America is in the grip of an opioid epidemic, and millions of people are suffering from it. Opioid use can have harmful consequences ranging from physical health problems to financial issues. Fortunately, there are ways to address opioid use disorder, including naltrexone.

Naltrexone is a medication that effectively reduces cravings and prevents relapse. By blocking the effects of drugs in the brain, naltrexone reduces the desire to use them. What’s more, it has also shown promise as a treatment for alcohol use disorder.

In this blog post, we will find out how naltrexone works, its effectiveness, potential side effects, and how it compares to other medication-assisted treatments. 

what is Naltrexone

Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is a medical condition characterized by the persistent and compulsive use of opioids, despite the negative consequences that come with it. Opioids are a class of drugs that involve both prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as illegal drugs like heroin.

What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Opioid Use?

Opioid addiction can develop due to various reasons. One common cause is the over-prescription of opioids by healthcare providers. When individuals are prescribed opioids for pain management, they may develop a physical dependence on the drug, which can quickly turn into addiction if the drug is not properly managed.

Another common cause of opioid addiction is illegal drugs, such as heroin. These drugs are highly addictive and can lead to the development of OUD very quickly.

Risk factors for developing OUD include a history of substance abuse, mental health disorders, and a family history of addiction. Additionally, certain environmental factors, such as social isolation or chronic stress, can increase an individual’s risk of developing opioid addiction.

Symptoms and Effects of Opioid Use

The common signs of opioid addiction include:

  • Continued use of opioids, despite negative consequences such as job loss, financial problems, or relationship difficulties
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit or reduce opioid use
  • Building up a tolerance to the drug, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effects
  • Spending significant amounts of time obtaining, using, and recovering from opioid use
  • Neglecting responsibilities or activities that were once enjoyable in favor of using opioids

Naltrexone as a Treatment Option

Naltrexone is a medication that treats opioid and alcohol use disorders. It is an opioid antagonist, which blocks the effects of opioids in the brain. Naltrexone is available in various forms, including a pill, an injection, and an implant.

what does naltrexone do for opioids


What Does Naltrexone Help With?

Naltrexone is primarily used to treat opioid addiction, including both prescription painkillers and illegal drugs such as heroin. It can also be used to treat alcohol addiction by reducing cravings and decreasing the pleasurable effects of alcohol.

How Does Naltrexone Work to Treat Opioid Use Disorder?

Naltrexone binds to the same receptors in the brain that opioids bind to. However, instead of activating these receptors, naltrexone blocks them, preventing opioids from having their typical effect on the brain. This can help reduce cravings for opioids and prevent relapse.

Forms of Naltrexone

Naltrexone is available in several forms, including a daily pill, a monthly injection, and an implant lasting several months. The pill is typically taken once a day, while the injection is given once a month. The implant is inserted under the skin and slowly releases the medication over several months.

Potential Side Effects of Naltrexone

Like any medication, naltrexone can have side effects. This includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Other side effects may include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. In rare cases, naltrexone can cause liver damage, so regular monitoring of liver function is necessary.

It’s important to note that naltrexone should only be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, which may include counseling, behavioral therapies, and other medications. It is not a magic cure for addiction, but when used appropriately, it can be an effective tool for helping people overcome opioid use disorder.

Naltrexone side effects

Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

Effectiveness of Naltrexone

Naltrexone is a medication commonly used as part of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. While it is not as widely used as other MAT medications, such as methadone and buprenorphine, research has shown that naltrexone can be effective in reducing cravings for opioids and preventing relapse.

Several studies evaluated the effectiveness of naltrexone in treating opioid addiction. A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that patients who received naltrexone were more likely to remain abstinent from opioids than those who received a placebo.

Another study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that naltrexone was effective in reducing cravings for opioids and improving treatment retention.

Comparison to Other Medication-Assisted Treatments

Naltrexone has some limitations, including the fact that it is less effective at reducing withdrawal symptoms and may not be appropriate for patients who are not yet in recovery.

Meanwhile, methadone and buprenorphine are opioid agonists, meaning they activate the same receptors in the brain that opioids do. This can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids, making it easier for patients to recover. However, these medications are opioids, so they can be addictive and may be subject to misuse.

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In conclusion, Naltrexone has shown promise in helping individuals overcome opioid addiction by reducing cravings and preventing relapse. While other medication-assisted treatments like methadone and buprenorphine also work, they carry the risk of addiction and misuse. 

Therefore, Naltrexone can be a valuable tool in a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling, behavioral therapies, and other medications, offering hope for those struggling with opioid addiction.

If you know someone struggling with opioid use disorder, know our doors open for you.

Enrolling in Portland rehab, such as Oregon Trail Recovery, can make a huge difference in achieving and maintaining recovery.