Naltrexone: Understanding Its Significance in Addiction Treatment

Naltrexone is a medication that is known as an opioid receptor antagonist. This property makes it suitable for the treatment of both opioid and alcohol dependence. It is used to help narcotic addicts and alcoholics to stay drug-free once they stop taking narcotics or drugs. However, it is not considered a cure for addiction; it is only used as part of an overall program that may include counseling as well as other forms of treatment recommended by a trained medical specialist.

How it works

Naltrexone is a narcotic that works by blocking the effects of other narcotics and alcohol, especially the high feeling that makes users dependent. One of the main reasons why it is included in the treatment of narcotic and alcohol addiction is that it does not produce the effects associated with other narcotics and thus does not cause mental or physical dependence. However, it is known to cause withdrawal symptoms in individuals with a physical dependence on narcotics, which is why the treatment is only started once you are no longer dependent on other drugs. The treatment duration depends on the narcotic you used as well as how much and how long you used it.

Treatment advice

Naltrexone is effective in keeping people off narcotics and alcohol since they are aware that they cannot achieve a high from using them. It is worth noting that while it does not directly stop the person from wanting to use the drug, it may reduce or even prevent cravings in certain people. In addition, it only helps a person avoid drugs and alcohol as long as he or she is taking it. As such, it should be used consistently until otherwise advised by a doctor.

Naltrexone is also used for drug dependence because unlike other drugs, it does not itself lead to physical dependence. However, the level of success when using it will depend on the particular situation as well as a person's level of commitment in staying off the drug. In addition, the person should be involved in a comprehensive treatment program that includes regular counseling.

Naltrexone is usually taken in tablet form either at home or under supervision at a treatment center or clinic. An injectible form of the medication is also available (Vivitrol) and is typically used to treat alcohol dependence. Several studies indicate that the monthly injection is more effective in maintaining abstinence when compared to the pill since it eliminates the problem of medical compliance.

The amount of time a person takes Naltrexone treatment varies significantly. For instance, while those who use it to reduce alcohol cravings might use it for about 12 weeks, while those using it to manage their drug dependence could use it for up to 12 months, depending on their doctors' advice.

Side effects

Generally, Naltrexone is well tolerated, but some side effects have been reported including sleeping difficulties, cramps, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, joint and muscle pain, low energy and headaches. Most of these effects occur during the first few days of treatment as a result of the combined experience of taking the medication and withdrawal from opioids.

It should be noted that when taken in large doses, Naltrexone could cause liver damage. As such, it is important to seek medical assistance immediately in case of symptoms associated with liver damage including fatigue, unusual bruising or bleeding, light-colored bowel movements, yellowing of the eyes or skin or dark urine. Naltrexone is unlikely to cause liver damage when taken in recommended doses.


When taking Naltrexone, a person's tolerance to narcotics or alcohol is lowered, creating the risk of a serious overdose if he or she takes them again. The person may have a false sense of security, believing that the medication makes him or her immune to the effects of the drugs he or she is using. In fact, those planning to use narcotics or alcohol after being on Naltrexone should be careful to use smaller amounts than they were using before to avoid overdosing.

Research indicates that Naltrexone could reduce the cravings associated with alcohol or narcotic dependence, but this is not the case for every individual. While it does not cure the addiction, it has been found to help many people suffering from drug or alcohol addiction maintain abstinence by reducing their cravings.