Unfortunately,tens of millions of Americanssuffer from some sort of addiction every year, and only a small amount of those people actually get the treatment they need and deserve. The good news – such as it is – is that science is advancing in a way that enables the creation of drugs that can help someone overcome a wide array of addictions. When used properly and under the supervision of medical professionals, these drugs can save someone’s life and help to end an addiction.
One such example is Naltrexone, a drug that can be used to treat a wide variety of addictions, including alcohol. As such, let’s take a look at what Naltrexone is and why Naltrexone for alcoholism treatment can be so effective.
What Is Naltrexone?
Naltrexoneis a medication that is specifically designed to help people who are addicted to certain substances. It is an opiate antagonist. This means that it is actually specifically designed to help people who are addicted to opioids, like heroin. However, some research indicates that it has a variety of other applications, including helping to treat alcoholism.
Naltrexone works by “competing” with opioid centers in the brain. In the course of doing so, it makes it harder for someone to feel the positive effects of opioids or other substances. This can also reduce the cravings for drugs or alcohol.
Naltrexone is not addictive in the physical or psychological sense. It does not cause any high and cannot be abused in the way that some prescription drugs can be.
All of this is not to say that Naltrexone iscompletely risk-free. Some minor side effects were reported with Naltrexone use, including nausea, depression, and headaches. However, all of these side effects were viewed as minor and relatively manageable.
Naltrexone should be taken under the guidance of a medical professional. It can be givenin a clinical setting. It is important that patients abstain from taking opioids for 7-14 days prior to starting Naltrexone. The exact amount of time should be decided with you and your doctor.
Research on Naltrexone and Alcoholism
According tothe National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there is evidence to suggest that Naltrexone can reduce someone’s desire to drink, help someone remain abstinent, and stop someone from drinking more if they do start to drink.
According to a briefpublished by SAMHSA, Naltrexone works by specifically stopping the “feel good” chemicals that typically react with alcohol from firing properly. As a result, someone does not feel as intoxicated when they drink, nor do they experience the same pleasant feelings that they would otherwise. The brain does not release the same level of endorphins, and this decreases someone’s desire to drink.
As noted by the research, 14 studies have all shown varying degrees of success for Naltrexone across numerous measures. It does appear that the drug can be useful at helping people to reduce alcohol dependency and abuse. The same research indicates that Naltrexone worked best when part of a comprehensive treatment program that includes psychological counseling and lifestyle changes.
In other words: Naltrexone can be a critical component of addressing alcohol issues but works best when used with other treatment modalities.
Fortunately, Naltrexone does not have negative reactions when someone does drink and take the medication. No danger is presented to a patient who does this, but that individual will likely feel reducing cravings to continue drinking.
Medication-Assisted Treatment is not new within the addiction community, but it is starting to pick up support from researchers and advocates. Indeed, there are those within the addiction community who refer to Medication-Assisted Treatment, when combined with counseling, as the “gold standard” of addiction treatment.
That is not to say that it comes without controversy, as there are some who believe that using Medication-Assisted Treatment is simply substituting one dependency for another. However, that would be an inaccurate way of describing the positives of Medication-Assisted Treatment. When combined with counseling, it can help wean people off of an addictive substance and onto a medication. Eventually, some can completely stop taking any medication and lead a sober life. Others need to stay on medication for their entire lives.
To call this an addiction would be a gross mischaracterization. People who use Medication-Assisted Treatment, like Naltrexone, are no more “addicted” to their medication than someone who has high blood pressure is addicted to their blood pressure medication. When used properly and under the guidance of a trained professional, medication can be life-saving and help people conquer addiction.
If you are interested in Naltrexone, make sure to discuss the subject with your doctor and others involved in your treatment.