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Naltrexone Abuse and Addiction
Naltrexone is a medication used to treat opioid drug addiction as well as alcohol use disorders. It is an opioid antagonist and does not produce any high, making it a medication that is not a likely candidate for abuse and addiction itself.
What is Naltrexone
Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication for treating opioid use disorders and alcoholism. It is utilized in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs within substance abuse treatment centers as a safe and effective means of blocking the euphoric, pain-relieving, and sedative effects of drugs like morphine, codeine, and heroin in the body. Both the injectable form of Naltrexone and the oral Naltrexone drug attaches to the opioid receptors in the body, blocking drugs from attaching to the same receptors (which stops the person from getting high if they relapse and use opioid drugs), and also stopping the body from producing withdrawal symptoms and reducing drug cravings.
Naltrexone comes in pill form under the brand names ReVia or Depade, which are 50-milligram tablets taken once a day with or without food. The injectable form of Naltrexone is called Vivitrol, which is given as an intramuscular injection once a month. You should not be given this drug until after opioid withdrawal is complete, 10 to 14 days after your final use, because it can trigger intensely strong and dangerous withdrawal symptoms that could cause significant health issues. Suboxone, a partial agonist, is another medication used for opioid detox and recovery and is composed of a combination of Naloxone and Buprenorphine.
Using either formulation of Naltrexone for treating alcohol use disorder is also common. It binds to the endorphin receptors in the brain and body, blocking the pleasant effects you get from drinking alcohol, while simultaneously reducing cravings. It does not stop the intoxication aspect of drinking but makes it feel unpleasant, which is why Naltrexone is an effective addition to alcohol addiction treatment, reducing the risk of relapsing.
When you start your Naltrexone treatments in a MAT program, you may experience side effects like:
- Muscle cramps
- Flu-like symptoms
- Changes in appetite
There are also less-common effects that should be reported to your doctor, including:
- Liver damage/hepatitis
- Reactions at the injection site
- Allergic reactions
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Allergic pneumonia
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
One of the major issues that can occur when on a Naltrexone treatment plan is that because it blocks the pleasant aspects of using opioid drugs, a person who relapses and tries to overpower its effects by taking more opioids can easily overdose.
If you are still using opioid drugs or drinking alcohol when you begin your Naltrexone treatment (i.e. you do not complete your detox first), you will suffer very strong adverse effects, including intense withdrawal symptoms, nausea, vomiting, and dangerous issues that may include seizures or delirium tremens.
Signs of Naltrexone Abuse and Addiction
Naltrexone is not an opioid drug and is not chemically addictive, so there is little to no potential for abuse. It does not produce pleasant sensations, nor will it get you high. Instead, it does the opposite, working by blocking the good feelings of drug and alcohol production.
Naltrexone Withdrawal Symptoms
Because Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication that does not cause withdrawal symptoms, it is safe to stop using it at any time. For this reason, it has become one of the most preferred relapse prevention aids in the United States for opioid use disorder and alcoholism, alongside therapy, behavioral treatment plans, and mental health treatments.
Long Term Side Effects of Naltrexone Abuse
For some people who take Naltrexone for months or years, there may be the potential for liver damage. This is an issue that can easily be monitored by regular blood tests and liver function tests. As a patient, you can also be on the lookout for yellowing eyes or skin, stomach pain, or stomach issues like serious nausea and vomiting. In very few cases, Naltrexone can trigger depressive episodes and suicidal ideation, which must be taken seriously and reported to medical professionals right away.
Naltrexone Addiction Treatment
At Muse Rehab, we provide integrated substance abuse treatments that may include medication-assisted treatment along with behavioral therapy, group therapy, holistic treatments, and evidence-based care for a customized and integrated approach to healing. You will have the option of inpatient rehab and/or outpatient treatment programs with partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and aftercare outpatient programs. Therapies and treatments may include:
- Individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy
- Educational programs
- Art therapy
- Nutrition and physical fitness
- Life skills and vocational skills programs
- 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous
To learn more about how our caring, non-judgmental, trauma-informed experts can help you overcome your opiate addiction or alcohol addiction, verify insurance coverage, or to ask any other questions about substance abuse treatment, please call us today. We will help you onto your own personal road to recovery through integrated care programs that will help you take back control over your health and your life.