What is Naltrexone used for? Naltrexone is a prescription medication that can be taken orally or by injection. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved naltrexone for the treatment of drug addiction in 1984. The drug addictions this medication addresses include heroin, oxycodone, and morphine. In 1994, naltrexone received approval to be used in the treatment of alcohol use disorders.
Naltrexone can be taken orally in pill form. The amount of dosage prescribed depends on a patient’s medical condition and how they respond to taking it. Often taken daily, if a health care provider must witness the patient taking the medication, they may prescribe a higher dose. This allows the patient to take naltrexone every two to three days. An injectable form of naltrexone also exists. It is administered once a month and can be given by doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.
How Naltrexone Works
Studies done in the 1990s showed that naltrexone can reduce cravings for alcohol when used in conjunction with psychosocial therapy. The combination also helps decrease the relapse rates among those who suffer from alcohol addiction.
Naltrexone reduces the reward factor that people with both alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder feel when they use those substances. This medication helps block the effect of opioid receptors, thus making both opioids and alcohol less pleasurable to use. This development then decreases a person’s cravings for opioids or alcohol. When the urges to use subside, patients typically find it easier to stay in recovery.
Most people take naltrexone for at least three months. Dosage amounts and a timeline for how long to take the medication will be determined as a doctor monitors the reaction to it.
Communicate With All Treatment Providers About Usage of Naltrexone
Doctors recommend that no opiates be ingested for at least one week prior to beginning this medication. Doctors may require a test for opioid usage to ensure the person meets this requirement. The FDA recommends a period of 3-7 days of alcohol abstinence before beginning to take naltrexone.
Many treatment professionals recommend that individuals who take naltrexone wear or carry medical identification that indicates they take this medication. In the event of a medical emergency, treatment personnel can benefit from knowing this.
It is imperative not to take drugs such as morphine, codeine, or heroin while taking naltrexone. Even cough syrups with codeine should be avoided. When discussing an initial prescription with a doctor, a patient should go over their medical history. Include any current medications taken, both over-the-counter and prescription.
Other recommendations for naltrexone usage include telling the doctor about any current or possible pregnancy or if the patient is breastfeeding. If the patient will be having upcoming surgery, the surgeon will need to know about this, too.
Naltrexone May Cause Side Effects
Some side effects from using naltrexone may occur. The side effects may mimic those that occur due to opiate withdrawal. If a person experiences any side effects, they should immediately contact their health care provider before stopping its usage. An adjustment in dosage or change of medication may help remedy the issue. Common side effects of naltrexone include:
- Changes in appetite
- Abdominal cramping
- Disturbance of sleep patterns
- Muscle pain
- Runny nose
- Bruising, swelling, or tenderness at the injection site
Where to Begin if You Are Interested in Naltrexone
If a person struggling with an addiction to opioids or alcohol wants to pursue the idea of taking naltrexone, the first step is making an appointment with their doctor. A physician will likely want to discuss an individual’s medical history and drug or alcohol usage.
The doctor can ask the patient what goals they hope to achieve by taking this medication. Knowing that recovery takes time but medication can help ease the path ahead of them often proves inspirational.
Most treatment professionals recommend using naltrexone in combination with therapy. If a person already engages in regular therapy, the therapist should be brought into the discussion. Doctors and therapists often work together to keep each other informed of a patient’s progress and any changing needs.
If the individual does not currently attend therapy, they can ask their doctor or insurance company for recommendations. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists can all offer support and monitor the progress of someone taking naltrexone. When possible, look for a clinician who has experience treating patients with alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder.
A person should not take naltrexone if it has not been prescribed for them. Buying or accepting this medication from others can result in serious medical problems. Only a person who receives a prescription from a doctor should take naltrexone.
Many treatment facilities employ the use of medication-assisted treatment as part of their program. Medication-assisted treatment involves using prescription medications such as naltrexone to treat opioid use disorder. Medications are typically used alongside counseling and behavioral therapies. All medications utilized are approved by the FDA and chosen to fit the particular needs of each patient.
Addiction facilities such as detoxification programs, residential programs, partial hospitalization, and outpatient may offer medication-assisted treatment. This combination of approaches provides a treatment plan that addresses multiple needs of a patient. Medication-assisted treatment alone helps people maintain their recovery, as well as contributes to preventing relapse and overdoses.
Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy helps improve successful treatment rates. A person whose first step towards recovery involves going into a treatment program can inquire about which programs offer this option.
Opioid and Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Texas
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