Naltrexone medication is a powerful addiction treatment, originally FDA approved as a treatment for alcoholics. It can also be used to help addicts abstain from opiate drugs. Low dose naltrexone is even being recognized as beneficial for chronic behavior disorders, including compulsive eating. Naltrexone is also effective in getting rid of certain infections and cancer.
All this and it’s a non-addictive, non-narcotic medication.
In the 1980’s, the FDA approved Naltrexone to assist heroin and opium addicts from continuing to use. It is prescribed after detox and has been highly successful. As part of an overall therapy for addiction recovery, it has been very effective with minimal health risks involved.
Naltrexone is administered in a pill form or with an extended release injectable version called Vivatrol. Patients can recover from opiate addiction, alcoholism or weight loss through slow release Naltrexone. It comes in a 50 mg dose for addiction treatment or a low dose version to normalize the immune system. It has been a highly effective method in preventing drug and alcohol relapse.
Why is Naltrexone Such a Powerful Addiction Treatment?
Naltrexone has so many facets in how it can help treat addiction. When combined with clonidine, it shortens the heroin or methadone detox process. It can do so by reducing detox down to just one day. Usually it takes two weeks. This is a major cost saver to the state or to the individual.
Using general anesthesia or heavy sedation with naltrexone can further shorten detox to 4-6 hours.
This has been highly beneficial for those who want to shorten their stay at an addiction treatment center. Also, there may be a fear in patients of the weeks of withdrawal discomfort.
Naltrexone hcl is an oral medication that has long acting opioid blocking capabilities. It was originally marketed for heroin addiction. This was initiated by the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention in the 1980’s.
NIDA was on board and put together the clinical studies. What NIDA found was that there was no organ or developmental toxicology. Naltrexone gave superior results when tested as a heroin treatment when compared to a placebo. In 1995, it was approved for preventing relapse in alcoholics trying to recover.
Various Prices of Naltrexone
The price if naltrexone hcl varies depending on the brand and type. There are 50mg, 100 mg, and 150 mg naltrexone tablets. There is also an extended-release injectable suspension that is good for a month.
- The price of Revia, which is the naltrexone brand name, is the highest. There are a variety of generic naltrexone tablets that cost less.
- The price of naltima, a naltrexone 50 mg tablet is about $25 for 10 tablets.
- The price of generic revia on some websites or at some stores may be less. For example, 30 tablets for $31.50 of naltrexone 50 mg.
- The price for VIVITROL® is substantially higher than the tablets. The plus side is that it’s much easier for people to manage because they don’t have to remember to take pills daily.
- The VIVITROL® price ranges from $1,300 – $1,700 per injection. There are co-pay savings programs that will cover up to $500 per month of that. The patient must be eligible for this program and it’s also dependent on the insurance carrier.
Naltrexone is a helpful part of addiction recovery treatment. As a non-narcotic opiate blocker, it can stop addicts from using certain drugs or alcohol. It’s unique within the medical industry because it’s non-addictive. Naltrexone prevents the high or alcohol effects. This takes away the reward process of using substances in the first place. The reward is a powerful motivator to keep addicts hooked. Naltrexone takes that aspect away from the user.
The use of naltrexone is an effective treatment for alcohol dependence. It stops the pleasurable sensations that alcoholics associate drinking with. Naltrexone isn’t a drug or alcohol substitute like many other addiction drugs.
It is a means of helping an addict cope with the underlying reasons they began substance abuse. It should be used in conjunction with someone who is getting the other help they need. This includes holistic healing and therapy.
Naltrexone may reduce the urge to drink alcohol. It can result in an alcoholic drinking less or stopping altogether. Think of Naltrexone as an aid to recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism and not a cure.
What is Naltrexone, and How Does it Work?
Naltrexone is an opiate blocker. It belongs to the drug family known as opiate antagonists. It works by blocking serotonin and dopamine from attaching to cells or nerve receptors in the brain, spine or gastrointestinal tract.
The result is that the user will feel no effect from opiate drugs or alcohol. It is used to stop the strong cravings that cause people to relapse.
Naltrexone was originally under the brand name Revia in pill form. It is now also available as a once-a-month injectable, which is administered by a licenced Naltrexone physician’s office. The injectable Naltrexone can also be administered by licensed professionals in outpatient treatment.
For the alcoholic, they will still become intoxicated if they drink. It’s just that the pleasure they were attached to will no longer be there. If someone is using Naltrexone, they will be less inhibited and more likely to conduct risky behavior.
It’s not known what the exact mechanism of action causes naltrexone’s effect. Reports have found that it successfully treats patients in three ways:
- Naltrexone reduces an alcoholic or drug addicts’ urge to use.
- Naltrexone 50 mg help addicts to abstain from the substances they’re addicted to.
- Naltrexone blocks an addicts desire to drink more if they do have a drink.
What is Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)?
LDN is a low dose version of naltrexone. It’s been FDA approved to normalize the immune system. This is effective for people who have HIV/AIDS, cancer, CNS disorders, or autoimmune diseases. This low dose Naltrexone can provide people living in developing countries a low-cost option. For example, in Africa, LDN can be used as low-cost therapy for HIV and AIDS that come with no side-effects.
So how is it that the 50mg Naltrexone that blocks pleasure from heroin use can also be used in lower doses to benefit cancer?
Naltrexone in a 50 mg dose blocks opioid receptors which prevents feeling the effects of substances. Low dose Naltrexone also blocks reception of opioid hormones that the brain and adrenal glands produce. Many of the internal parts of the body have receptors for these hormones. This is true down to our cells.
Lower dose Naltrexone helps the body’s immune system which can enhance a person’s response to HIV or cancer. There have been some dramatic accounts of LDN and its’ ability to fight against cancer. They’ve also found that LDN can quickly take control of autoimmune diseases like lupus.
LDN activates the body’s defense system by giving the immune system a boost.
Naltrexone for Alcoholics
Naltrexone works by helping people to drink less alcohol or completely abstain. Additionally, it makes drinking less desirable. The nature of the drug makes it relevant when used as part of a whole treatment plan. This includes counseling, support like 12-step programs (AA), and changes in lifestyle.
Alcohol dependence will hit a person on many levels. The physical and physiological addiction as well as the reason behind the addiction can become overwhelming. When a person is physiologically addicted to alcohol, they have to continue upping the amount they drink. This is so they won’t experience withdrawal. The withdrawal symptoms of alcohol can be extremely dangerous, even life threatening.
A main symptom of alcoholism is the cravings that come with withdrawal and tolerance. Due to the relationship between brain receptors and naltrexone, thoughts of drinking can be reduced. This helps prevent relapse. There are also no highs or lows when a person takes naltrexone.
Naltrexone can alleviate some of the main problems of abstaining to make recovery a more manageable experience. Clinical trials proved that naltrexone was effective in limiting both number and duration of drinking days in alcoholics.
Naltrexone for Opiate Addiction
Naltrexone was developed based on the “extinction” concept for opioid addiction. Opioids like heroin come with a euphoric effect that reinforces further use. When these effects of opioids are blocked with a narcotic antagonist, reasons for using are reduced.
The user will try to use heroin or prescription opioids but they will perceive it differently when there is no effect. This eventually causes the extinction of opioid abuse. As a potent mu antagonist with very little risk associated, it doesn’t reinforce further addictive behavior. There is no potential for abuse and has been seen as a highly favorable way to help recovery against opioids.
Professionals in addiction treatment believe naltrexone is an excellent way to motivate abstinence. The patient also has to also be motivated to abstain for the best results. The administering of naltrexone for opioid addiction should be just one element of treatment. Other parts of treatment should include:
- Rehabilitation measures.
- Compliance monitoring.
- Counseling and twelve step meetings like NA
- A total lifestyle change.
Naltrexone and Current Use of Opiates
There are very little side effects involved in naltrexone. One of them does include mixing opiates while taking naltrexone however. If someone is currently taking opiate and also uses naltrexone, they’ll experience instant withdrawal systems.
As part of the opiate antagonist class of drugs, it stops the opiate effects from reaching the brain. If it’s a prescription pain killer, the person will feel the pain. If a person takes heroin, there will be no feeling of well-being or euphoria.
This is why patients who are taking naltrexone carry a card. In the event something happens to them, medical staff will need to know they’re on naltrexone. This can determine what pain medications will be effective.
If a patient is undergoing elective surgery, they should stop taking naltrexone three days before. The primary class of drugs to alleviate post-surgical or chronic pain are opiates. When naltrexone is in the system, the drug is unable to “latch” onto the brain to change the perception of pain. Naltrexone doesn’t have impact on other medications however and can be combined with antibiotics and non-opioid painkillers.
Regardless, it’s important that medical professionals know a person is on naltrexone. Naltrexone is broken down by the liver. If a person is taking medications that affect liver function, it could affect the naltrexone dose.
Why Does Naltrexone Work for Weight Loss?
As of 1995, naltrexone became FDA approved for alcohol abuse intervention. It has been found to be useful for impulse control disorders also. This includes eating disorders. The most prominent reason people are overweight is due to how much they eat. The FDA approved a weight loss drug that incorporates naltrexone and is combined with bupropion.
While bupropion decreases the appetite and prevents depression, naltrexone curbs hunger and food cravings. Naltrexone, as a weight loss medication can also be used on its own. Although not FDA approved, there are many studies that suggest it’s helpful in weight loss.
Some patients will benefit from taking LDN for weight loss. Here are some of the ways that naltrexone can attribute to weight loss:
- Insulin resistance is reduced, helping to improve insulin sensitivity.
- Improves the hormone growth, improving lean muscle mass production.
- How much a person eats will match how much energy they’ve expended.
- Improves a person’s sleep which moderates blood sugar and inflammation.
- Improves thyroid function.
What is Naltrexone 50 mg Used For?
The 50 mg naltrexone dose is for treatment of addiction. The 50 mg dose of Naltrexone should be taken once a day. It should be used as part of a program determined by the addiction treatment specialists and the addict. As a 50 mg dose, naltrexone will block the physiological, subjective effects of heroin or morphine for 24 hours. It does the same thing for alcoholics.
After detox, a recovering alcoholic or opioid addict should be watched to ensure they take their naltrexone dose. If the addict is attending outpatient treatment, they may get a higher dose such as 100 mg or 150 mg. This makes it possible for the patient to visit the clinic every 2-3 days as opposed to daily.
A tablet will be labeled as naltrexone hcl which indicates “hydrochloride.” It indicates that the medicine can be easily absorbed into the body by the medical friendly hcl. This makes the naltrexone easily to handle and administer.
Hcl is used in medication to make it stable, and soluble. Hydrochloride causes the medication (naltrexone) to become longer lasting than its ‘freebase’ form.
Naltrexone Side Effects
Common side effects when taking naltrexone are minimal. Less than 10% of people suffered from the side effects that follow:
If someone drinks while they’re taking naltrexone, side effects will be due to withdrawal. Withdrawing from alcohol suddenly can be quite dangerous. Here are the withdrawal symptoms that can occur:
- Delirium tremens
Most patients state that if they did experience side effects, they were not intense and didn’t last long. Many patients didn’t feel a difference at all once they began taking naltrexone. People taking it won’t feel particularly high or low moods.
Patients being prescribed naltrexone will get blood tests to ensure their liver is functioning properly. This is because naltrexone could potentially cause liver toxicity. A small number of patients may experience side effects when taking naltrexone specifically for opiate addiction. They are opiate withdrawal symptoms that occur because an addict started taking naltrexone. This can include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Bone/joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
Doctors will judge the benefits as being greater than the risk of side effects when someone begins taking naltrexone. Whatever side effects do occur are not nearly as dangerous to the body as abusing alcohol or drugs were.
The medication naltrexone is a powerful way to fight addiction. It prevents relapse in a way that is non-addictive to the addict. It can be used with other drugs, as long as they’re not opioids or drugs that interfere with the liver.
Naltrexone is a great addition to an all-around treatment plan that will help addicts recover fully. This include counseling, twelve-step programs, holistic healing like meditation, and one-one-one therapy. There is no tapering off naltrexone medication and patients will not become dependent on it.
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