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Naltrexone in Opioid Addiction

Naltrexone is used primarily in the management of alcohol and opioid dependence. The drug though not a cure for the opiate addiction, it is part of the opiate addiction program that includes counseling, conducting support meetings and other treatment procedures.

What is Naltrexone?

Basically, Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist that works by blocking the effects of the opioid products. It is not a narcotic by itself rather, it simply curbs the high feeling effects caused by alcohol. It is marketed as Naltrexone hydrochloride under the trade name Revia and Depade. There are also other forms of the drug that helps treat alcohol abuse.

How does it work?

The prime factor that hinders the progress of an opioid rehabilitation program is the cravings that it causes. The drug Naltrexone has found to curb the cravings thereby facilitating people who want to quit drinking. Though the cause is yet to be understood, naltrexone is believed to affect the neural pathway in the brain thereby reducing the cravings.

Studies have also pointed out that Naltrexone blocks the opioid receptors thereby negating the high feeling caused on consumption of alcohol or other drugs like heroin or cocaine. Thus, Naltrexone's behavior as an opioid receptor antagonist has been exploited by the opioid rehabilitation programs and has been one of the most prescribed drug to manage opioid dependence.

How is the drug taken?

In a pill form, Naltrexone is taken once a day for 12 weeks by people who have stopped taking opioids for seven to ten days. If taken otherwise, it might cause serious withdrawal symptoms.

An injectible form of the drug in the name of Vivitrol has also been approved to treat alcohol dependence. Evidences suggest that, the monthly injection program is more effective than the pills in maintaining abstinence from opioids and related products.

Yet another mode is the Rapid detoxification program which is done by placing a Naltrexone implant in the patient's lower abdomen by inducing general anesthesia. This, followed by oral Naltrexone treatment for 12 months ensures complete cure for alcohol abuse. Though this program is controversial and yet to be approved by the FDA, there have been great results, adding to the credibility of this detox program.

How effective is Naltrexone?

With Naltrexon reducing the craving and blocking the opiate regulators, helps in effectively preventing the opiate dependence. Though it is not a cure for addiction, it plays a very important role in the entire rehabilitation program, thereby maintaining the abstinence for alcohol or drugs.

It should be noted that Naltrexone in no way treats the ailments caused during the withdrawal period and also doesn't directly stop one from taking alcohol or other opiates.

Side effects of Naltrexone

With Naltrexone benefitting the opioid rehabilitation programs, a string of side effects have eclipsed the numerous goodness it offers. A few of the minor side effects are,

  • Upset stomach/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Nervousness
  • Lack of sleep
  • Joint/muscle pain

Some of the serious side effects are

  • Dark colored urine
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Light-colored bowel movements

When experiencing the above serious side effects, it is better to consult a doctor immediately.

Things to note before you take Naltrexone

Since Naltrexone greatly reduces the cravings caused by the opiates, one needs to understand its properties properly before starting the program.

• Since Naltrexone blocks the opiate regulators and stops the high feeling, there are chances for people to consume alcohol in larger amounts than usual to reach the pleasurable state. This is a very dangerous sign of over addiction and might also cause death.

• People with an underlying liver/kidney problem must consult a doctor before using Naltrexone as overdoses of the drug might cause permanent liver or kidney failure.

• Pregnant and breast feeding women must avoid taking the drug.

• When on other medication, it is strictly not advised to use Naltrexone. Especially when on pain, cough and diarrhea related medication, Naltrexone tends to stop these medicines from working, and therefore it is advisable to consult your doctor.

Thus, keeping in mind the above points, one must use Naltrexone and get benefitted accordingly. There are numerous Naltrexone addiction treatment centres which offer a complete package of rehabilitation programs to combat alcohol and opioid dependence by means of naltrexone detox together with other medications and counseling programs.

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