Naltrexone Therapy & Rehab
Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication that is used as a form of medication-assisted treatment for both alcohol and opioid use disorders.1 It was initially developed in 1963, but was approved to treat opioid addiction in 1984 and alcohol use disorder in 1994.2,3 Naltrexone is available in pill form as ReVia or Depade, and there is a long-acting injectable version that is given monthly known as Vivitrol.1 ,3,4 These medications are recognized as helpful and are covered by Medicaid in Nevada.4
This page is designed to help you learn more about naltrexone and answer some questions that you may have, including:
- What is naltrexone?
- How does naltrexone work?
- What is low-dose naltrexone used to treat?
- Does insurance cover low-dose naltrexone?
- What is the difference between naltrexone treatment for opioid addiction/alcohol use disorder and other types of medication-assisted treatment?
- How long does naltrexone last?
- What are the side effects associated with naltrexone?
- What should I avoid when taking naltrexone?
- Is naltrexone addictive?
- Is naltrexone treatment effective?
- Where can I get naltrexone therapy for drug addiction or alcohol addiction?
- How can I find naltrexone treatment near me?
What is Naltrexone Used for?
Naltrexone is used as part of medication-assisted treatment to manage opioid and alcohol use disorders.1,5 It shouldn’t be started until after detox has been completed because it can bring on severe withdrawal symptoms if you are physically dependent and have alcohol or opioids in your system and take naltrexone.1,6,7 After completing detox, naltrexone’s uses are most beneficial in helping to maintain sobriety by reducing cravings and blocking the effects of alcohol and opioids.5,6,7 Taking naltrexone can help people in early recovery manage cravings better and it may be an effective tool for supporting recovery efforts and preventing relapse, especially during early recovery.5,6
These medications are especially helpful for people who haven’t been able to maintain sobriety with counseling alone.6 (p2) Since it is available as in an injectable formulation that only needs to be given once a month, this medication can be a good option if you don’t want to take medication daily, or if you’ve had difficulty with remaining compliant with medications in the past.6,7,8
What Addictions are Treated with Naltrexone?
Naltrexone treats both opioid and alcohol use disorders, as they affect similar areas of the brain.3,5,6 The opioid receptors and the reward and pleasure centers of the brain are involved in the development of opioid and alcohol use disorders and cravings.1,3,5,7 Naltrexone works by blocking the opioid receptors so that if you do take alcohol or opioids, they have a significantly diminished effect.6,7,8,9 Since you won’t get the desired result when drinking alcohol or using opioids, you are less likely to want to keep drinking or using, which can help you maintain sobriety.5,6,7,8 The way that naltrexone works in the brain also reduces the cravings you may experience to drink alcohol or use opioids.5,6,7,9
Low-dose naltrexone is an off-label use of the medication at levels that are about one-tenth of what is used for substance use treatment.2 Such low doses have painkilling and anti-inflammatory properties that can be used to treat conditions like fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease.2Side effects aren’t likely but can include intense dreams, nightmares, and headaches.2 (p455) Since this medication is not FDA-approved, it isn’t covered by insurance, but the monthly cost is low.2
How is Naltrexone Different?
Methadone is a long-acting opioid that binds to and activates opioid receptors in the brain.8 It doesn’t cause a high when it is used as directed and under the supervision of a medical professional.8 Methadone can be used either to ease withdrawal symptoms or as a maintenance medication; but there is a potential for diversion and misuse.8 It can be difficult to obtain methadone since it can only be prescribed by specially certified doctors.10
Buprenorphine is another opioid that works as a partial opioid agonist, but less intensely than methadone.8 It is also available as Suboxone (buprenorphine combined with naloxone), which reduces the likelihood of misuse.1,8 Similar to methadone, it can be used to manage withdrawal symptoms or as a maintenance medication, and doesn’t cause a high when used as prescribed by a medical professional.8
Naltrexone works differently than other medications that are used to treat opioid use disorder.1 Naltrexone is not an opioid, but falls under the category of an opioid antagonist, meaning that it prevents opioid receptors from being activated.1,7,8 While methadone and buprenorphine are only approved to treat opioid use disorder, naltrexone is approved to treat alcohol use disorder as well.8 Since naltrexone isn’t used to assist in detox and doesn’t have any other noticeable effects, there isn’t a risk for diversion.8
One medication may be used over another for different reasons. Whereas methadone and buprenorphine can be started before you stop using opioids, you have to finish detox before you can take naltrexone.1,7 It can be more convenient to get a monthly injection of naltrexone, and it is easier to find a prescriber since it isn’t controlled in the same way that methadone or buprenorphine are.1,7 Both methadone and buprenorphine can lead to dependence if taken long-term and have the potential for misuse, unlike naltrexone.2,7 However, methadone and buprenorphine tend to cost less than naltrexone.8
Benefits and Side Effects of Naltrexone
There are some benefits to taking naltrexone over another type of medication to treat alcohol or opioid addiction. It is easily accessible since any provider who can write prescriptions can prescribe naltrexone.1 If you are prescribed the monthly injection, you don’t have to worry about taking a medication daily, and it helps you to maintain stable levels of the medication in your system.6 Since naltrexone doesn’t cause any sort of high, it isn’t at risk for abuse and hasn’t been shown to lead to the development of tolerance or physical dependence.2,3,7
Few side effects are reported with naltrexone, and any that do occur tend to be minor and improve over time.3 Side effects can include:1 ,5,6
- Blurred vision.
- Chest pains.
- Decreased appetite.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Feeling confused.
- Impaired liver function.
- Increased tear production.
- Increased thirst.
- Pain in your joints or muscles.
- Raised blood pressure or pulse rate.
- Reactions at the site of injection (if you get a shot), which can include bruises, redness, swelling, or feeling itchy or tender.
- Skin rash.
- Stomach issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, stomachache, or vomiting.
Does Naltrexone Work?
Studies have shown that naltrexone does work.3,7,8 It effectively reduces cravings for alcohol and opioids, decreases the likelihood of relapse, and increases the chances of remaining in treatment.3,7,8 The extended-release injection form of naltrexone led to 90% abstinence rates from opioids, while only 35% remained abstinent after taking a placebo.8 Reports of cravings were also significantly decreased.8
Even if a person struggles to maintain sobriety, taking naltrexone can still have a positive impact.3,8 It has been shown to decrease the number of days spent drinking, decrease the level of alcohol consumption during relapse, and increase the length of time between drinking days.3,7 Taking naltrexone has been linked to a lower risk of harm associated with opioids, such as overdose, contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV or hepatitis C, and legal issues, as well as greater functioning in areas such as employment.8
Treatment with naltrexone is equally effective compared to other medications, such as methadone or buprenorphine.1,7,8,9 The oral formulation must be taken consistently to be effective, so the long-acting injection may be a better option for someone who is unlikely to take naltrexone pills regularly.8 Naltrexone is less likely to be effective for people who continue to drink when starting to take this medication.6
Do I Need to Go to Rehab for Naltrexone Therapy?
Since naltrexone prescriptions can be written by any medical provider, you wouldn’t technically have to go to rehab to obtain this medication.1 However, this medication works best when it is incorporated into a comprehensive treatment program that involves therapy and peer support.1,3,7,10 Attending self-help meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can also boost the effectiveness of naltrexone.3,5 This applies to both oral and injectable forms of naltrexone, which are generally provided in outpatient naltrexone clinic settings that also offer therapy and encourage participation in self-help meetings.6,7
If you are looking to start taking low-dose naltrexone in Las Vegas or other areas, a medical provider can prescribe this to you without the need for attending rehab. Since this is intended to treat a medical condition and not a substance use disorder, the circumstances around the use of this medication are different.2 You may have seen information about naltrexone implants in Las Vegas or other areas near you. These implants are inserted under the skin and dissolve slowly over 10-12 weeks.11However, this medication has not been found to be safe and effective, and has not received FDA approval for use.11
Before you decide to start taking naltrexone, there are some things to think about. If you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding, naltrexone shouldn’t be used.5 Further, combining medications that can harm your liver with naltrexone may increase this risk.5,6 Since naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids and alcohol, it can make some medications less effective.5,6 When taking opioid pain medications, some types of cough or cold medications, or medications to manage diarrhea, there can be interactions with naltrexone that make them less likely to work.5,6 Also, you should discuss any illegal substances you take with your provider.1,5
Attending rehab while taking naltrexone is beneficial. Substance use disorders change the way your brain works and how you behave, so treatment involves more than just stopping the use of alcohol and drugs.7 Treatment offers therapy and support that helps you address the way you think and behave, increasing the effectiveness of the medication and reducing the likelihood of relapse.7Rehab can also treat other issues that occur in conjunction with addiction, such as physical or mental health disorders, interpersonal problems, legal issues, and employment concerns.7 Before starting any type of treatment, it is always a good idea to speak to a treatment provider or your doctor to get a better idea of what your options are, and the best course of care for you.
Getting Help for Alcohol and Opioid Addiction
American Addiction Centers is a leading provider of detox and rehab care in Nevada and across the country.12 Treatment plans are personalized to meet your unique needs and are carried out by compassionate staff.12 , 13 All of our treatments are evidence-based and we offer medication-assisted treatment to help you achieve your recovery goals.12,14 Call our free, confidential helpline 24/7 at 702-800-2682 to learn more about our programs and how we can help you overcome addiction.
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. (2021). What is naltrexone?
- Younger, J., Parkitny, L., & McLain, D. (2014). The use of low-dose naltrexone (LDN) as a novel anti-inflammatory treatment for chronic pain. Clinical Rheumatology, 33(4), 451-459.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2009). Incorporated alcohol pharmacotherapies into medical practice. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- State of Nevada. (2021). Medicaid-covered opioid addiction drugs.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2021). Naltrexone (ReVia).
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Medication for the treatment of alcohol use disorder: A brief guide. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4907. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse.(2020). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third edition).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Medications to treat opioid use disorder research report.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment approaches for drug addiction.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 45, DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 06-4131. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). Naltrexone implant.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). American Addiction Centers.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). Substance abuse treatment services.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). Program overview.
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