiving monthly shots of Vivitrol along with counseling for alcohol dependence had fewer heavy drinking days than did participants who received counseling alone.

Vivitrol is not habit-forming. To date, about 400 people have been treated with Vivitrol for six months or longer. Another 230 have been receiving monthly shots for one year or longer. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness and fatigue, as well as reactions at the injection site. Depression or suicidal thoughts may occur in some people.

Vivitrol should not be used by anyone who's also using opioids, such as heroin.

What does this mean to you? Alcoholism is a chronic, often progressive disease. Left untreated, alcoholism can be fatal. But help is available. If you're in counseling and have stopped drinking, Vivitrol may be an effective part of a comprehensive treatment plan to help you stay sober.

If you receive Vivitrol injections, report to your doctor any reactions at the injection site — including pain, tenderness or intense itching — that don't improve within one month after the injection. Also be alert to signs of depression or suicidal thoughts. If you think you may be depressed or you're considering suicide, seek help immediately.

Last Updated: 06/19/2006
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