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What is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is an FDA-approved opioid antagonist designed to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opioid addiction. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at its role in alcohol and opioid addiction treatment by answering the following:

What Does The Drug Naltrexone Do?

As a tool to help with substance dependence, naltrexone blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of opioids and prevents you from becoming impaired. Naltrexone can be prescribed in a pill form for AUD or as an extended-release injection for both AUD and opioid use disorder (OUD). Naltrexone is approved as a component of a comprehensive treatment program for alcohol and opioid dependence, which also includes counseling and therapies.

As mentioned before, naltrexone blocks the effects of opioid receptors to stop people from experiencing a “high” or euphoria from a substance. This can help to reduce urges to drink alcohol or use opioids and keep people from relapsing.

Side Effects Of Naltrexone

Treatment with naltrexone is proven to be an effective tool for various substance abuse disorders. That said, there are side effects, like any medication, that are important to be aware of.

Common Side Effects

  • Abdominal or stomach cramping or pain (mild or moderate)
  • Anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, or trouble sleeping
  • Headache
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unusual tiredness

Less Common Side Effects

  • Chills
  • Constipation
  • Cough, hoarseness, runny or stuffy nose, sinus problems, sneezing, or sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Increased thirst
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sexual problems in males
  • Skin rash

Rare Side Effects

  • Abdominal or stomach pain
  • Blurred vision, aching, burning, or swollen eyes
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Discomfort while urinating or frequent urination
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations or seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there
  • Itching
  • Depression or other mood or mental changes
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the face, feet, or lower legs
  • Weight gain

The following side effects require medical attention, and you should let your doctor know as soon as you experience any of them:

  • Abdominal or stomach pain (severe)
  • Blurred vision, aching, burning, or swollen eyes
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dark urine
  • Discomfort while urinating or frequent urination
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations or seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there
  • Itching
  • Mental depression or other mood or mental changes
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • Shortness of breath, trouble breathing
  • Swelling of the face, feet, or lower legs
  • Weight gain
  • Skin rash

Side effects are a common part of most medications, naltrexone being no different, but keep in mind which symptoms are usual versus which are rarer. Keep in mind that as you are taking naltrexone, you may also experience withdrawal symptoms from the absence of substances. Regardless of the symptoms you experience, always call your doctor to update them so they can give you the best support.

Is Naltrexone Considered A Narcotic?

No, naltrexone is not a narcotic. It functions by blocking the effects of narcotics and alcohol, like euphoria, to deter relapse. Similarly, patients who use naltrexone will not become mentally or physically dependent, nor will they experience a “high” from using the antagonist.

How Long Do Patients Stay On Naltrexone?

On average, patients will take naltrexone for at least 12 weeks. Research shows that using it long-term, for over three months, is most effective in helping alcoholics stay in recovery. In the pill form, patients are usually prescribed around 25 milligrams (mg) to begin with, 25 mg an hour later, and then 350 mg weekly. As an injection, patients receive 380 mg once per month.

Is Suboxone The Same As Naltrexone?

No, suboxone and naltrexone are different medications with the same goal of curbing opioid drug cravings. Suboxone contains two key ingredients: buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist to block opiate receptors, and naloxone, a counteractor against opioid effects. Naltrexone, on the other hand, works as an opioid antagonist.

Who Should Not Take Naltrexone?

You must stop opioid use seven to 10 days before starting naltrexone. It can still block the effects of opioids, but overdoses of opioids can occur. Likewise, naltrexone is not for people with certain types of liver disease or who take opioids to control chronic pain.

Harmony Junction Recovery is Your Home for Long-Term Sobriety

Our team believes in a comprehensive treatment plan with a balance of medication, behavioral therapies, and counseling. You or your loved one will be in the best of hands with our detox and recovery programs. Please contact us to learn more about recovery and how we can help.