Friday Factoids Catch-Up: Understanding Naltrexone

Unfortunately, in the world we all live in today, most of us know someone who is suffering from opioid and/or alcohol addiction. That or we are struggling with it in our own lives. Regardless of the initial purpose behind using either substance, finding a true cure for those who have become addicted to these substances has become vital, and even more urgent. Enter Naltrexone.

 

Naltrexone is a prescription drug that is predominantly used in the management of opioid and alcohol dependence. It is sold under the legal trade names of Revia, Depade, and Vivitrol (a once-monthly, extended-released, injectable formulation).  Naltrexone is also being used to help save the lives of individuals who have overdosed on opioids. EMS units, ER’s, and even pharmacies carry it for this exact purpose. It literally reverses the effects of opioids within minutes, but how does it work for addiction?

 

For opioid addiction, naltrexone acts as a blocking agent. It attaches itself to opioid receptors in the brain. It then prevents the receptors from up-taking any the substance which in turn prevents the pleasurable feelings caused by the opioids.  However, it does not prevent good feelings that come from other naturally pleasurable activities.  This action makes it very beneficial, along with therapy, to assist with opioid relapse prevention.

 

For alcohol addiction, scientists and doctors are not certain how Naltrexone works but do know it decreases the cravings for alcohol. It is hypothesized that, as with opioid addiction, it works as a blocking agent and prevents the pleasurable feelings drinking alcohol promotes because it partially prevents the uptake of endorphins associated with euphoric inebriation.

 

Whether taken for alcohol or opioid addiction, Naltrexone does have serious side effects. These include confusion, auditory and/or visual hallucinations, blurred vision, severe vomiting and/or diarrhea, and liver damage. The less severe and more common side effects are nausea, difficulty falling or staying asleep, increased or decreased energy, drowsiness. muscle or joint pain, rash, vomiting, stomach pain or cramping, mild diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, headache, dizziness, anxiety, nervousness, irritability and/or tearfulness.

 

Any individual interested in obtaining a prescription for Naltrexone would need to consult with their medical doctor and be undergoing outpatient/inpatient therapy for substance abuse treatment.

 

Work Cited
Naltrexone: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2016, from             https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a685041.html

 

VIVITROL® Official Site | VIVITROL® (Naltrexone for extended-release injectable       suspension). (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2016, from https://www.vivitrol.com/

 

Crystal Bray,
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

 

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