The first few months of recovery from alcoholism can be quite difficult, but pharmacological aids like naltrexone can help. By competing for opioid receptors in the brain, naltrexone can aid recovery for alcohol addiction.
Double-blind clinical trials found that naltrexone users had twice the abstention rates and half the relapse rates as the placebo group. However, the medication does not help all users and does have side effects. For this reason, naltrexone should only be used after talking with your doctor.
The Pros and Cons of Naltrexone Use
A naltrexone regimen typically begins 10 days after a patient stops drinking, and it continues for about 12 weeks. Naltrexone is not a detox drug, and its use during detox or alcohol consumption can instigate or aggravate withdrawal symptoms. Overall, it can be a helpful medication, but its use has both pros and cons.
- Affects the brain so there is less demand for alcohol
- Essentially tricks the addiction into thinking its cravings were satisfied
- Helps in the early months when the foundation for recovery is being set
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramping
- Constipation, headaches and dizziness
- Mood swings and sleep-pattern changes
- Rare occurrences of hallucinations
- Liver damage if taking excessive doses
Doctor supervision is important because naltrexone can cause an allergic reaction and is unsafe for people with hepatitis and kidney or liver problems. Likewise, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid the medication.
Naltrexone and Alcohol Treatment
This medication is not a cure for alcoholism. To be effective patients should take naltrexone during recovery in a treatment program. If you or a loved one battle alcohol addiction, the first step is professional rehab. A strong recovery begins with addiction treatments like the following:
- Alcohol detox in a comfortable facility under medical supervision
- Integrated treatment for mood disorders like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder
- Behavioral therapies to instill healthy habits and positive attitudes
- Relapse-prevention techniques to resist drug-use triggers and potential setbacks
- Ongoing aftercare counseling and recovery support groups
After detox patients are empowered with new skills to maximize recovery. In this process, naltrexone is a complementary, not a primary one. It can help people resist alcohol cravings, but real recovery comes from a thorough treatment program.
Information on Naltrexone
Are you fighting an alcohol addiction or struggling in your recovery? Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline, 855-808-6212, to speak with an addiction specialist. We can answer questions about treatment, rehab facilities, naltrexone use and signs that a recovery is wavering. Treatment is covered by many health insurance companies, and we can even check your policy for benefits. Alcoholism is too dangerous an addiction to delay getting help.