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NALTREXONE 101

The naltrexone implant is a uniquely effective tool in addiction treatment.

Naltrexone medication

Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication that significantly reduces the oppressive cravings associated with opioids and alcohol use disorders. It functions by blocking the reinforcing pleasure receptors in the brain that manifest the sensations of craving and stimulate ongoing drug seeking. In addition, if an individual drinks alcohol or uses prescription or illicit opioids (heroin) while taking naltrexone, the euphoric effects of the drug will be minimized or blocked entirely.

Naltrexone has been approved for treating opioid use disorder since 1984 and alcohol use disorder since 1994. Medical professionals around the world have been using this resource to help tens of thousands of people successfully overcome their addiction.

Traditionally, naltrexone has been available in the oral or injectable form. Compliance with daily oral medication during the hyper-acute phase of early recovery has demonstrated extraordinarily high likelihood of failure. In addition, monthly injections require a high degree of follow up and compliance, and patient dropout is common. 

Naltrexone implant difference

The challenge of medication compliance is overcome by the naltrexone implant.

Placed just beneath the skin in the lower abdomen, the implant slowly releases naltrexone into the body over a period of many months as it is being absorbed and metabolized (time period varies depending on various factors). The simple in-office procedure can be completed in 20 minutes, enabling addiction recovery to begin right away. Most important, the patient is not required to make medication decisions over and over again.

 

With cravings significantly reduced or eliminated, the individual is provided an extended opportunity to focus on and address underlying issues, develop new life skills and establish healthier habits as they work toward lifelong recovery. For many, long-acting naltrexone is an absolutely critical component within a recovery program in order to reach their goals.

Naltrexone is not a miracle cure

While some patients have reported “immediate elimination of cravings” within hours of receiving the naltrexone implant, it is not an addiction cure. Although the naltrexone implant is an effective tool in the difficult battle against addiction, a person must be strongly engaged in their recovery efforts for the best result. They must be willing to participate in the psycho-social/behavioral component of a comprehensive treatment program in conjunction with the implant. With an earnest desire for recovery and the naltrexone implant to significantly reduce or eliminate cravings, countless individuals have been able to achieve lasting sobriety, even if they have been unsuccessful in previous recovery efforts.

Naltrexone side effects

Naltrexone has a proven record of safety and is a well-tolerated medication. The side effects of naltrexone are typically mild and transient, but be aware, some side effects can be more serious or concerning. If you notice any of the following side effects, the National Institutes of Health advises that you tell your doctor as soon as possible:

More Common

  • abdominal or stomach cramping or pain (mild or moderate)
  • anxiety, nervousness, restlessness or trouble sleeping
  • headache
  • joint or muscle pain
  • nausea or vomiting
  • unusual tiredness

Less Common

  • chills
  • constipation
  • cough, hoarseness, runny or stuffy nose, sinus problems, sneezing, or sore throat
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • fast or pounding heartbeat
  • increased thirst
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • sexual problems in males

Rare

  • abdominal or stomach pain (severe)
  • blurred vision, aching, burning, or swollen eyes
  • chest pain
  • confusion
  • discomfort while urinating or frequent urination
  • fever
  • hallucinations or seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there
  • itching
  • mental depression or other mood or mental changes
  • ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of the face, feet, or lower legs
  • weight gain

In rare cases, in high doses, naltrexone has been noted to have inflammatory effects on the liver, so routine blood testing of liver function should be performed prior to treatment. Uncommonly, program participants may report depression or exacerbation of pre-existing mood disorders, including suicidal ideation.

Who should get the naltrexone implant?

Those with a history of addiction relapse are usually good candidates for the naltrexone implant, but ultimately an experienced medical professional should make that determination. By reducing a person’s cravings, naltrexone is far more likely to prevent relapses while therapeutic levels exist in the body. With physical cravings significantly reduced, people have less desire to use drugs or consume alcohol. If the individual is truly seeking abstinence, effective reduction of cravings is a very beneficial tool.

As a group, people struggling with addiction, or the early phases of recovery, are noteworthy for medication non-compliance. This has proven to obstruct favorable outcomes in a recovery. The naltrexone implant overcomes the critical imposition of patient medication compliance.