Naltrexone And Alcohol: Can One Drink On Vivitrol?

Last Updated: June 24, 2020

Authored by Olivier George, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Naltrexone and alcohol are a challenging mix which poses many doubts. While some continue drinking on naltrexone without any dangerous symptoms experienced, others have many issues associated with taking the two simultaneously.

Naltrexone And Alcohol: A Safe Combination?

Combining naltrexone and alcohol is not prohibited. In fact, many continue drinking on Vivitrol (a common naltrexone brand name) without any significant dangers noticed. Given that the medication curbs the pleasurable feelings that alcohol produces, in theory leading to reduced or eliminated drinking, users cannot actually experience the key effect of the drug unless they drink while using it.

But that does not mean that drinking on naltrexone is safe. There are many side effects of Vivitrol that are the same as those caused by liquor consumption, which means combining the two can compound them. This is true of both the pills, and the Vivitrol shot for alcohol consumption.

drinking while on naltrexone

Additionally, not everyone who abuses alcohol misuses that substance alone. Many alcoholics also abuse street and prescription drugs. There are many low dose naltrexone drug interactions that are unpleasant, and at higher doses, even deadly. Users should exercise extreme caution when using Vivitrol.

What Happens If One Drinks While Taking Naltrexone

It is established that drinking while on naltrexone isn’t necessarily as safe as some might be led to believe. But this doesn’t get into the specifics of what happens if someone drinks alcohol while taking naltrexone.

What Users Do Not Experience When Combining Naltrexone With Alcohol

Before getting into the potentially dangerous effects of drinking on Vivitrol, it is important for users to know what they are not going to experience when they combine the two substances. Naltrexone is used in the treatment of alcoholism and dependence because it blocks the euphoric feelings that drunkenness can produce.

For most individuals who are abusing alcohol, it is this euphoric feeling that motivates their addiction. Thus, combining the two substances does not benefit the user in any way. And since one cannot get high on naltrexone, there is little motivation for users to abuse the substance.

Even though combining pills or the Vivitrol shot and drinking alcohol does not cause any euphoric effects, many users will choose to use them together. In some cases, this is to help them survive certain social situations without lapsing into heavy alcohol use. In other cases, it can be in an attempt to beat the mechanism of action and get high. But no matter the motivation, it still leaves the question of whether users can drink on Vivitrol safely.

Drinking On Naltrexone: The Potential Negative Effects

Unpredictable Severe Outcomes Of Interaction

In general, what happens if someone drinks on Vivitrol isn’t going to be life-threatening, at least not directly. Dangerous interactions between Vivitrol and alcohol are rare. However, they are not unheard of. The greatest direct risk comes to those who drink so heavily that their liver is damaged. Combining Vivitrol and alcohol when there is liver damage significantly increases the chance of hepatotoxicity occurring.

Enhancing The Adverse Side Effects Of Both Substances

Another problem that can come from drinking while on naltrexone is enhancing the negative side effects of both substances. Some potential side effects of Vivitrol include nausea, headaches, and dizziness—all of which can be side effects of alcohol use as well. Bringing the two substances together can cause the user to feel these effects to a higher degree.

what happens if you drink on vivitrol

Remaining The Symptoms Of Alcohol Use

Finally, while drinking on Vivitrol will eliminate the euphoric feeling it produces, it does not stop the other symptoms of use. Functional impairments, like slowed reactions times, trouble thinking, and impaired coordination remain. Users, especially at the start of treatment, may feel compelled to drink more than usual in an attempt to chase the euphoria that will not come. As a result, they can end up severely impaired and may even experience alcohol poisoning.

Risk Of Sudden Alcohol Withdrawal

There are also less direct risks of combining Vivitrol and alcohol. For example, once a user stops feeling benefits from drinking, they may stop using quite suddenly. This can lead to withdrawal, which can be deadly. Those who buy naltrexone on the streets are at greater risk of this than those who are supervised, as doctors will work on detoxing with the patient.

Naltrexone is not addictive. However, that does not mean that users cannot abuse the drug or feel dependent upon it. The medication should only be used with supervision, so their physical and mental health can be monitored.

Drinking On Naltrexone Is Dangerous

While abstention from drinking on naltrexone is, in many ways, central to successful treatment with the drug, that does not mean that doing so is without risks. Users taking Vivitrol for opioid or alcohol dependence treatment should exercise caution and be part of a therapeutic program meant to complement pharmaceutical treatment. Although serious complications are rare, the purpose of taking the medication is to get clean, and that, ultimately, is what users should strive for. For effective treatment, work with rehab centers.


Page Sources

  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/naltrexone
  2. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2013/018932s017lbl.pdf

Published on: June 7th, 2019

Updated on: June 24th, 2020

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.

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  • George Miller
    Good article, very informative and easy to understand. Answered many of my questions that other sources did not.