Naltrexone is a μ-opioid receptor antagonist that blocks the euphoric effects of heroin and prescription opioids. In order to improve treatment adherence, a oncemonthly, intramuscular, extended-release formulation of naltrexone (XR-NTX) [VIVITROL®] has been developed, and approved in the USA and Russia for the prevention of relapse to opioid dependence, after opioid detoxification. The clinical efficacy of this formulation in patients with opioid dependence was demonstrated in a 24-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre, phase III trial (ALK21-013; n = 250). In this trial, opioiddetoxified patients receiving XR-NTX 380 mg once every 4 weeks, in combination with psychosocial support, had a significantly higher median proportion of weeks of confirmed opioid abstinence during weeks 5-24, compared with those receiving placebo (primary endpoint). A significantly higher proportion of patients receiving XR-NTX achieved total confirmed abstinence during this period than those receiving placebo. XR-NTX was also associated with a significantly greater reduction in opioid craving and a significantly longer treatment retention period than placebo. XR-NTX was generally well tolerated in the phase III trial. The most common (incidence ≥5 %) treatment-emergent adverse events that also occurred more frequently with XR-NTX than with placebo were hepatic enzyme abnormalities, nasopharyngitis, insomnia, hypertension, influenza and injection-site pain. Thus, XR-NTX is a useful treatment option for the prevention of relapse to opioid dependence, following opioid detoxification.