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Treating an Alcohol Use Disorder with Vivitrol: All Your Questions Answered

Don't drown your pain.

More than 14 million adults in the United States have an alcohol use disorder, which is a prevalence rate of nearly 6%. What each of these sufferers share is the prison that addiction and dependency builds, making it extremely difficult to quit. Thankfully, there are tools that can give you the leg up you need to break the hold that alcohol has over you, including Vivitrol.


At Northshore Family Practice, our team of experienced and compassionate addiction specialists understands the hurdles to quitting drinking, namely the rewiring in your brain that has taken control of your life. To fight back on the same level, we offer Vivitrol, a once-monthly injection that’s been proven to help those with an alcohol use disorder break the chains of addiction.


Here’s a look at how Vivitrol can help you get on the road to recovery.

How Vivitrol works

The active ingredient in Vivitrol is naltrexone, which is an antagonist (blocking) medication. To better understand how Vivitrol works, it’s helpful to take a look at how your brain functions under normal circumstances. When you experience something pleasurable, such as a delicious food or a soft touch, your brain releases endorphins, which attach to opioid receptors. These receptors then release dopamine, which is what makes you feel good.


With alcohol, you overload the receptors, and your brain releases far more dopamine than normal, which is what creates the “high.” As you continue your alcohol use, your brain rewires itself to receive more of this feeling, which is what creates the uncontrollable cravings that are the hallmark of addiction.


Vivitrol works by attaching to the opioid receptors in your brain to block the release of dopamine, preventing that euphoric feeling when you drink. Not only does Vivitrol reduce heavy-drinking days in alcohol-dependent patients, it also helps patients prevent relapse in patients who have quit drinking. 

The Vivitrol timeline

At our practice, we first work with you on detoxing from alcohol before we begin the Vivitrol treatments. Vivitrol isn’t designed to help with withdrawal symptoms, so it’s best that you detox through our program first.


Once we’ve broken your physical dependency on alcohol, we can explore whether Vivitrol is right for you. If it is, we set you up with monthly Vivitrol injections, which slowly release the naltrexone into your system. 


While Vivitrol is extremely effective in controlling your cravings, it’s not a substitute for the counseling and support-group work you should undertake during your early recovery. 


As for how many months you should take Vivitrol, this is hard to say, as each person is different. Rest assured, we work with you closely during your recovery, ensuring you have the tools you need to overcome your alcohol problem.

To learn more about Vivitrol and find out whether it’s right for you, please contact our office in Bothell, Washington, to set up a confidential consultation.

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