Scientific Recovery uses Naltrexone—a safe, effective, anti-craving medication to assist in the process of recovery from alcohol dependence.
Naltrexone is a medication that blocks the effects of drugs known as opioids, a class that includes morphine, heroin, and codeine. Naltrexone competes with these drugs for space on opioid receptors in the brain. It was originally used to treat dependence on opioid drugs but has also been approved by the FDA as treatment for alcohol dependence.
HOW NALTREXONE WORKS
While the precise mechanism of action for Naltrexone is unknown, medical researchers believe that Naltrexone blocks the ability of alcohol to stimulate the release of endorphins, while at the same time jump starting the normal production and release of endorphins, thus effectively suppressing the craving or thought process to drink.
NALTREXONE WORKS QUICKLY
Naltrexone is effective within one hour of ingestion.
HOW NALTREXONE FEELS
Patients usually report that they are largely unaware of being on Naltrexone. Naltrexone is not addicting, either emotionally or physically, and can be interrupted without adverse effects. While it does reduce alcohol craving, it does not interfere with the experience of other types of pleasure.
SIDE EFFECTS OF NALTREXONE
The most common side effects of Naltrexone affect only a small minority of people and include the following: nausea (10%), headache (7%), dizziness (4%), fatigue (4%), insomnia (3%), anxiety (2%), and sleepiness (2%). These side effects are usually mild and of short duration. Blood tests of liver function can be performed prior to the onset of treatment if a physician feels that it is necessary. Liver function testing may be done periodically during treatment to determine whether Naltrexone should be discontinued if the extremely rare side effect of liver toxicity is taking place.
COURSE OF TREATMENT WITH NALTREXONE
If Naltrexone is tolerated, the recommended initial course of treatment is 180 days. At that time the need for further treatment with Naltrexone is evaluated. This evaluation takes into account how much the patient has improved and concerns about relapse.
DRINKING WHILE TAKING NALTREXONE
If you drink while taking Naltrexone, the medication may reduce both the feeling of intoxication and the desire to drink more. However, the effects of alcohol that impair coordination and judgment will not be reduced. Impairment is caused by elevated blood sugar and Naltrexone does not impact blood sugar levels. Naltrexone will not cause a severe physical response to drinking.
NALTREXONE AND PREGNANCY
Pregnant women should not use Naltrexone, as studies have never been undertaken to determine the safety of Naltrexone during pregnancy.
NALTREXONE AND OTHER MEDICATIONS
The major active effect of Naltrexone is on opioid drugs, which is one class of drugs used primarily to treat pain but is also found in some prescription cough preparations. Naltrexone will block the effect of normal doses of this type of drug. There are many non-narcotic pain relievers that can be used effectively while you are on Naltrexone. Likewise, Naltrexone is likely to have little impact on other medications patients commonly use such as antibiotics, non-opioid analgesics (e.g., aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen), and those commonly prescribed for allergies. You should inform your physician of whatever medication you are currently taking so that possible interactions can be evaluated. Because the liver breaks down Naltrexone, other medications that can affect liver function may affect the dose of Naltrexone.
NALTREXONE WITH SURGERY OR PAIN MEDICATION
You should carry a card explaining that you are on Naltrexone and that also instructs physicians on pain management. Many pain medications that are not opioids are available for use. If you are going to have elective surgery, Naltrexone should be discontinued at least 72 hours beforehand.
Naltrexone does not cause physical dependence and can be stopped at any time without withdrawal symptoms. In addition, available findings regarding cessation do not show a "rebound" effect to resume alcohol use when Naltrexone is discontinued.
While effective, it must be remembered that Naltrexone is a tool to assist an individual in the process of recovery, and is not a cure in itself. Numerous studies conclude that Naltrexone, in combination with recovery program support, significantly enhances the ability to achieve positive recovery results.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Naltrexone and Alcoholism Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) #28 presents a thorough research-based discussion of Naltrexone.
"In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity." - Albert Einstein