Naltrexone for Opioid Addiction – Only a Start of Opioid Addiction Recovery

Naltrexone for Opioid Addiction - Only a Start of Opioid Addiction Recovery

Naltrexone for Opioid Addiction – Only a Start of Opioid Addiction Recovery

If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid addiction, you may have heard of the drug called naltrexone. This long-acting, injectable medication blocks the brain’s opioid receptors that normally bind with heroin, morphine, or other opioids. As a result, patients no longer experience the euphoric highs, pain relief, and calming effects of opioid drugs. Naltrexone use can help patients recover from opioid addiction by reducing the urge to use drugs to satisfy their needs or cravings. [1]

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the practice of using prescribed drugs to combat an addiction to other more dangerous drugs.

MAT can be a useful component in addiction recovery. Medications, like naltrexone, help to reduce cravings and other symptoms of withdrawal. This helps make the process of getting clean and staying clean, more comfortable for the patient.

It’s important to note that while naltrexone is an effective medication when used as part of a comprehensive drug treatment program, it should not be the only treatment method. Naltrexone is fine when used for MAT by qualified physicians [2], but far more critical for long-term recovery is the accompanying therapy, care, and support offered by a full treatment program.

What Side Effects Does Naltrexone Have?

Perhaps the riskiest aspect of naltrexone use is the following, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

Patients who relapse and use opioids again after taking naltrexone and abstaining from opioid use for a time will have a lower tolerance for opioids and a higher risk of a fatal overdose. This is true even if they use a lower dose of opioids than they have used in the past. [1]

SAMHSA explained why this happens:

“Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids, such as heroin or opioid pain medicines. Patients who try to overcome this blocking effect by taking large amounts of opioids may experience serious injury, coma, or death.

After receiving a dose of naltrexone, the blocking effect slowly decreases and completely goes away over time. Patients who are taking naltrexone for an OUD can become more sensitive to the effects of opioids at the dose used before, or even lower amounts. Using opioids while on naltrexone can lead to overdose and death.” [1]

Opioid Addiction is a Serious Problem

More than 67,000 people died in 2018 from a drug overdose, and a staggering 70% of those overdoses were from opioids. [3] The fact that relapse after using naltrexone may increase the risk of a fatal overdose cannot be overstated.

This medication may also interact negatively with other medicines, drugs, or alcohol in the system. Therefore, doctors request that patients starting naltrexone should be clean from opioids for 7-14 days, depending on which drug they used. Patients should also abstain from drinking alcohol and using drugs while on naltrexone. They will need to inform their doctors of any prescriptions they are taking at the same time. [1]

The most common side effects you may experience are: [1]

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Dizziness and sleepiness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Headaches
  • Common cold symptoms
  • Toothaches

More severe side effects include:

  • Allergic reactions or reactions at the site of the injection
  • Depression
  • Pneumonia
  • Liver damage

Why is Using Naltrexone for Opioid Overdose Only the Beginning of the Journey?

MAT can help make patients more comfortable. It also eases the urges to use opioids through the roughest parts of the withdrawal process. However, this is only one part of what often becomes a lifelong journey of recovery.

Regardless of whether you use naltrexone for opioid addiction in the short term, take charge of your long-term recovery by joining a comprehensive and holistic treatment program.

Clear Life Recovery can help you pick up where your naltrexone treatment left off, or offer you an alternative to medication-assisted withdrawal treatment. From the moment of intervention, through the acute detox phase, and on into your long-term care, we combine spiritual, mental, and physical treatment to help you heal both inside and out.

Call us today or fill out our online contact form to let Clear Life Recovery guide you along your path to health and recovery.