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Naltrexone for Alcohol

Naltrexone for Alcohol

What You Should Know About Naltrexone for Alcohol Abuse

If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, you may have heard of naltrexone as a possible treatment option. Naltrexone is a medication that blocks the effects of drugs like alcohol and opioids, and it’s been shown to be effective at helping people reduce their alcohol consumption. But naltrexone is not a magic bullet. It’s important to understand how it works and what to expect before starting treatment. Learn about naltrexone and alcohol, including how the medication works, what you can expect during treatment, and the risks of taking naltrexone.

What Is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat substance use disorders. It works by blocking the effects of alcohol or opioids, making it difficult to get high on them. If naltrexone is part of your treatment plan, it should be along with behavioral therapy and other support. While naltrexone can be effective in helping you recover from addiction, it’s not a cure. People who take naltrexone for alcohol abuse still need to work hard to stay sober.

Behavior Therapy Program

How Do You Take Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is prescribed as a pill or tablet. It can also be given as an injection. The injection form of naltrexone is generally only used if you’re unable to take the pill; for instance, if you’re vomiting or have certain gut conditions that make it difficult to absorb medication orally. Injectable naltrexone must be given by a healthcare professional, and it must be administered intramuscularly (into the muscle). It is typically given once a month. People who receive injectable naltrexone may also be prescribed pills to take daily for the first week or two after their injection, to help prevent alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Oral naltrexone is taken once a day, usually in the morning. Extended-release injectable naltrexone is given once a month by a healthcare provider. The extended-release formulation of naltrexone can last for up to four weeks. Both oral and extended-release injectable naltrexone are effective at treating alcohol use disorders and reducing the risk of relapse.

How Does Naltrexone Help Alcohol Use Disorders?

Naltrexone works by blocking the effects of alcohol, as well as opioids, such as heroin and morphine. Naltrexone can reduce cravings for alcohol and make it less pleasurable to drink. Even though naltrexone can prevent the feeling of being drunk, you are still impaired if you’ve been drinking alcohol. It does not lower your blood alcohol content (BAC). This means coordination, reaction time, and judgment are still affected.

There are two main ways naltrexone can help people with alcohol use disorders:

  1. It can help reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.
  2. It can help prevent relapse after you’ve stopped drinking.

Naltrexone works best when it’s used along with other alcohol treatments, such as counseling and support groups,

How Effective Is Naltrexone for Alcohol Addiction Treatment?

Naltrexone has been shown to be most effective when used in combination with other forms of treatment, such as alcohol counseling and support groups. While naltrexone is not a cure for alcoholism, it can help you abstain from drinking and avoid relapse. Studies have shown that naltrexone can be an effective tool in the recovery process. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that a meta-analysis of several studies on naltrexone and alcohol found that there is strong evidence the drug can:

  • Reduce heavy drinking
  • Reduce the frequency of drinking alcohol
  • Prevent alcohol relapse
  • Reduce alcohol cravings

It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone will respond to naltrexone in the same way. Some people may find it helps them reduce their drinking, while others may find it’s not effective or gives them too many side effects. If you’re considering taking naltrexone, talk to your doctor about whether it’s right for you.

What Are Naltrexone Side Effects?

Naltrexone comes with potential side effects. The type and severity of side effects of naltrexone can depend on:

  • The form of naltrexone (pill or injection)
  • Whether you’re taking it for alcohol abuse or opioid addiction
  • Your individual physical makeup
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders (dual diagnosis) or medical conditions
  • How much alcohol you’ve been abusing and for how long
  • If you’re drinking while taking naltrexone

The most common side effects of naltrexone can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Less common side effects of naltrexone are:

  • Stomach cramping
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Depression or mood changes
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Swollen or burning eyes
  • Fever
  • Issues with urination
  • Blurry vision
  • Itching or rash
  • Weight changes
  • Shortness of breath

In rare cases, more serious side effects have been reported, such as liver damage and liver failure. Side effects are usually mild and go away on their own.

Is Naltrexone for Alcohol Addictive?

Naltrexone is not typically addictive for a number of reasons:

  1. It does not produce the same pleasurable effects as drugs or alcohol – In fact, naltrexone actually blocks the brain’s ability to experience pleasure from these substances.
  2. Naltrexone is not habit-forming – It does not create physical dependence, as many other drugs do.

Is Naltrexone Safe?

Naltrexone has been used for many years to help treat drug and alcohol dependence. While naltrexone is generally safe, there are some potential side effects to be aware of. These may include nausea, vomiting, headache, and tiredness. In rare cases, more serious side effects can occur. The risks of long-term use of naltrexone are still being studied.

If you experience any unusual symptoms while taking naltrexone, it’s important to contact your doctor right away. With proper medical supervision, naltrexone can be a helpful tool in substance abuse treatment.

How Do You Get Naltrexone for Alcohol?

Currently in the U.S., you need a prescription for naltrexone. It is not available over the counter. This is because naltrexone can have serious side effects if it’s not used properly. If you think naltrexone for alcohol treatment might be right for you, talk to your doctor about whether you need a prescription.

Who Should Take Naltrexone for Alcohol Addiction?

There are a number of factors to consider when understanding if naltrexone for alcohol addiction is right for you:

  1. Are you motivated to quit drinking? If someone is not ready to give up alcohol, then naltrexone is not likely to be effective.
  2. Are you pregnant or breastfeeding? Naltrexone may not be recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  3. Are you aware of the potential side effects? While most people tolerate the medication well, some experience more bothersome side effects than nausea and fatigue.

How Long Does Treatment with Naltrexone Last?

The length of time naltrexone will be effective for treating addiction depends on several factors:

  • Severity of the addiction
  • The response to treatment
  • Overall health

In most cases, naltrexone is taken for a period of 12 weeks, followed by a tapering-off period. Some people may need to continue treatment for longer to maintain sobriety.

There are extended-release versions of naltrexone that can be taken once a month, which may be a good option for people who have difficulty sticking to a daily regimen. Ultimately, the decision about how long to take naltrexone should be made by a medical professional who is familiar with your individual situation.

What Types of Therapy Support Naltrexone Treatment?

Naltrexone treatment for alcohol addiction should include behavioral therapy to support sobriety and lifestyle changes. There are several types of behavioral therapy that can be effective, depending on your needs. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, can help you identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to alcohol use. Motivational interviewing may be used to help you tap into your motivation to change your behavior. And community reinforcement can help you develop a supportive social network.

Structured alcohol addiction treatment at a treatment facility may include:

Looking for Help?

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction or drug abuse, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Alcohol addiction is a serious disease that can have devastating consequences, including liver damage, brain damage, and death. The good news is there are treatment options available that can help you recover from alcohol addiction and lead a healthy, happy life.

At Vogue Recovery Center we offer a comprehensive treatment program that includes detoxification, counseling, and support groups. The staff at Vogue Recovery Center are passionate about helping you recover from alcohol addiction and will be with you every step of the way on your journey to recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, please contact us for help!

References

  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/naltrexone
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/programs_campaigns/medication_assisted/efficacy-naltrexone-treatment-alcohol-dependence.pdf
  3. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/021897s015lbl.pdf
Vaun Williams

Medically Reviewed by Vaun Williams, Psy.D., LPC

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