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A survey by the American Psychological Association finds that at least a third of Americans know someone who is addicted to opioids.
Maybe you’re among them. You see your child, sibling, friend, or spouse struggling. They can’t seem to help themselves. Is there anything you can do to help them?
As with any problem, the best solutions begin with information. The best way you can help a loved one struggling with opioid addiction is to inform yourself about treatment options. Once you know more, you can guide your loved one toward the most effective treatment.
Naltrexone is among the effective treatment options for opioid addiction. So what is naltrexone? How does it work? Is it safe?
Find answers to these questions and more in this helpful guide.
Naltrexone is a medication used to treat both opioid addiction and alcoholism.
It is considered an opiate-antagonist. This means that it prevents the brain from experiencing opiate effects, including pain relief and feelings of well-being. In this way, naltrexone can reduce a person’s desire to take opioids.
It can also reduce alcohol cravings in individuals striving for sobriety.
More is understood about the ways in which naltrexone works to combat opioid addiction. Naltrexone works by competing with opioids to reach the brain’s opiate receptors. When naltrexone blocks these receptors, opioids cannot produce the pleasurable feelings users crave.
Scientists know less about how naltrexone works to fight alcohol abuse. However, some studies show that naltrexone similarly blocks the brain’s reward-signaling pathways from producing the enjoyable sensations associated with alcohol consumption.
Naltrexone is only available by prescription. Brand names of naltrexone include Deprade and Revia. Vivitrol is another naltrexone brand name, offering a longer-acting injectable form of the drug.
Most naltrexone users taking the pill form are prescribed a single dose once a day. Meanwhile, Vivitrol, the injectable form, is taken on a monthly basis.
Your doctor will help you find the naltrexone dosage that’s right for you. He or she can also help you choose the best form of naltrexone for your needs.
Importantly, the injectable form does offer a distinctive benefit. Since they receive a monthly injection, Vivitrol users tend to experience fewer problems with compliance. As anyone who has fought drug addiction knows, medication compliance can be a significant hurdle to recovery.
Whether in the form of a pill or injection, many patients find naltrexone most helpful in the early days of sobriety. You might begin with a twelve-week course of naltrexone. This period is when cravings are strongest. It’s also when relapse is most likely.
Nevertheless, doctors can prescribe naltrexone for lengthier periods.
Naltrexone can be an effective treatment for individuals struggling with opioid addiction or alcoholism. Still, it does not work for everyone. Fortunately, other treatment options are available. These include:
A trusted medical provider, like the doctors at LA Suboxone, can help you find the best medication to combat your addiction.
Like any medication for addiction, naltrexone is most effective as part of an overall treatment plan. This plan should include counseling, psychosocial therapy, and support groups. It will also include safer and more effective ways to manage chronic pain.
When discussing naltrexone’s effectiveness, it’s important to note that the drug, in any form, is not a cure for addiction. Furthermore, it does not prevent alcohol impairment if a person drinks while taking naltrexone. Finally, it does not treat opioid and alcohol users’ withdrawal symptoms.
In fact, it can cause these symptoms to worsen in patients who still have opioids in their systems. Therefore, a doctor will only prescribe naltrexone for an individual who has stopped drinking and/or using opioids.
When used under a doctor’s guidance, naltrexone is safe. It is not a narcotic, and it will not produce any opioid-like effects. Naltrexone use also does not cause physical or mental addiction.
Taking naltrexone safely means taking it only after an individual has stopped using drugs or alcohol. Individuals who take naltrexone while under the influence of opioids can experience serious symptoms of withdrawal.
It’s important, therefore, to be honest about your recent opioid use before beginning naltrexone. It’s also important to inform your doctor about any lingering withdrawal symptoms.
Only your doctor can decide when it’s safe for you to begin naltrexone treatment. In general, though, patients should not begin naltrexone for at least a week to 10 days after using opioids. However, the amount of time can vary depending on the type of opioid you used and how long you were dependent on it.
In many cases, doctors will perform a naloxone challenge test to check that you are drug-free before beginning treatment.
Even after discontinuing opioid use, certain individuals cannot use naltrexone safely. Those with acute hepatitis should avoid naltrexone. Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should also avoid naltrexone treatment.
The most serious naltrexone side effects occur in individuals who begin taking it while still under the influence of opioids.
Otherwise, most users experience minimal side effects. These can include:
These mild side effects tend to resolve quickly. However, you should inform your doctor if you notice them.
You should also inform your doctor and stop taking naltrexone if you notice any of the following symptoms:
These side effects are more serious and could indicate liver toxicity.
Naltrexone is an effective treatment option for individuals struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. It is most effective as part of a comprehensive and individualized approach to treatment.
LA Suboxone provides the highest quality treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. We know what works, and we take the time to get to know each patient.
Contact us today so we can learn more about you and you can learn more about the treatments—and hope—we offer.
Naltrexone can interact with other medications.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that naltrexone users should stop taking their other medications or that people taking certain medications can’t benefit from naltrexone. Instead, it again requires caution and professional medical advice.
Your doctor may be able to adjust your medication or take other precautions as you begin naltrexone treatment.
As always, your doctor can only make good decisions for your health if he or she has all the necessary information. This means that you’ll need to share a full medical history with your provider.