Naltrexone is a powerful tool in the fight against alcohol use disorder. It has been used for years to help people reduce their drinking, but it also has other benefits that have only recently been discovered.
Let’s take a closer look at naltrexone and how it can help people struggling with alcohol use disorder.
What is Naltrexone?
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist developed in the 1970s to treat opioid addiction. It works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain, which reduces cravings and helps reduce the risk of relapse into opioid abuse.
Naltrexone is also used as part of treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD). It works similarly to how it does for opioid addiction by blocking certain types of receptors in the brain associated with reward-seeking behaviors like drinking alcohol. By blocking these receptors, naltrexone can reduce cravings and make it easier for someone to control their drinking.
How Does Naltrexone Work?
Naltrexone affects your body’s endorphin system, which creates feelings of pleasure when you drink or take drugs. The drug binds to receptors in the brain, blocking the release of endorphins that create those feelings. This helps reduce cravings for alcohol, making it easier to avoid drinking. It also reduces the pleasure you get from drinking if you decide to indulge again.
Naltrexone can be taken as a pill or injection; however, injections may have more side effects than pills due to their increased potency levels. Research has shown that naltrexone can help reduce craving levels, decrease the risk of relapse, improve overall functioning and increase the quality of life in people with alcohol use disorder. It’s important to note that naltrexone is most effective when combined with counseling and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Common Side Effects of Naltrexone
Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite are some of the most common side effects of naltrexone. It is also possible to experience headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness. Some people may also have difficulty sleeping or experience insomnia. Other possible side effects include constipation, muscle or joint pain, and dry mouth. These symptoms are usually mild and temporary, but if they persist or worsen over time, you must contact your doctor immediately.
Less Common Side Effects
In addition to more common side effects of naltrexone, there are also some less common ones that should be noted. These include chest pain or tightness; irregular heartbeat; easy bruising or bleeding; shaking (tremors); unusual tiredness; fever; sore throat; confusion; hallucinations; blurred vision; yellowing of skin or eyes (jaundice); dark urine; rash; itching or hives on the skin; swelling in feet and hands (edema); difficulty breathing or swallowing. Again, if you experience any of these while on naltrexone, you must contact your doctor immediately so they can adjust the dose if necessary.
More Serious Side Effects
In rare cases, more serious side effects can occur when taking naltrexone, such as severe allergic reactions, which may include rash, itching/swelling (especially of face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, and trouble breathing. If this occurs, seek medical help immediately. Other serious side effects can include seizures and signs of infection, such as fever, chills, and a sore throat that does not go away with over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If these occur, contact your doctor immediately so they can adjust your dosage accordingly.
Naltrexone as Treatment
Overall, naltrexone can be a powerful ally in the fight against alcohol use disorder. It helps reduce cravings, making it easier for someone struggling with AUD to resist temptation and control their drinking habits.
In addition, taking naltrexone may improve mood and sleep patterns which can provide further support on the journey towards sobriety or moderation of one’s drinking habits. If you or someone you know is struggling with AUD, talk to your doctor about whether naltrexone might be right for them.