Some FAQs about naltrexone:

Q: What is naltrexone?

A: Naltrexone is a medication that blocks the effects of narcotic opiates(a class that includes for example morphine, heroin, vicodan, percoset and codeine). It competes with these drugs for space on opioid receptors in the brain. It was originally used to treat dependence on opioid drugs but has been further approved by the FDA as treatment for alcohol dependence.
In clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of naltrexone, patients who received naltrexone were twice as successful in remaining abstinent and in avoiding relapse as patients who received placebo-an
inactive pill.

Q: Why does naltrexone help for alcoholism?

A: While the precise mechanism of action for naltrexone is unknown, medical researchers believe that naltrexone blocks the ability of alcohol to stimulate the release of endorphins, and in turn dopamine while at the same time jump starting the normal production and release of endorphins, thus effectively suppressing the craving or thought process to drink.

Q: Does this mean that naltrexone will “sober me up” if I drink?

A: No, naltrexone does not reduce the effects of alcohol that impair coordination and judgment. Impairment is caused by elevated blood sugar and naltrexone does not impact blood sugar levels. For example, a police officer is checking an individuals blood sugar level to see how impaired a person is and is not checking endorphin levels to how much they are enjoying the “high”.

Q: If I take naltrexone, does it mean that I don’t need other treatment for alcoholism?

A:No, naltrexone is only one component of a program of treatment for alcohol dependence.
In a study from the University of South Carolina released in August of 2005, it states that treatment success is increased significantly when naltrexone is combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Q: How long does naltrexone take to work?

A: Naltrexone is effective within minutes of ingestion.

Q: Are there some people who should not take naltrexone?

A: Naltrexone should not be used by pregnant women, as studies have never been undertaken to demonstrate the safety of naltrexone in this situation. Also, people who are dependent on opioid drugs, like heroin or morphine, must stop their drug use at least 7 days prior to starting naltrexone.

Q: What does it feel like to be on naltrexone?

A: Patients usually report that they are largely unaware of being on naltrexone. Naltrexone is not addicting, either emotionally or physically, and can be discontinued without adverse effects. While it does reduce alcohol craving, it does not interfere with the experience of other types of pleasure.

Q: What are the side effects of naltrexone?

A: In the largest study, the most common side effect of naltrexone affected only a small minority of people and included the following: nausea (10%), headache (7%), dizziness (4%), fatigue (4%), insomnia (3%), anxiety (2%), and sleepiness (2%). These side effects were usually mild and of short duration. Blood tests of liver function can be performed prior to the onset of treatment if a physician feels that it is necessary. Liver function testing may be done periodically during treatment to determine whether naltrexone should be discontinued if the extremely rare side effect of liver toxicity is taking place.

Q: Can I take other medications with naltrexone?

A:Naltrexone may be taken with any prescription medication with the exception of opiates. Naltrexone blocks the ability of any opiate to have any effect. Virtually all over the counter medications (exception Pepto Bismo) can be safely and effective used while also taking naltrexone. There are many non-narcotic pain relievers that can be used effectively while you are on naltrexone. Otherwise, naltrexone is likely to have little impact on other medications patients commonly use such as antibiotics, non-opioid analgesics (e.g., aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen), and those commonly prescribed for allergies. You should inform your physician of whatever medication you are currently taking so that possible interactions can be evaluated. Because naltrexone is broken down by the liver, other medications that can affect liver function may affect the dose
of naltrexone.

Q: Will I get sick if I drink while on naltrexone and will I get sick if I stop naltrexone suddenly?

A: No, naltrexone may reduce the feeling of intoxication and the desire to drink more, but it will not cause a severe physical response to drinking. Naltrexone does not cause physical dependence and can be stopped at any time without withdrawal symptoms. In addition, available findings regarding cessation do not show a “rebound” effect to resume alcohol use when naltrexone is discontinued.

Q: What should I do if I need an operation or pain medication?

A: You will be given a card explaining that you are on naltrexone and that also instructs physicians on pain management. Many pain medications that are not opioids are available for use. If you are going to have elective surgery, naltrexone should be discontinued at least 72 hours beforehand.

Q: How long should I stay on naltrexone?

A: If naltrexone is tolerated and the patient is successful in reducing or stopping drinking, the recommended initial course of treatment is between six months and a year. At that time the patient and clinical staff should evaluate the need for further treatment with naltrexone. This evaluation takes into account how much the patient has improved and concerns about relapse.

Takes the “white-knuckles” out of quitting.

Naltrexone is a game changing breakthrough that offers a state of the art medical response to combat alcohol dependence. Naltrexone is the first medication ever approved by the FDA that reduces the drinker’s craving for alcohol. When taken by persons motivated to stop drinking, who also participate in individual and group therapy, Naltrexone is demonstrating successes that counseling programs alone cannot. Alcohol dependent people find they’re able to attain and maintain their sobriety permanently.

From the very beginning, program participants report experiencing a feeling of calm as their alcohol cravings subside.
Between six months to a year most people are able to discontinue taking the medication altogether without having their old cravings return.
Without any cravings, relapse is far less likely to occur.

Whether you are alcohol dependent and wanting to quit, a spouse or family member wanting to help, or a health care professional who treats alcohol dependency, you’ll discover Naltrexone is a safe and promising approach to an old and failure-ridden problem.

Naltrexone helps break the vicious cycle of alcohol dependence.

Naltrexone Facts

The United States Food & Drug administration on December 30, 1994 approved the medication Naltrexone HCI for use in the treatment of alcohol dependence.

Originally approved in 1984 for use in treatment for opiate addiction, Naltrexone is the first medication in over 60 years to be approved specifically for alcohol dependence. Studies published in the ARCHIVES OF GENERAL PSYCHIATRY conclude that Naltrexone, in conjunction with recovery program support, significantly enhances the ability to achieve positive recovery results.

  • Within minutes of ingestion, the craving, the desire, the need to drink alcohol will be drastically reduced or eliminated entirely.
  • Significantly reduces the probability of relapse.
  • Can be effectively used in an out patient program.
  • Is not habit forming, and does not cause physiological or psychological dependence.
  • Does not cause adverse physical reaction to alcohol consumption, making its use much safer than Antabuse.
  • Is well tolerated by the vast majority of individuals with few or no side effects.
  • Eliminates the euphoric high associated with alcohol consumption.
  • Significantly reduces tolerance to alcohol consumption.
  • Relieves the stress and anxiety normally associated with alcohol withdrawal.
  • Standard dosage is age and gender specific.Women generally require a higher level of medication.
  • Recommended period of medication compliance is six months to one year. Naltrexone can be continued to be used safely even beyond a year.
  • Vivitrol (r) is an injectable form of Naltrexone and is effective for 30 days.


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