What is Naltrexone and how does it work?
One of the drugs that is used for managing alcohol or opioid dependency is an opioid receptor antagonist known as Naltrexone. It is a hydrochloride salt that is also sold under other brand names such as Depade and Revia. It can be prescribed in ER or extended release form under the brand name Vivitrol. Naltrexone should not be confused with the drug Naloxone which is administered to treat and opioid overdose. Naltrexone is prescribed for the long-term control of and recovery from opioid dependency.
The drug is commonly prescribed for the treatment of alcohol addiction or dependency. Whether Naltrexone is used for either alcohol or drug addiction and dependency, it can be administered by injection or taken orally. The drug is equally effective for the treatment of opioid dependency and reducing the frequency or severity of relapsing back into addiction or dependency. Naltrexone is extremely effective as a treatment for addiction or dependency when counseling and support is conducted in conjunction with it.
The mechanism of Naltrexone
Naltrexone is extremely effective for overcoming opiate and opioid addiction because it functions by blocking the euphoric side effects that are caused by these drugs. The oral formula works quite well for most individuals, but the negative issue is that it has to be taken daily. For the individual who is suffering with cravings opiate/opioid cravings it is easy for them to experience the side effects by not taking one of their doses of Naltrexone before they resume their addiction or dependency.
Naltrexone works by binding to the opioid receptors of the brain in order to treat the addiction or dependency. Instead of activating the neurons of the brain by binding to the receptors, it blocks them. This prevents the opiate or opioid from stimulating neurons and accessing receptors. This in turn prevents the individual from experiencing the euphoria or high that opiates/opioids cause. This is Naltrexone’s only function so the benefit of using the drug is that there is a minimum of side effects experienced when using it.
Side effects of Naltrexone
Naltrexone has numerous side effects, some of which are much more severe than others. If you experience lasting side effects or if they become increasingly more severe you should contact your doctor or the prescribing physician.
Common side effects – anxiety, constipation, cramping or stomach pain, decreased or increased energy, diarrhea, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, irritability, joint or muscle pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, nervousness, rash, and tearfulness
Severe side effects – blurred vision, confusion, hallucinations (hearing voices that do not exist or seeing things), and severe diarrhea or vomiting
Although these lists of side effects may not be complete, these are the primary side effects to be aware of. In any event, you should consult your family doctor or the prescribing physician should you notice any unusual problems while taking this medication.
Additional warnings to consider
If Naltrexone is abused or taken in larger doses, it can lead to liver damage. However, this is unlikely if the drug is taken as prescribed. If you have ever had hepatitis or another liver disease, you should consult with your family physician. If you experience any of the following side effects, you should stop taking Naltrexone immediately:
- dark urine
- excessive tiredness
- light-colored stools
- loss of or no appetite
- lingering pain in the upper right area of the stomach
- unusual bleeding and bruising
- yellowing of the eyes or skin
Make sure that you keep all of your appointments with your lab and/or physician in order to determine how you and your body are responding to Naltrexone treatment. Just be sure to ask anything that concerns you prior to taking the drug.
Things to discuss with your healthcare provider or physician
Before you begin taking Naltrexone on a daily basis there are things that you should discuss with your healthcare provider or physician. For instance, do not take Naltrexone if you are allergic to it or have an addiction to another narcotic, you have been having alcohol or drug withdrawal symptoms, or you have used alcohol or drugs during the past 7 to 10 days. Additionally, you should talk to your healthcare provider or physician before you start taking Naltrexone should be allergic to any prescription drug or if you experienced:
- hemophilia or bleeding disorder
- kidney disease
- liver disease
Should you notice any of the above, discuss this with your doctor so they can adjust your dosage or order targeted lab tests. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, talk to your physician before starting a Naltrexone regimen. Although it is uncertain as to whether or not Naltrexone passes into the breast milk and can harm the nursing infant, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Allergic reactions to Naltrexone are not uncommon and typically include difficulty breathing, hives, or swelling of your face, lips, mouth, tongue, or throat. Should you experience any of these, get emergency medical help immediately. Also, be aware if you are experiencing any of the following:
- decreased sex drive, difficulty having orgasms, and impotence
- feelings of anxiousness, irritability, nervousness, or restlessness
- feeling faint or lightheadedness
- increased thirst
- joint and/or muscle aches
- insomnia or other sleeping disorders
- tiredness or weakness
Regardless of how minor or severe your side effects are, you should still talk with your family doctor, healthcare provider, or the prescribing physician and make them aware of your issues.
Blue Water Detox can treat alcohol and drug dependency or opiate addiction with medical detox involving the administration of Naltrexone. Our programs are extremely effective and our detox success rates are some of the highest in the US. If you or a loved one is suffering with an addiction that can be treated with Naltrexone, we are here to help you. If you would like more information regarding our facility and medical detox programs, please call us at the toll-free phone number listed above.