There is no cure for physical dependence upon any illicit substance, but there are a number of medications that have been approved for the treatment of specific withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone is one of them, but many patients find that it’s not a good fit for their recovery.
Why? When taken in the form of Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, it is often abused by patients – or others patients report that they forget to take the medication. Either way, the drug cannot work the way it is intended in these patients, so researchers have been looking for a way to overcome these pitfalls while still maximizing the benefits of naltrexone in a person’s recovery.
The result? Naltrexone implants. Highly controversial in nature and not yet approved for therapeutic use, this new version of the drug may be on the horizon for drug addiction treatment.
What Is Naltrexone?
Naltrexone is commonly used to help patients address issues related to alcohol detox and detox from opiates like heroin or prescription painkillers (e.g., OxyContin, hydrocodone and various medications that include either of these substances). Naltrexone works by binding to the opiate receptors in the brain and blocking any heroin or other opiate drug taken. No matter which substance the patient takes first, an opiate drug or naltrexone, the naltrexone will knock the opiate substance off the receptor, which immediately stops the patient from feeling the effects of the drug.
It’s not a pleasant feeling for the patient when they are still physically dependent upon the opiate substance; many report feeling very ill when they have both drugs in their system at the same time. When the physical dependence has been treated in detox, the patient will simply feel no positive effect from relapse; they won’t get high and will simply waste the drugs or alcohol. Because of this, use of naltrexone has been effective in helping patients to avoid relapse during recovery.
How Are Naltrexone Implants Different?
One of the biggest obstacles to recovery for patients attempting to overcome opiate addiction is the psychological dependence upon the drug. Though they may be free of their physical dependence after detox, many miss using the drug or the lifestyle that goes along with active addiction and want to get high. If they are taking pills that include naltrexone and they are aware of the pending effects, they will simply stop taking their medication until it is out of their system and relapse without experiencing the ill effects of combining the drugs.
If the drug is administered in implant form, then this stops this behavior before it can start, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia. Relapses can be addressed therapeutically when relapse is virtually impossible, allowing the patient to get through the rough spots in recovery and continue along their path without backsliding or, worse, overdosing.
Will Naltrexone Implants Be Effective for Your Loved One?
The use of any medication will have its pros and cons that vary from patient to patient. No one form or philosophy of care is right for everyone who struggles with opiate addiction across the board – except for the philosophy of personalized treatment tailor-made to the needs of the individual.
Though naltrexone implants may not be available or appropriate for your loved one during treatment, oral naltrexone and a host of other medications may be an option and certainly warrant a discussion with a substance abuse treatment coordinator here at Black Bear Lodge. Contact us now to get the answers you need to get started.