Naltrexone (Revia, Depade) is a prescription drug that works as an opioid antagonist; that is, it blocks the receptors in the brain that receive pleasure from consuming alcohol, thus reducing cravings for alcohol. It is also used to treat other addictions. Naltrexone should not be confused with naloxone (Narcan), a drug that is used to treat opiate overdoses. Nalmefene, a drug that is made from the same chemical compound as naltrexone, is used to treat alcohol addiction in the UK. Studies have shown that naltrexone is effective in reducing relapse rates and heavy drinking days in alcohol addicted subjects.

Naltrexone Uses

The method of use for naltrexone is somewhat controversial in that some physicians believe a patient must detox and abstain from alcohol during use of the drug, while others believe that some alcohol use at the onset of treatment is necessary for the drug to work. This latter approach is known as the Sinclair Method.

Naltrexone is available as an oral medication or as a long-acting injection. The injection form is known as Vivitrol. The opioid antagonists naltrexone, naloxone, and nalmefene are not aversive therapy, meaning that they do not cause the illness-producing reactions that Antabuse does if used while drinking. Naltrexone is not a narcotic and is not addictive.

Naltrexone as used during abstinence is prescribed after a detox period of 7 to 10 days. It can cause damage to the liver if taken in high doses. Since naltrexone may make you more sensitive to lower doses of opioids than you have previously used, you should not use heroin or any other narcotic drugs to overcome the medicine’s effects, as you could overdose.

Increasingly, inpatient clinics are using naltrexone therapy as part of a larger treatment program that combines detoxification, counseling, and medication. Learn more about inpatient therapy.

People who wish to reduce their cravings for alcohol. The oral form of the medication requires a measure of discipline as it must be taken daily to prevent relapse.

See your physician to discuss whether naltrexone is appropriate for your situation.

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