Naltrexone- What is it and Why is it Important?
Naltrexone is a synthetic drug used in addiction pharmacotherapy, the treatment of drug dependency through medicinal means. It works as an opioid antagonist, blocking the opiate receptors in the nervous system, thereby negating the physical effects of the opioid. Because of this, Naltrexone is able to satisfy the body’s physical need for the substance it has become dependent of while allowing the recoverer to remain cognizant and in control. Naltrexone is taken orally and the dosage and frequency of use is determined by the primary care physician. Though it does not require medical supervision to be administered, it is not intended as a replacement for addiction recovery programs. Some countries such as Australia have approved Naltrexone implants which release regular doses of the medication preventing missed doses. Moreover, because it produces no symptoms and negates the urge to use, Naltrexone is heralded for its safety and the sense of independence it provides.
Who Should Take Naltrexone?
Though it is fairly new to the addiction treatment industry, Naltrexone has found a primary use in treating heroin addiction and shows promise in use for alcohol abuse recovery. Patients who have attempted abstinence recovery and found it to be ineffective or those seeking alternatives to pharmacotherapeutic medications containing opiates may benefit from Naltrexone use. New and ongoing studies even suggest a possible use for those suffering from fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
Is Naltrexone Addictive?
Much of the criticism medically-assisted recovery programs receive is based on the idea that it is ‘not real recovery.’ By suggesting that such programs merely exchange one addiction for another, critics push for abstinence methods of obtaining sobriety. While some medications used to treat addiction do contain opiates and can be habit forming, Naltrexone is not among them. Naltrexone produces no effects from use and inhibits opiates, meaning that if someone under the treatment does intake an opioid they won’t get the high they expect. This discourages relapsing and in turn encourages recovery. Patients recovering from drug addiction are more likely to successfully remain sober through medical assistance than abstinence.
Is Naltrexone Dangerous?
Like any drug, Naltrexone comes with precautions. Those with pre-existing liver or kidney damage should not take Naltrexone as it will exacerbate the issue. It is not intended for pregnant or nursing women or use in young children. Those using Naltrexone for alcohol dependency problems must be at least five days sober before treatment can begin. Opiate abusers must not use for seven to ten days prior to the first dose.
While Naltrexone does not cause any symptoms in most patients, some are prone to relatively minor symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and nausea. However, some patients experience reactions such as blurred vision, confusion, hallucinations, and severe vomiting or diarrhea. Serious reactions are rare and include excessive tiredness, unusual bleeding, dark urine, light-colored bowel movements, and jaundice. If you are taking Naltrexone and experience any of these symptoms, consult your physician.