Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of heroin and other opiate drugs in the brain. Although it is classified as an opioid antagonist, naltrexone can also be effective for treatment of alcoholism. An addict or alcoholic who is being treated with naltrexone will experience none of the euphoria that they seek from his drug. Those euphoric feelings reinforce heroin or alcohol addiction with each dose. The theory behind naltrexone and other opioid antagonists is that without that reinforcement, there is a better chance of breaking the addiction. Naltrexone does not prevent cravings, but instead blocks the rewards that drug addicts and alcoholics seek. Likewise, naltrexone does not alleviate the pain or discomfort commonly associated with physical withdrawal from abused substances.
In some cases, naltrexone will lead to increased feelings of depression and a general sense that life is meaningless. When confronted with these feelings, addicts and alcoholics who are less than fully committed to breaking their addictions will be tempted to go back to using their drugs of choice. In view of this, naltrexone is not a single or solo treatment in and of itself, but instead it should be viewed as one of several tools that are available for treatment of addiction or alcoholism. Recovering addicts who are on a naltrexone regimen will continue to receive behavioral therapy, counseling, and other treatments to help them recover from their addictions.
Some physicians and addiction counselors also express concerns over liver toxicity and other side effects that have been reported in naltrexone users. Those effects are more noticeable when naltrexone dosage is greater than 100 mg. per day, which is more than double the recommended daily dosage of 50 mg. Naltrexone is perceived to be a short-term, temporary treatment option. Toxicity and other side effects are more readily monitored when a recovering addict is in an inpatient program, and naltrexone therapy will be more common in those programs than in outpatient programs.
Recovering addicts who are deemed to be good candidates for naltrexone therapy will first need to proceed through a detox phase that purges as much opiate products from their bodies as is possible. If naltrexone is started while any opiates remain active, the recovering addict’s physical withdrawal symptoms can be more severe.
Smarmore Castle Private Clinic is Dublin’s leading detox and residential treatment programme for drug and alcohol addiction. Real change is possible in your life if you are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Call to speak with one of our caring and attentive staff members to being planning change for your life through one of our superior treatment programmes. +353 41 214 5111
Last updated & clinically assessed 26 March, 2021