Naltrexone for Alcohol Use Disorder

JourneyPure Staff

August 22, 2019

So much of the national conversation surrounding the disease of addiction is focused on drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers. While opioid use disorder is indeed impacting more people than ever before, it is not the most common substance use disorder.

More than 15 million people throughout the U.S. meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder. Each year, approximately 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes, all of which are preventable. While both males and females abuse alcohol and experience alcohol use disorder, males abuse alcohol at higher rates than females as well as experience more alcohol-related deaths: roughly 62,000 men die from alcohol-related causes each year, compared to 26,000 female deaths.

There is no doubt that alcohol use disorder is one of the most pressing public health concerns. Despite being a socially acceptable substance, alcohol is highly addictive and possesses the potential to completely destroy every area of the addict’s life.

Those who find themselves addicted to alcohol might feel as though there is no possible way to break their pattern of abuse. However, there is treatment to help get alcohol use disorder under control.

How is Alcohol Use Disorder Treated?

Anyone diagnosed with alcohol use disorder is going to experience the disease in his or her own way, which is why there are different treatment options to choose from. Some people looking to recover from alcohol use disorder by taking a holistic approach to treatment, while others stop drinking and strive to maintain sobriety through attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Some people receive professional treatment that can offer individuals detox services, therapeutic treatments, continued support, and medications capable of helping treat the disorder. Studies have shown that utilizing a comprehensive approach to the treatment of alcohol use disorder helps those in recovery to not only receive the physical care they need right after detox, but also helps address the psychological and emotional aspects related to their disorder.

With a traditional process that includes detox, therapy, and aftercare, those addicted to alcohol can stop drinking, figure out how and why their drinking got so problematic, and work to prevent relapse.

Some of these individuals simultaneously take naltrexone, which has proven to be highly beneficial during recovery.


What is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is a non-opioid prescription medication used in the treatment of alcohol use disorder. Treatment that includes naltrexone or other prescribed medications is referred to as Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT. Originally developed and used to treat opioid use disorder—it is still used in that manner—it is much more commonly prescribed to those in alcohol addiction recovery.

Naltrexone works by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain, preventing them from functioning. This helps reduce cravings for continued alcohol use, making it less of a challenge for someone in recovery to battle against the physical and psychological desire to start drinking.

Before a person in recovery from alcohol use disorder can be prescribed this medication, he or she must be fully detoxed from alcohol. Beginning a naltrexone regimen prior to completing detox can trigger the onset of serious withdrawal symptoms.

Naltrexone is not recommended for those with liver problems, as using this medication can agitate those problems. For those who are fully detoxed from alcohol and who have an otherwise healthy liver, naltrexone can be prescribed and included in a treatment plan.

Prescribed by a medical or behavioral professional, naltrexone is taken orally and is recommended for use for at least three full months. Studies show that long-term use of naltrexone, however, is most effective in helping recovering alcoholics.

Unlike other medications used in the treatment of alcohol use disorder, such as Antabuse, naltrexone will not cause an individual to get sick if he or she drinks while using it, though it will reduce the feeling associated with being intoxicated. In other words, a person can drink while taking naltrexone, but he or she won’t get the desired effect.

Benefits of Naltrexone for Alcohol Use Disorder

The main benefit of including naltrexone in one’s recovery is that it can help minimize cravings. Because of such a reduction, a person can benefit in many other ways as they continue with their care.

The craving to drink again can be overwhelming, but when they are not at the forefront, a person is free focus on his or her recovery. This means he or she can put more energy into therapy sessions, support group meetings, and general self-care. As a result, the foundation developed in recovery can be stronger, since cravings are no longer serving as a distraction.

The potential for relapse never goes away, regardless of how long someone is in recovery. But for those new to recovery, the risk for relapse is high. That risk increases when cravings are not under control.

Because naltrexone can diminish the presence of cravings, individuals can reduce their relapse risk and work on developing the skills he or she can utilize in the future, when naltrexone is no longer being used.

When naltrexone is taken as prescribed by a professional, it has the potential to be beneficial in these and many other ways.

Get Help at JourneyPure Lexington

If you are struggling with alcohol use disorder, stop what you are doing and ask for help. Ignoring your need for treatment will only cause your condition to worsen. Every day that passes without intervention brings you closer to an untimely death.

By contacting us at JourneyPure in Lexington, we can help you stop your alcohol abuse and establish the skills needed to live a lifetime in recovery. Do not wait. Call us now. We can help you.