Naltrexone is a specific type of drug referred to as an opioid receptor antagonist. The substance itself is not addictive, but is used to treat those who have developed a dependence on drugs in the narcotic family or alcohol. The drug treats addiction to opioids or alcohol by attaching to the brain’s opioid receptors and blocking the effects of alcohol and narcotics. Because of its success rate and the minimal side effects with which it is associated, some professionals believe it will soon become the “wave of the future” with regard to treating alcoholics and those who abuse narcotics.
Currently, Naltrexone is regarded as one of the best medications for those detoxing from narcotics or alcohol. This is likely because it interferes with the underlying mechanisms that help to create long-term drug dependency. It also reduces the cravings addicts often feel, subsequently making it easier for such individuals to resist the urge to abuse substances after completing treatment.
Reduction of Cravings
Although this type of drug has been proven effective at reducing the aforementioned cravings for alcohol and narcotic substances, it is not quite clear how this feat is accomplished. However, the general consensus in the medical community is that the drug regulates the reward center of the brain–otherwise known as the dopaminergic mesolimbic pathway. This is thought of as the brain’s “reward center,” and is activated when alcohol and drugs are consumed.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Approval
In 1984, the drug was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. This approval stems from its safety profile, as well as its pharmacological efficiency as a narcotic antagonist. Even though multiple placebo-controlled clinical trials were inconclusive when initial studies were complete, the drug was far superior to the placebo with regard to encouraging abstinence among those suffering from addiction, particularly heroin users. In 1995, the drug was FDA approved for the prevention of relapse in alcoholics.
There are several administration methods available for those being treated with Naltrexone. The medication may be given orally or injected. Patches are available as well, although certain individuals in the medical community have concerns about whether or not patches regulate the medication as precisely as it should. Implants have also been used since the year 2000, and it is believed that this method of administration may offer a more potent effect.
Nevertheless, the kind of administration route chosen depends on a broad range of factors, including the severity of the person’s problem, the length of time he or she has abused drugs or alcohol, and other factors as determined by the person’s primary health care practitioner.
Seeking Comprehensive Care
Regardless of whether or not medications are prescribed, it is important for those struggling with addiction to seek behavioral therapy and other options to create a comprehensive care plan, as opposed to simply using the medication as their only line of defense against relapse. Anyone who is addicted to alcohol or narcotics should not delay seeking help, as few individuals can overcome such problems without professional treatment.