What is naltrexone?

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of other narcotic substances. Naltrexone is non-addictive and it is not a narcotic. Naltrexone can be taken as a daily pill or monthly injection, and it is approved by the FDA to treat both OUDs and alcohol use disorders. 

Naltrexone is safe and effective in reducing cravings of both alcohol and opioids, and there is no risk of abuse when using this MAT. Naltrexone can aid in relapse prevention because it dampens an individual’s experience of euphoria when using opioid drugs or alcohol. It is critical, however, that individuals using naltrexone do not use drugs, alcohol, or other prescription medications that have not been approved by the treating physician. Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioid drugs, and thus individuals experiencing a relapse while on naltrexone may try to take more of the illicit drug to override the dampened effect caused by naltrexone. This can lead to accidental overdose and serious complications. It is critical that clients taking naltrexone formulate comprehensive relapse prevention and relapse management plans to reduce risk of accidental overdose in the event of a relapse.

What to expect when starting a naltrexone regimen

Unlike methadone, naltrexone can be prescribed in medical offices, thus naltrexone offers an increased level of convenience and accessibility. However, the reduction in structure when compared to the methadone maintenance treatment program may present as a disadvantage for some clients. Additional structure and support can be added through IOP and other comprehensive treatment programs offered at Root Center. 

A primary benefit of naltrexone is the opportunity to take it in a monthly injectable form. This reduces the need for frequent medical visits and can provide convenience and security for the individual in recovery. 

Clients interested in starting naltrexone should complete a detoxification period from opioids and certain MATs (including methadone) prior to starting naltrexone. If you need to complete a detoxification prior to starting naltrexone, Root Center’s caring and compassionate staff will work with you to develop a plan. 

As with all medications used in MAT programs, naltrexone is one part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes group therapy, individual therapy, and a focus on developing a solid social support network. 

If a client decides to discontinue use of naltrexone, they should consult with the treating physician to ensure a smooth transition off of the MAT. It is important to note that periods of abstinence from opioid use may reduce tolerance and increase the risk of accidental overdose in the case of a relapse. Studies indicate that naltrexone is most effective when used for a minimum of three months, and the duration of treatment will vary depending on each individual’s needs and response.

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