Medication for Addiction – Naltrexone (Part 1)

Fast Facts about Naltrexone.

  1. Naltrexone helps you avoid relapse. It is legal and is administered under a doctor’s care. It is NOT just another drug to abuse.
  2. Naltrexone is produced under safe conditions and sold legally. There is no risk of getting tainted doses, which can happen with street drugs.
  3. You can stop taking Naltrexone at any time with no withdrawal or craving. It is NOT addictive.
  4. Few people have mood swings when taking Naltrexone. It does NOT cause depression. If you have symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor— there may be some other cause.

What is Medication Treatment for Addiction?

Medication-assisted opioid treatment is treatment for addiction that includes the use of medication along with counseling and support. Treatment that includes medication is often the best choice for opioid addiction. Medication allows you to regain a normal state of mind, free of drug-induced highs and lows. It frees you from thinking all the time about the drug. It can reduce problems of withdrawal and craving. These changes can give you the chance you need to focus on the lifestyle changes that lead back to healthy living. Taking medication for opioid addiction is like taking medication to control heart disease or diabetes. It is not the same as substituting one addictive drug for another. Used properly, the medication does not create a new addiction. It helps you manage your addiction so that the benefits of recovery can be maintained.

Tell me more about Naltrexone

Naltrexone is one of three medications commonly used to treat opioid addiction. The other two are Methadone and Buprenorphine (covered in part 2 and 3). Cost varies for the different medications. This might be a factor when considering your treatment options. Naltrexone blocks opioids from acting on the brain, so it takes away the reward of getting high on the problem drug. This feature makes Naltrexone a good choice for preventing relapse (falling back into problem drug use). Naltrexone may not stop drug cravings. If it does not help with cravings, your doctor or substance abuse counselor will help you find other ways to reduce them.

Naltrexone
This is what the 50mg tablet looks like. You can click here for more information on the drug

How is it used?

Naltrexone comes in pill form. Two trade names for it are ReVia® and Depade®. It is also available as a lower cost generic. You take the pill every 1 to 3 days. Naltrexone is also available in a new extended-release form that is injected. This extended-release injectable form has the trade name Vivitrol®. The injection is administered by your doctor once a month. Naltrexone may be a good choice if you are completely past withdrawal and highly motivated to stay in recovery. It also may be recommended if you are in an early stage of opioid addiction.

You must see a doctor before taking this medication.

This is important. You must have no opioids in your body before starting Naltrexone. Otherwise, withdrawal will be extra strong. You first must go through withdrawal under your doctor’s care. This supervised withdrawal is called detoxification or detox. You can start on Naltrexone after detox is completed.

There are warnings

If you are taking Naltrexone, you cannot get high from other opioids because the medication blocks the effects. Sometimes people take large amounts of opioids to try to overcome this block. Do not do this! It is very dangerous and can cause overdose or death. Keep Naltrexone locked in a safe place. If you are pregnant, methadone is safer for your child. Liver problems are rare but can occur. While taking this medication, you should not use other similar

FDA - Naltrexone
Clinical Information from the FDA can be found here.

medications such as some pain medications, cough syrups, and diarrhea medicines. The Naltrexone will stop these medications from working. You should let doctors and dentists know you cannot have any medications (including shots) that contain opioids. While taking this medication, you should not use illegal drugs, drink alcohol, or take sedatives, tranquilizers, or other drugs that slow breathing. Taking any of these substances in large amounts along with Naltrexone can lead to overdose or death.

After I take the medication – am I fixed?

No, medication is only one part of recovery treatment. Another important part is counseling: the opportunity to talk with a professional either one-on-one or in a group with others in treatment. Support from family and friends is very important. Love and encouragement can help you make the decision to enter treatment and stick with it.

Many people with opioid addiction regain normal, healthy lives. A combination of medication, counseling, and support can help.

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