What is Naltrexone?

More than two million people in the United States suffer from an opioid abuse disorder. Another 15.1 million struggle with an alcohol abuse disorder.

For individuals struggling with an addiction to opioids or alcohol, a good option to consider (along with counseling) is a drug known as Naltrexone.

Prescription

What is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is a type of drug that helps to block the effects that opiates have on the brain. Naltrexone binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, blocking the receptor from opioids.  Naltrexone is diffeent from methadone and buprenorphine because it is not a form of opiate; therefore, it does not create a physical dependency in your body.

It is recommended that patients stop taking opioids for at least 7-10 days before starting Naltrexone.  This will help avoid precipitation of opioid withdrawal.   Patients transitioning from buprenorphine or methadone may be vulnerable to precipitated withdrawal for as long as two weeks.  Also, Naltrexone should not be started in patients in acute opioid withdrawal as it will make the symptoms worse.

Naltrexone can help a person avoid relapse while he or she is in the process of recovery by blocking the opioid receptor and reducing opioid cravings.  Studies have proven that patients receiving the long-acting injectable form of Naltrexone achieve more drug free dyas, experience a significant reduction in opioid cravings and remain in treatment longer than patients receiving only placebo with counseling.

In addition to helping those suffering from opioid dependence, the FDA has also approved the use of Naltrexone for those who suffer from alcohol dependence.  Studies show that patients treated with long-acting injectable Naltrexone demonstrate a 25% greater reduction in days of heavy drinking than those treated with placebo.  Naltrexone works because it blocks the pleasurable effects of alcohol and decreases a person’s desire to drink.

What Are Its Benefits?

There are a lot of reasons why someone might choose Naltrexone over other drugs designed to help them overcome addiction. The following are some of the greatest benefits that it has to offer:

● Highly effective at preventing relapse

●Available in extended-release injectable form

● Non-addictive

● Non-narcotic

● Not associated with diversion

● Reduces opioid and alcohol cravings

Who Should Use Naltrexone?

The following individuals are most likely to experience the benefits of Naltrexone:

● Those who have been opioid-free for at least seven to ten days (this helps prevent serious withdrawal symptoms when one begins taking Naltrexone)

● Those who are also in treatment for addiction and participating in counseling or making use of other support services

● Those who are not using any other harmful substances alongside alcohol or opioid drugs, such as sedatives or tranquilizers.

Naltrexone works very well for a lot of people who meet these criteria. However, it is not a good option for women who are pregnant or who are breastfeeding.

In What Forms Can You Use It?

Naltrexone is most often taken by mouth, usually on a daily basis, with or without food. Some physicians also use injectable, slow-release Naltrexone on a monthly basis.

If prescribed Naltrexone in tablet form, most people start out with a dosage of 25 milligrams. In some cases, though, physicians will prescribe a higher dose (between 100 and 150 milligrams) and have the patient take it every two or three days.

Doctor Writing Prescription

As mentioned above, Naltrexone must be taken as part of a drug recovery program, under the supervision of a doctor.  It can be very useful for individuals who struggle with an addiction to alcohol or opioids.  If you or someone you love falls into one of these categories, talk to your doctor.  The sooner you take action, the sooner you can start to feel like your old self once again.

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.