When taken as directed, anti-addiction medication can be one of the most powerful tools in your recovery program. The oral form of naltrexone, sold as ReVia, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of alcohol dependence in 1994, followed by the injectable form of naltrexone (Vivitrol) in 2006. In 2010, the FDA approved naltrexone for the treatment of opioid dependence. If you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, prescription painkillers or street opiates, naltrexone may offer hope for a brighter future.
Naltrexone for Alcohol Addiction
Naltrexone belongs to a class of drugs called opiate receptor antagonists. According to the Division of Pharmacologic Therapies, drugs in this category work by binding to the brain cells that respond to opiates. When you drink alcohol, these receptor cells produce sensations of pleasure, euphoria or contentment. When you take a drug like naltrexone, the medication blocks those pleasurable feelings, making drinking a less desirable experience. As a result, you may be less likely to relapse after you get sober.
Naltrexone can’t help you avoid the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a dangerous condition that can cause side effects that range from unpleasant to severe:
- High body temperature
- Heart palpitations
The safest way to withdraw from alcohol is to go through detox under medical supervision. Naltrexone is recommended for alcoholics who have already been through the withdrawal phase and who are committed to remaining sober. This medication will not necessarily eliminate your craving for alcohol, but it can help you resist the impulse to relapse by making drinking less rewarding.
Naltrexone for Opioid Dependency
Naltrexone can be an effective solution for people who are addicted to opiates like heroin, morphine, codeine or oxycodone. Unlike other anti-addiction medications, like methadone or buprenorphine, naltrexone itself is not addictive, and the possibility of abuse or overdose is very low. Naltrexone discourages addicts from relapsing by interfering with the high of opiate use. It doesn’t act as a replacement for opiates or produce a euphoric sensation when you take too much of the medication.
Naltrexone does not help with opiate withdrawal symptoms; in fact, taking naltrexone can trigger withdrawal symptoms in addicts who haven’t been through detox, cautions the Department of Health and Human Services. If you’ve used opiates or alcohol in the past seven to 10 days, your doctor may recommend that you put off starting naltrexone therapy until the chemicals are out of your system. As with alcohol, the best way to get through detox from opiates is to enroll in a professional drug rehab program.
Forms of Naltrexone
Naltrexone is available in oral form (ReVia, Depade) or as an extended-release intramuscular injection (Vivitrol). Oral naltrexone must be taken on a frequent basis, usually every day, in order to help you stay abstinent. The injectable form of naltrexone can be taken once a month. If you have trouble remembering to take pills or you have other reasons for being noncompliant, the extended-release injection may be a better option for you.
Making Naltrexone Work for You
According to Harvard Medical School, an addict who takes naltrexone as prescribed may never have a relapse, but in reality, many addicts and alcoholics don’t comply with their medication therapy. To make naltrexone work for you, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I ready to make a full commitment to my recovery?
- Am I taking naltrexone as part of an overall rehab program that includes behavioral modification therapy, self-help groups and family counseling?
- Can I take oral medication every day, or would a monthly shot be better for me?
- Do I have other support resources to help me stay abstinent, like a 12-step group, a trusted therapist and a network of sober friends?
Addiction is a complex, multifaceted disease that requires a comprehensive approach to treatment. To understand the impulses and emotions that trigger your substance abuse, you need help from professional addiction therapists who can teach you positive ways to cope with life. If you have a co-occurring mental health disorder, like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, you need an integrated rehab program that offers therapy for substance abuse and psychiatric disorders.
Like any other recovery tool, naltrexone is only as effective as you allow it to be. At Axis, we support you in your efforts to stay focused and motivated. As part of your recovery plan, we offer a variety of therapeutic services at our exclusive residential facility near Palm Springs, California. Call us to start the healing process today.