Naltrexone is a generic drug which is also available under various brand names that include Vivitrol, Depade and Revia. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that is used to help people who are dependent upon opioids and alcohol, following a detox program. This means the drug reduces drug cravings, and if someone attempts to use opioids while on naltrexone, they will go into sudden opioid withdrawal. The patient won’t experience euphoria or a high from alcohol or opioids while they are taking naltrexone. There are oral versions of Naltrexone, such as Revia, and also injectable versions, such as Vivitrol, which are given by a medical professional once per month. Some common side effects of naltrexone treatment include anxiety, nausea, headaches and sleep disturbances.
Before someone can begin a naltrexone treatment and rehab program, they have to fully detox from opioids. This can usually take anywhere from 7 to 10 days. If someone tries to undergo naltrexone treatment and they haven’t detoxed from opioids, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms. Medical professionals will typically test patients to make sure that their systems are clear of drugs before introducing any naltrexone treatment. Naltrexone isn’t a cure for addiction. Instead, it’s a tool that helps patients avoid cravings and relapse -which can prevent them from successfully completing addiction treatment.
Naltrexone is part of what is called a medication-assisted treatment program (MAT). The Food and Drug Administration has recently been working on developing a new guidance regarding medication-assisted treatment. Medication-assisted treatment combines behavioral therapy with treatments like naltrexone. Other drugs that may be used as part of medication-assisted treatment include methadone and buprenorphine. These drugs do have a potential for abuse, whereas naltrexone does not. For the most part, medication-assisted treatment is seen as the best way to treat addiction to opioids and other substances.
In an effort to encourage a greater implementation of MAT, the FDA is encouraging the development of longer-acting forms of current therapies. The key challenge, according to medical professionals and public policy makers, is that MAT requires consistent use of medications. That doesn’t always happen if someone is using them on an outpatient basis. However, if naltrexone is used as part of an inpatient treatment program, that helps patients avoid this pitfall. An inpatient MAT program would include a combination of not only the medication and medical supervision, but also a variety of therapies and relapse prevention strategies.
In many cases, someone can participate in a medication-assisted treatment program on an outpatient basis. There are benefits to this approach, such as being able to stay at home and continue working and living as normal. However, there are problems as well. In order for medications like naltrexone to be effective, they have to be taken consistently and as instructed. With naltrexone, if someone tries to take large amounts of opioids to overcome the blocking effects of the drug, they are also at risk of overdosing and potentially dying. This risk is another reason that inpatient addiction treatment tends to be optimal for administering a MAT program. Vivitrol, a monthly shot that can be given as part of an outpatient rehab program, continues lasting for a month and doesn’t require the individual remember to take medication every day. This drug does offer a promising way for patients to receive consistent medication.
There is a misconception about naltrexone -people often mistakenly believe that they can become dependent upon it or addicted to it. This is not the case. Naltrexone doesn’t cause euphoria or any effects like opioids. The only thing naltrexone does is block those feelings and reduce cravings. There is no potential for naltrexone addiction or dependence, unlike other medication-assisted treatments, such as methadone.
To learn more about medication-assisted treatment and the possibilities that are available regarding addiction treatment, contact The Recovery Village today.
Naltrexone and Alcohol
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.