Is naltrexone addictive?

NO. Naltrexone is not addictive and has no potential for abuse. In fact, naltrexone helps people in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction. Read more about what naltrexone is made of and how it’s used, here.

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No. Naltrexone is not addictive.

Not only is naltrexone non-addictive, it actually helps alcoholics and former drug users in the process of getting sober and staying substance-free. How? Basically, naltrexone blocks the pleasurable effects that alcohol and opiate/opioid drugs (natural and synthetic) produce while simultaneously blocking cravings for these chemicals. So, although fighting addiction isn’t easy, naltrexone can be used as a part of a full addiction treatment program to make the process easier.

More here about the chemical make up of naltrexone and the PRO’s and CON’s of its use. If you have any questions about naltrexone at the end, we invite you to post them in the comments section. We try to answer all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.

What is naltrexone?

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. It has opioid blocking properties and binds mostly in the mu-opioid receptor, but also binds to the kappa opioid receptor and delta opioid receptor. By binding in the opioid receptor sites in the brain, naltrexone blocks alcohol or opioid drug cravings in dependent individuals.

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While scientists understand how naltrexone works in the brains of opiate/opioid drug users, the mechanism of action of naltrexone for alcohol dependence is still not fully understood. Nonetheless, it is a proven medication with many benefits for patients who are eligible for treatment.

What is naltrexone used for?

Naltrexone treatment should be a part of a complete addiction management program. Naltrexone works by blocking the chemical responses that make alcohol and opioids rewarding. By acting in such way, naltrexone provides people in recovery with the needed physical support to stay focused on completing a comprehensive recovery program.

People who are highly motivated to work on their addiction recovery can truly benefit from naltrexone, since it helps manage cravings and thus lowers the risk of having a relapse.  However, they should completely stop using alcohol or opiate drugs before naltrexone treatment is initiated. Naltrexone is intended for the treatment of:

  1. Alcohol dependent people who have abstained from alcohol for some time.
  2. People who are opiate/opioid-dependent but have stopped using illicit or prescription opioid drugs.

Naltrexone for alcohol dependence

Statistics provided by the CDC show that alcohol dependence or alcoholism is among the leading causes of death in the United States. Moreover, alcoholism is listed as No. 3 on the list of lifestyle-related causes of death in the country, with about 79,000 fatalities each year.

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If you or a loved one have problems with alcohol, you can seek help from a doctor, who can further refer you to a local treatment program or a detox facility. But, since staying sober is not easy and your brain will still crave it, naltrexone can help with this issue.

Naltrexone for opioid drug dependence

Naltrexone is not a medication that can miraculously cure drug addiction, but it can help recovering addicts stay drug-free. Naltrexone should be prescribed and used as a part of an overall program that may include family or individual counseling, support groups, cognitive-behavioral therapy, educational sessions, lifestyle changes, adequate support system and other treatments that fit patient’s needs.

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Deciding to take naltrexone

Naltrexone interferes with the brain’s desire for opioids and alcohol and has been an important aspect of the recovery process for many people. The decision to use naltrexone should be made along with your doctor or counselor, and only after a careful assessment of your physical and mental health state.

We hope the following list of benefits and risks from naltrexone treatment can help you decide whether or not naltrexone is for you:

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+PROS

1. Naltrexone reduces alcohol and opiate or opioid drug cravings
2. As a part of structured treatment programs, it can supplement lasting sobriety
3. Decreases the risk of relapse
4. Naltrexone is a safe, supervised method of treatment
5. Naltrexone does not produce euphoria in patients
6. Patients cannot get addicted to or abuse naltrexone

– CONS

1. Naltrexone can only be initiated after all alcohol and opiates are out of the system
2. If taken in larger doses, naltrexone may cause liver injury
3. Not safe for use during pregnancy and nursing
4. There are possible side effects from naltrexone
5. Naltrexone can increase sensitivity to opiates
6. Patients who use naltrexone can overdose on opioids or sustain serious injury

Naltrexone questions

We hope the information we provided in this article can help you in making your decision for naltrexone treatment. But, if you have any questions or uncertainties, feel free to contact us. You can post your comments in the section below and we’ll try to provide a personal and prompt response.

Reference Sources:  MedlinePlus: Naltrexone
PubChem: Nalterxone
NIDA: Naltrexone-An Antagonist Therapy for Heroin Addiction
SAMHSA: Naltrexone
NIDA: Narcotic Antagonists: Naltrexone (Pharmacochemisty and sustained-release preparations)
SAMHSA: Addiction Treatment Forum: Evidence for the Efficacy of Naltrexone in the Treatment of Alcohol Dependence (Alcoholism)
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.

14 Comments

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  1. Can Naltrexone be used for people who suffer from Anxiety, and how does help.
    Can it also be used to cure Thyroid, and how does it assist with that.

    1. Hi Olivia. Naltrexone is a medication used in medication-assisted treatment to treat both opioid and alcohol use disorders.

  2. I really don’t understand why my doctor prescribed this medication after reading this I don’t drink and don’t use drug only sleeping pill the pass 10 years he told me that medication could help me not getting Alzheimer because my mom had it and told him my concern and told him my memory was not good. Could you help me understanding why that medication was prescribed to me

  3. My husband is in detox, and wants to rehab himself, ive heard and read naltrexone could help his process, what are your thoughts.

  4. I would just like to ssy the vivitrol has saved my life. I just want to say thank you .I started April 28 2017 been clean to this date. Thank you its a wonderful blessing..I highly recommend this shot.

  5. Naltrexone is the one of the most misunderstood medications of all time! Even some of the presentations above are not accurate. If your an alcoholic, as I am, buy the book “The CURE for alcoholism”. Self administer the “Sinclair Method” and 3 to 6 month later you will have your life back.

  6. Thank you for posting about Naltrexone, however……The Sinclair Method, that recommends Naltrexone, does NOT recommend the alcoholic be free from alcohol. The Sinclair Method states: Naltrexone + Alcohol = Cure………….
    The recommended use of Naltrexone for Alcoholics is to always take the medication at least one hour prior to drinking alcohol to extinguish the neural pathway. Taking Naltrexone and abstaining from alcohol does not allow the medication to work the way it is intended.
    TO Anyone suffering from alcohol addiction……….Please Read the Book “The Cure for Alcoholism” by Dr. Sinclair.

    1. Hi Nancy. That is true. If a person cannot stop drinking, they are not forbidden naltrexone treatment. Medical and addiction professionals, however, do state that drinking should be ceased if possible. And thanks for the great reference. I’m sure our readers will find the book helpful.

  7. Such an excellent, articulate, relevant article that is presented so very well. It’s unacceptable that there is such a lack of awareness of Naltrexone being used during treatment…let alone any professional reluctant to do so. Naltrexone is “help” during recovery with the most proper definition of the word…

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