Naltrexone is a generic medication that is used to help manage opioid and alcohol dependence. Naltrexone is available in different versions that can be injected into muscle tissue or orally ingested by mouth. Brand names of naltrexone include ReVia and Vivitrol. The pill form of naltrexone is ReVia, while Vivitrol is injectable. Naltrexone is a common medicine used as part of medication-assisted treatment programs to treat people who have opioid and alcohol use disorders. Naltrexone is FDA-approved for this use. Naltrexone can block the high that comes with narcotics and can also be useful for alcohol addiction treatment. Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist.
Naltrexone is used for addiction because it blocks the effects of opioids when someone attempts to use them. While researchers and medical professionals understand how naltrexone works for opioid addiction, they’re less knowledgeable on how it works to treat alcoholism. Naltrexone works differently than other medication-assisted treatment options, such as methadone and buprenorphine. Those drugs activate opioid receptors and suppress cravings but have a potential for abuse. Naltrexone binds to opioids receptors, but there is no potential for abuse associated with the use of naltrexone. If someone were to relapse while on naltrexone, they wouldn’t feel any sense of euphoria or a high. Naltrexone isn’t intended to be used as a “cure” for addiction. Instead, it should be used as one part of a comprehensive treatment program. Treatment should also include counseling and social support program participation.
ReVia is the oral brand-name version of naltrexone. ReVia comes in tablet form and it’s taken daily. It can be taken with food to reduce stomach issues. When someone is using the oral version of naltrexone, it’s important that they take it regularly. If it isn’t taken regularly, ReVia may not be as beneficial as it could be. Some doctors give oral naltrexone to a person’s family member or caregiver to ensure that it is used properly. When this pill form of naltrexone is taken, it’s usually prescribed in a 50 mg dose that is taken once a day.
Vivitrol is another way naltrexone can be administered. This brand-name drug is an extended-release suspension that’s injected once a month. As with the oral version of naltrexone, it should only be used as part of a treatment plan. Before using naltrexone, a patient should be opioid-free for at least seven days. Otherwise, they may experience sudden opioid withdrawal. The extended-release injectable version is given in a 380 mg dose once a month.
People often have questions about the potential for naltrexone abuse or naltrexone addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there is no known risk of abuse or addiction associated with the use of naltrexone. When someone uses naltrexone, at any dose, they will not feel a euphoric high. To treat addiction, a dosage usually begins at 50 mg of ReVia. A doctor may adjust the dosage upward as necessary, depending on the individual patient.
Overdosing on naltrexone is theoretically possible, but it’s not likely. What is more likely to occur is someone on naltrexone could take a large dose of opioids or alcohol in an attempt to overcome the blocking effects of the drug. That behavior could lead to an overdose. Because people who use naltrexone have to first detox from opioids, their tolerance to the drugs becomes reduced. That could increase the chance of a fatal overdose occurring if someone were to relapse. Naltrexone is not the same as Narcan. Narcan (naloxone) can reverse the effects of opioids if someone is overdosing. Naltrexone doesn’t reverse opioid effects. Instead, it blocks the feeling of being high. While a naltrexone overdose on its own isn’t a big concern, the medication does have some general side effects. Low dose side effects of naltrexone can include vomiting, diarrhea, headache, sleep problems and nervousness.
To learn more about medication-assisted treatment and addiction treatment, contact The Recovery Village now.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.