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Naltrexone is a commonly prescribed medication used to treat Opioid and alcohol use disorders. Naltrexone works by blocking specific receptors in the brain that Opioids and alcohol target to get their desired effects of euphoria and sedation. By blocking these receptors and preventing the desired effects, the result is reduced cravings for substances like Opioids and alcohol.
Naltrexone blocks the negative effects Opioids have on the brain and prevents the feeling of getting high.
Naltrexone should be part of a comprehensive recovery program consisting of counseling, support groups, and other treatment methods recommended by your doctor or licensed therapist.
Naltrexone will trigger withdrawal symptoms if one is physically dependent or actively taking any Opioid. Therefore, it’s essential to refrain from taking Opioids for a minimum of seven to ten days before taking Naltrexone to reduce the risk of withdrawal. However, the length of time will vary from one person to another depending on the type of Opioid use disorder, the amount used, how it was administered, and how long it has been used. Many people begin Naltrexone treatment after completing a medically supervised detoxication for Opioids and alcohol.
Recovering from an Opioid or alcohol use disorder takes time and patience, as it’s not a quick process. But with the help of medications like Naltrexone and an array of treatment options available, you will have support every step of the way.
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Naltrexone works differently than other types of medication traditionally used in Opioid use disorder treatment. For example, other Opioid medications like Buprenorphine and Methadone help reduce cravings by activating the Opioid receptors in the brain and reducing cravings for other Opioids. These medications are also effective for many reasons; however, they remain as partial Opioids in the body.
On the other hand, Naltrexone reduces the desire to use Opioids and alcohol. By blocking these specific brain receptors, Naltrexone users do not experience the euphoric and sedative effects of Opioids or alcohol. Naltrexone also does not cause any withdrawals or cravings when you stop taking it, making it a good option for someone not interested in taking medications indefinitely.
Naltrexone does not cause any withdrawals or cravings when you stop taking it, making it a good option for someone concerned about coming off.
Often, Opioids will give a user a “high” or “rush” feeling, which many describe as feelings of contentment and pain relief. When taking Naltrexone, the brain blocks the receptors responsible for these feelings, eliminating the possibility of a high.
Although Naltrexone is commonly used to treat Opioid and alcohol use disorders, it may not stop cravings 100 percent of the time. For this reason, Naltrexone has the highest chance of success when an individual has completed the detoxification stage and is motivated to continue in recovery. Alert your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any cravings when using Naltrexone.
It is common for individuals taking Naltrexone to lose their tolerance for Opioid and alcohol, so it is vital to abstain from taking any Opioid or consuming alcohol after treatment. Relapse events that include Opioids can result in serious complications, including overdose.
Naltrexone is available in three forms: tablet, injectable, and implant device. Common brand names for the tablet are ReVia and Depade. The injectable extended-release form of the drug is often sold under the name Vivitrol.
Naltrexone is most commonly administered in tablet form; however, injectable and implant device options are gaining momentum.
Tablet-form doses of Naltrexone vary by person and will have different levels of strength and amounts required daily. Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions for consumption information. It can be taken at home or in a treatment center setting. If taking the tablet form at home, having a family member or caregiver administer the doses as scheduled may be helpful. Do not adjust the amount of medication unless a healthcare provider determines it is necessary.
Another form of Naltrexone is a type of implant used for treatment. Implants are shaped like small pellets and are inserted into the lower abdominal wall. Insertion is completed with a local Anesthetic. Once implanted, the device releases a consistent amount of Naltrexone in the body for approximately three to six months. Implants are only available in an inpatient treatment setting to monitor potential side effects.
Naltrexone can also be administered through an extended-release injectable. Each month, a healthcare professional injects the medication into a muscle in a hospital or outpatient setting. Shortly after, you may notice pain, redness, bruising, or swelling near the injection site. While this is common, notify a healthcare professional if it does not go away or worsens within two weeks.
Taking Naltrexone may cause side effects. These generally disappear once your body adjusts to the medicine. Minor side effects that have been reported include:
Always talk with your healthcare provider about potential side effects and complications before starting Naltrexone. This will allow you to clarify any questions or concerns before taking the medication.
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Sometimes, Naltrexone can cause unpleasant effects when combined with certain substances, including over-the-counter or prescription medications, supplements, or herbal remedies. Several of the more common drugs that may counteract Naltrexone are:
Keep an updated list of all medications you are currently taking, and speak with your doctor about drug interactions before taking Naltrexone. In addition, check with your healthcare provider immediately if you begin to experience any adverse side effects from taking the medication.
Naltrexone is only available with a healthcare provider’s prescription. Your healthcare provider will work with you to develop a recovery plan tailored to your needs. Depending on where you are in treatment, the medication may be administered in an inpatient facility or at your home. Medication-assisted therapy should always be part of an overall recovery program to achieve long-term sobriety.
When Naltrexone is prescribed, patients have an 80% cure rate for alcohol dependence.
Medications significantly increase the success of treatment and reduce overdoses by at least 30 to 50%.
Nearly three-quarters of Opioid users also regularly drink alcohol. Research indicates that taking Naltrexone may address both issues simultaneously.
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If you’d like to find out if Naltrexone can help with your Opioid or alcohol addiction, or if you’re looking to support a loved one, contact a treatment provider to start asking questions today.
Travis Pantiel, LMHC, MCAP
Travis Pantiel is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a National Board-Certified Counselor with specialized expertise in the co-occurring disorder treatment field.
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