Naltrexone is a medicine that has been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) option to treat both opioid use disorder (OUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Naltrexone is available in tablet form for Alcohol Use Disorder or as an extended-release intramuscular injection for both Alcohol and Opioid Use Disorder. It can be prescribed and delivered by any practitioner certified to dispense drugs. For the long-acting injectable formulation, a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) is necessary to verify that the drug’s benefits outweigh its hazards. The tablet version can be used on a daily basis to treat AUD, while the extended-release injectable formulation is approved to treat OUD. The tablet is taken once a day, and the extended-release injection every four weeks or once a month.
Naltrexone is part of a comprehensive treatment regimen that often includes counseling and other behavioral health therapies to provide patients with a whole-person approach. Naltrexone is not a suggested MAT choice for anybody under 18 or for those suffering from other medical disorders.
How Does it Work?
Naltrexone is not an opioid, it is not addictive, and it does not cause withdrawal symptoms when stopped. The euphoric and sedative effects of opioids such as heroin, morphine, and codeine are blocked by naltrexone. Naltrexone binds to and inhibits opioid receptors and decreases and suppresses opioid cravings. Naltrexone has no abuse or diversion potential.
Naltrexone comes in three forms: tablet, injectable, and implantable. Naltrexone tablet dosages will vary depending on the person, the potency of the drug, and the amount of medicine necessary each day. Consumption information should be obtained from your doctor. It can be administered at home or at a treatment facility. If you are taking the tablet form at home, having a family member or caretaker, provide the dosages on time may be beneficial. Do not change your prescription dosage unless your doctor instructs you to.
The drug can also be given as an extended-release injection. The drug is injected into a muscle once a month. It can only be provided by a doctor or nurse in a clinic environment; therefore, it is critical to obtain dosages on a frequent basis to reap the most benefits. You may have discomfort, redness, bruising, or swelling at the injection site shortly after getting the medicine. While this is typical, tell your doctor if it does not resolve or worsen within two weeks.
Naltrexone for Opioid Use Disorder
To lessen the likelihood of withdrawal symptoms, patients should start naltrexone at least 7 days after their last use of short-acting opioids and 10 to 14 days after their last use of long-acting opioids. Patients receiving naltrexone should not use any other opioids or illicit narcotics, nor should they consume alcohol or use sedatives, tranquilizers, or other drugs. Patients should inform their practitioner of any medicines they are presently taking and any changes in medications while receiving naltrexone treatment. While the oral formulation similarly inhibits opioid receptors, only the long-acting injectable formulation is FDA authorized as MAT and requires REMS.
Patients who stop using naltrexone or relapse after a period of abstinence may have a lowered tolerance to opioids. As a result, using the same, or even lower, amounts of opioids as in the past might have fatal results.
Naltrexone for Alcohol Use Disorder
Patients must not be physically dependent on alcohol or other drugs before initiating naltrexone for AUD. To minimize severe adverse effects such as nausea and vomiting, practitioners often prescribe naltrexone after the alcohol detox process is completed.
Naltrexone binds to endorphin receptors in the body, preventing the effects and feelings associated with alcohol. Naltrexone lowers both alcohol cravings and consumption. Taking naltrexone after quitting drinking helps patients maintain their sobriety. The duration of naltrexone MAT therapy is three to four months. Patients who are no longer taking naltrexone should be monitored by practitioners.
When taken with some medicines, including over-the-counter, prescription, supplements, or herbal treatments, naltrexone might have undesirable side effects. Among the more frequent medications that may interact with naltrexone are the following:
- Certain medications for cough, diarrhea and pain
Maintain an up-to-date list of any drugs you are presently taking, and consult your doctor about potential drug interactions before starting naltrexone. If you begin to experience any bad side effects while taking the medicine, contact your doctor right away.
Side Effects of Naltrexone
The usage of naltrexone may result in adverse effects. These usually go away as your body responds to the medication. Minor side effects have been observed, which include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Mild abdominal pain
- Joint or muscle pain
Before starting naltrexone, always consult with your healthcare practitioner about potential side effects and problems. This will allow you to clarify any questions or concerns you may have before taking the medicine.
Reach Out for Help
Do you want to know if naltrexone can help you or a loved one recover from addiction? Do you have any more questions regarding your addiction treatment options? To begin asking inquiries, contact a treatment provider today.