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Naltrexone and Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Alcoholics often have a very difficult time quitting drinking. Physical dependence often causes irresistible cravings for alcohol, so people are compelled to drink despite the negative effects. Cravings also cause many alcoholics to consume large amounts of alcohol when they drink. Naltrexone may reduce cravings, which allows people to drink less and eventually stop altogether.

What Is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone hydrochloride is a drug that can treat alcohol and opioid dependence. It is marketed under the trade names Revia and Depade, and there is an injectable, extended release version called Vivitrol that only needs to be taken once a month. Vivitrol injections must be conducted by a health care professional.

Although doctors do not fully understand naltrexone’s exact mechanism of action, it reduces cravings in some alcoholics. The clinical trials of naltrexone showed a marked decrease in heavy drinking among those who were being treated over a six month period.

There are two methods of naltrexone treatment. The first is to take it regularly and abstain from drinking. The second method, known as the Sinclair Method, uses naltrexone in conjunction with normal drinking. In the Sinclair Method, naltrexone gradually reduces cravings for alcohol, provided that the alcoholic never drinks without taking naltrexone first.

Adverse Side Effects of Naltrexone

The most common side effects of naltrexone are nausea, diarrhea and abdominal cramps; these symptoms are usually mild and subside after a few days. A rare but more serious potential side effect is liver damage, although this usually only occurs when naltrexone is taken at higher than recommended doses. However, naltrexone should not be used by persons with acute hepatitis or liver failure.

Is Naltrexone Right for Me?

Naltrexone is more effective for some genetic groups than others. A study conducted in 2008 by the National Institute of Health found that naltrexone is most effective in alcoholics who possess a particular variant of the opioid receptor gene. This variant is most common in Chinese, Japanese or Indian drinkers, it is less common among Caucasians and is very rare among persons of African heritage. The study found that those who possess the variant responded well to naltrexone treatment, but for those without the variant naltrexone was no more effective than a placebo.

If you would like help determining if naltrexone is right for you, or if you would like help finding naltrexone treatment, call our toll-free helpline today. Counselors are available 24 hours a day who can answer any questions you have and help you find the treatment you need.