How is Naltrexone Used in Addiction Treatment?

Naltrexone is a medication that is used to help treat alcohol and opioid addictions. It works by blocking the euphoric and reinforcing effects that people get from drinking alcohol or taking opioids. Naltrexone helps reduce cravings and prevent relapse. It is often used as part of a comprehensive treatment program for addiction.

How Naltrexone Works

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, which means it binds to opioid receptors in the brain and blocks them. This prevents endorphins and opioids like heroin or morphine from binding and activating the receptors. When opioids can’t bind to their receptors, a person does not experience the euphoric “high” or other effects from the drug.

Naltrexone also indirectly reduces dopamine release, which helps curb cravings. With naltrexone treatment, even if an addicted person drinks or takes opioids, they will not feel the rewarding and reinforcing effects. This helps extinguish the linkage between drug use and pleasure/reward.

Using Naltrexone for Alcohol Addiction

Naltrexone has been found effective in treating alcohol addiction. It reduces the rewarding and pleasurable effects a person gets from drinking alcohol. This helps reduce heavy drinking days and encourages abstinence.

Naltrexone is available as a daily pill (ReVia, Depade) or as a monthly injection (Vivitrol). The injection may improve compliance over oral medication.

Studies show that naltrexone decreases alcohol consumption, reduces relapse rates, and increases days of abstinence. It seems most effective when used in combination with behavioral therapies for alcohol addiction.

Using Naltrexone for Opioid Addiction

Naltrexone can also treat addiction to opioids like heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. It blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of opioids, which eliminates the motivation to use.

Vivitrol is FDA-approved for preventing relapse in opioid dependence. It has been found effective in maintaining abstinence, preventing re-addiction if relapse occurs, minimizing cravings, and blocking the euphoric effects of opioids.

Naltrexone is often provided as part of medication-assisted therapy in substance abuse therapy. This combines medications like naltrexone with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a comprehensive approach.

Side Effects of Naltrexone

Naltrexone is generally well-tolerated. Potential side effects can include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Headache, dizziness, fatigue
  • Anxiety, nervousness
  • Sleep problems
  • Rash, itching

Rarely, naltrexone may cause liver damage when taken in excessive doses.

Naltrexone also carries the risk of overdose if people attempt to override the blocking effects by taking very large amounts of opioids. It’s important for anyone taking naltrexone to let their healthcare providers know about any other medications or supplements they are taking.

Who Should Not Take Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is not suitable for everyone. It should not be taken by:

  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • People with acute hepatitis or liver failure
  • Anyone still using opioids or in opioid withdrawal
  • Those taking high doses of opioids for chronic pain
  • People taking opioid cough or diarrhea medications

Doctors will evaluate a person’s medical history before prescribing naltrexone for addiction treatment. Periodic liver function tests are recommended while taking this medication.

Combining with Other Treatments

Naltrexone is most effective when combined with other treatments for addiction. Key elements include:

  • Counseling and behavior therapies to identify triggers, build coping skills, and promote healing of relationships.
  • Participation in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
  • Treatment for any co-occurring mental health issues like depression, trauma, or anxiety.
  • Making lifestyle changes that support recovery and prevent relapse.

Medication-assisted therapy in substance abuse therapy with drugs like naltrexone works best as part of a comprehensive treatment approach. Ongoing support also helps maintain abstinence after completing treatment.

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist medication that is used to help treat alcohol and opioid addictions. It blocks the euphoric and rewarding effects of these substances, which reduces cravings and supports abstinence. Naltrexone works best when combined with counseling, support groups, and making healthy lifestyle changes. When used appropriately, it can be a valuable tool in achieving and maintaining recovery from addiction.


Please explore our site for more exciting content if you like this article.

Show More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button