Medication-Assisted Treatment - Drug and Alcohol

Naltrexone: Your Guide to this Important Drug Rehab Medication

Naltrexone is a medication used to treat alcohol and opioid addiction. Learn everything you need to know about this drug in our blog!

Naltrexone: Your Guide to this Important Drug Rehab Medication

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

November 23, 2022

The Edge Treatment Center

Naltrexone, a prescription drug used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT), is an FDA-approved medication recommended for the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD)

Suppose you or your loved one is considering using Naltrexone to overcome drug addiction. In that case, you need to know more about:

  • How this medication should be used

  • Possible Naltrexone side effects

  • Things to remember when using Naltrexone

Read ahead to know more about the many aspects of using Naltrexone…

The Basics: What is Naltrexone? 

Medications like Naltrexone are typically recommended to people who have developed a substance addiction. It is commonly used in opioid and alcohol addiction treatment. The medicine can help the person from relapsing. In some healthcare facilities, Naltrexone is a vital component of holistic drug rehab for drug misuse patients. In many outpatient and inpatient rehab centers, Naltrexone is used as the recommended medication, along with consistent monitoring, counseling, and behavioral corrections to help an addict break the dependency on a substance.

However, it is not safe to use Naltrexone without professional guidance. For instance, if used along with methadone, it can lead to disastrous results. 

Naltrexone gained prominence with its initial application in the treatment of opiate dependence. It was first used for helping people with heroin addiction. Patients in rehabilitation who used Naltrexone reported an impressive decrease in their craving to abuse drugs. Naltrexone seems to dampen the rewarding effects associated with opioid usage.

Alcoholics, too, can benefit from this medicine. Naltrexone is often the drug of choice for those who want to stop drinking but have a history of relapsing soon after they try to quit. Naltrexone alcohol recovery works due to the active ingredients in the medicine obstructing the euphoria and pleasurable sensations brought about by alcohol, just like Naltrexone suppresses the pleasurable sensations associated with opioids.

The proper administration of Naltrexone can reduce alcohol consumption, but it should only be administered under professional guidance. 

The Benefits of Naltrexone

Please note that Naltrexone is not an opioid.

The active ingredient in naltrexone is naltrexone hydrochloride. It is available as a tablet and in the form of an injection. Inactive ingredients in the tablet can vary across the many tablet formulations for Naltrexone. The list of such ingredients is easy to find on the product label which helps people to know more about the Naltrexone formulation they are about to consume.

It is considered a good choice since it does not cause serious withdrawal symptoms when discontinued and is not habit-forming or addictive. Opioid drugs such as heroin or fentanyl are known for their euphoric and sedative effects, but Naltrexone counteracts this. When used as per the clinical recommendations, Naltrexone can curb opioid cravings. Naltrexone can bind to and impair opioid receptors. However, Naltrexone is not to be used casually. The prescription drug is not meant for self-trials or to be used without clinical supervision.

Naltrexone has been used for treating alcoholism for many years, but it does not work wonders on its own. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms and alcohol cravings can be better managed with Naltrexone but proper recovery needs combining Naltrexone with other types of substance abuse treatments. This can include other medications, counseling, or a 12-step program. Naltrexone has been highlighted in the treatment of relapsing alcoholism. When used in large doses, Naltrexone might be toxic to the liver, and this is why someone with liver impairment might not experience the true benefits of Naltrexone.

Please note that Naltrexone is simply a part of the drug addiction rehabilitation programs and not a cure on its own.

Some highlights of Naltrexone that make it the chosen medicine to keep away people from returning to their alcoholic or substance abuse habits are:

  • Comparatively less severe side effects 

  • Faster acting than some of the other alternative medications in this domain

  • It tends to reduce the motivation to drink

  • Can bring down the chances of relapse

  • Complements other drug rehab treatments such as counseling

  • Therapeutic benefits surely outweigh some of its potential side effects

  • Has proven to be effective in helping alcoholics during their recovery 

How to Use Naltrexone

Naltrexone is usually taken orally, with or without meals. The daily dosage is most likely to be started at 50 milligrams. This drug is often prescribed as part of drug addiction rehab programs in which the person is closely monitored. Regular, daily doses might be combined with a more significant dose to be taken every 2 to 3 days. One of the more common initial effects is a bit of stomach distress when using naltrexone. This is easy to manage with basic antacids. The severity of the addiction and pre-existing health conditions are taken into account to determine the best dosage. The doctor may decide to start you off on a low dose. This is to note any signs of toxicity. The initial withdrawal might be strong. It is safer to raise the dosage gradually. 

It is recommended not to deviate from the prescribed dosage. Do not alter the dosage or frequency just because the initial few days do not bring about any considerable change. Naltrexone dosage should be monitored and regulated by a physician. To maximize the effectiveness of Naltrexone, use it for a consistent period without missing a dose.

You should let your doctor know if you start drinking or doing drugs again along with using Naltrexone. Drug addiction specialists recommend testing the urine for any presence of opiates because Naltrexone should not be started close to the most recent use of an opiate. Some doctors might insist on a drug test for consuming opiates to ensure Naltrexone is started without any risk.

It is recommended to start using Naltrexone a few days after the last instance of using opiates. The norm is to wait for around 10 to 14 days from the previous instance of using an opiate medicine, like methadone, before starting your Naltrexone schedule.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 2 million Americans abuse opioids and that more than 90 Americans die by opioid overdose every day

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More About the Proper Use of Naltrexone

Naltrexone is one of the many addiction therapy drugs. It is not an over-the-counter medication and needs a doctor's prescription. Naltrexone has a reputation for causing no negative interactions with alcohol, but usually, Naltrexone is started once the person has stopped drinking. Sometimes, the rehab specialist might insist on an alcohol detox before starting the Naltrexone schedule. 

Naltrexone is not meant for experimental use. Doctors prescribe when they are sure that the patient's liver is healthy and in cases of women, the patient is not pregnant. Naltrexone is often administered for a limited time in inpatient rehabilitation programs. A longer/sustained usage of up to three months might be needed to sustain the desired outcomes like sobriety.

  • Always take Naltrexone exactly as a doctor recommends

  • Naltrexone is generally used once a day by mouth

  • Don’t extend or reduce the period of using Naltrexone without a consultation

Precautions: What to Avoid When Taking Naltrexone

Taking a drug like Naltrexone requires more than a basic understanding of the potential advantages and risks. Usually, this medicine is avoided during pregnancy. If you are unsure about using Naltrexone, talk to your doctor about the downsides and benefits. Lactating women should note that this medication has been detected in breast milk.

The inhibiting action of Naltrexone tends to decline if consistent dosing is not maintained gradually. As a norm for using Naltrexone, people who intend to use naltrexone must have totally stopped using opioids. Naltrexone should not be tried by someone using prescription medicines that contain opioids.

Naltrexone is known to cause negative interactions with most opioids. Using a high dosage of opioids while you are still on Naltrexone creates the risk of life-threatening side effects. The resistance created by Naltrexone is broken in such cases, and the person can also lose consciousness. 

Seeking care at a nearby hospital is a possibility if you start experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms after starting Naltrexone. If a detox is recommended before starting naltrexone, don’t ignore it!

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal may include any or all of the following:

  • Anxiety

  • Runny nose

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Hot flashes

  • Muscle aches and twitches

  • Sleeplessness

  • Fever

  • Sweating

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal might also be felt during:

  • Missing a dose

  • Soon after stopping naltrexone 

  • After completing the detox

  • The interval leading up to the next naltrexone injection 

Who Should Avoid Using Naltrexone?

During the first few days, Naltrexone can cause drowsiness and lightheadedness. People on Naltrexone should not engage in tasks like driving a car or operating machinery. Sometimes, a naloxone challenge test is used to determine the suitability of Naltrexone for a person. Even after you have broken away from opioids, a healthcare professional may want to re-evaluate whether or not you can start taking the medication. About two weeks prior to starting Naltrexone, you should stop using prescription pain-relieving formulas, and medicines for cough, cold, and diarrhea. 

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Which Are the Most Common Naltrexone Side Effects?

Everyone doesn't need to have an unpleasant experience when starting Naltrexone. Many do not experience any negative effects upfront. The adverse effects of naltrexone have been documented, and there are clear patterns in its history of use for addiction treatment. Largely, Naltrexone is considered to be a safe medicine with moderate challenges for the user. Some of Naltrexone's negative effects can be life-threatening but the incidence is rather low.

Within just a few minutes of using Naltrexone, there might be a sudden onset of opiate withdrawal symptoms. This includes abdominal cramping along with nausea and vomiting. Some users might experience diarrhea and aches in the joints. Very few reported drastic changes in their emotional state like anxiety and confusion when they started their Naltrexone regimen. Some less serious Naltrexone side effects include extreme sleepiness and a runny nose.

Liver damage from Naltrexone is documented but not common. Higher doses may have a higher chance of severe side effects. This medicine is least likely to cause extreme allergic reactions. At the most, the person might develop a rash along with itching and swelling. However, severe dizziness and difficulties in breathing might warrant an ER visit. Not just the tablet, when injected, this medication can lead to mild to moderate problems like blisters that might seem like an open wound or a dark scab around the site of the injection. Usually, this is not a serious problem.

Some adverse effects of Naltrexone include:

  • Aches

  • Rashes

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea 

  • Diarrhea

  • Anxiety 

  • Headaches

  • Constipation

  • Insomnia

  • Feeling the chills

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Altered energy levels

More serious Naltrexone side effects include:

  • Hallucinations

  • Blurred vision

  • Shortness of breath

  • Liver toxicity 

  • Hepatic failure

  • Hypersensitivity 

Things to share with your doctor when starting Naltrexone:

  • Allergic history of Naltrexone

  • Last use of recreational or illegal drugs

  • Conditions like hemophilia 

  • History of alcohol dependence 

  • Use of methadone

  • History of liver problems

  • Episode of hepatitis

  • Severe renal problems

Naltrexone Use During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

Always inform your physician if you are trying to conceive or are pregnant. Naltrexone is not a safe option during pregnancy. The risks are real for the unborn child, and they definitely outweigh the benefits of using Naltrexone. The same applies to breastfeeding women. The problem can get severe if Naltrexone is injected via an intramuscular injection, as this medicine can cross the placenta.

The Edge Treatment Center Uses Naltrexone as Part of its Holistic Approach to Drug Rehab

The Edge Treatment Center assists people diagnosed with substance abuse and their families in comprehending the many facets of addiction patterns. An experienced team of rehab experts at the facility helps people understand the treatment options and the obstacles associated with quick recovery. The facility's holistic approach ensures that relapse patterns are broken, and the person can soon return to a healthier, addiction-free lifestyle.

We proudly utilize MAT as part of our evidence-based methods to treat opioid addiction effectively. Don’t risk an opioid overdose: Learn more about our programs by contacting us today!

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