Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist and is mainly used in the treatment of people having serious alcohol or opioid dependence. It helps narcotic and alcohol addicts to stay narcotic or drug free. Although, it is not a medication for curing addiction, it is used as part of an overall program that may include attending support group meetings, counselling, and other treatment options as recommended by the health care provider.
Naltrexone is not a narcotic drug and is available only upon doctor's prescription. It blocks the effects of narcotic drugs and alcohol, particularly the high feeling that makes people want to use them more. But, since it is not a narcotic, it does not produce any physical or psychological dependence in patients who use it.
Withdrawal symptoms may occur in patients who are physically dependent on narcotics or alcohol while taking naltrexone. This makes treatment with Naltrexone for people who are physically dependent on narcotics impossible. Naltrexone treatment will be started only when the patient is no longer dependent to narcotics or alcohol. The length of treatment procedure might also vary depending on the amount of drug taken for dependence and how long it was taken. Patients having withdrawal symptoms should intimate it to their physician before, Naltrexone treatment is started.
Naltrexone is known to reduce the craving for alcohol or opioid drugs in people who have stopped drinking. People who have stopped drinking or taking drugs, usually have cravings for that. But, how this craving is minimized by naltrexone is not fully understood. Researchers believe that Naltrexone works by affecting the neural pathways in the brain where the neurotransmitter Dopamine is usually found.
Naltrexone is a narcotic receptor antagonist. So, in people who are addicted to alcohol or opioid drugs, Naltrexone works by blocking their action in that part of the brain, which produces the feeling of pleasure when taken.
Naltrexone is available in the form of pill, which should be taken once in a day. For people dependent on opioid drugs, the treatment period may expend up to 12 months. In general, Naltrexone is prescribed for people for a period of 12 weeks who have stopped drinking to minimize the cravings. Treatment should be started during the early stages of abstinence where the risk of relapse is at the greatest.
Alternatively, FDA approved Naltrexone injection is also available. Injections often reduce the problem of medication compliance, as it is available in the form of once-a month naltrexone injection. It is also found that Naltrexone injections are highly effective compared to naltrexone pills.
Although Naltrexone is mainly used in the treatment of alcohol or drug dependence, it has other uses too. It is used in the treatment of depersonalization disorder and its off-label use may include treating conditions of multiple sclerosis, HIV, cancer. However, claims that Naltrexone treats HIV and cancer is not supported by scientific evidence.
Studies indicate that Naltrexone might be beneficial in treating behavioral addictions such as pornography addiction, kleptomania, trichotillomania, or compulsive gambling. Studies also indicate that self-destructive behaviors found in individuals can be minimized with the help of Naltrexone treatment.
Naltrexone is associated with some side effects in patients treated for alcohol or drug dependence. Gastrointestinal side effects are common which include stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Other common side effects include muscle or joint pain, nervousness, and anxiety. These side effects are usually mild and temporary, but may also become severe and last longer for some individuals. If it becomes bothersome, it should be taken to the attention of health care provider and treated immediately.
Rare side effects of Naltrexone include drowsiness, confusions, hallucinations, skin rash, or blurred vision. Although rare, these side effects are so severe enough to notify to the health care provider immediately.
Naltrexone overdose can cause liver damage. Symptoms such as severe fatigue, unusual bleeding or bruising, loss of appetite, dark urine or yellowing of the skin or eyes, and pain in the right upper part of the stomach requires the individual to stop taking the medication and get medical attention immediately.
Naltrexone treats alcohol or opioid drug dependence, but do not cure them. It has reduced cravings for alcohol or drug in many individuals and helped them come out of their addiction problem successfully.