Naltrexone and Alcohol: Can You Get Drunk While Taking Naltrexone?

Naltrexone and Alcohol: Can You Get Drunk While Taking Naltrexone?

Do people who drink on naltrexone get drunk?

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. That means that it blocks opioid receptors. Naltrexone is approved by the FDA for treating alcohol dependence and opioid dependence.

When used for alcoholism treatment, naltrexone can be prescribed in two distinct ways. One way to prescribe naltrexone is for it to be taken every single day at the same time. Another way to prescribe naltrexone is for it to be taken only on days that the patient will be drinking alcohol.

Some doctors who prescribe naltrexone to be taken daily may insist that the patient does not engage in alcohol consumption at all. The job of naltrexone will be to reduce any alcohol craving that the patient may experience.

Other doctors consider naltrexone to be part of a harm reduction strategy. They prescribe naltrexone to be taken by patients whose alcohol intake is still significant.

When a person drinks alcohol while taking naltrexone, they may still become intoxicated from the alcohol. The opiate receptor blocker does not prevent them from getting drunk altogether.

However, by blocking the effects of endorphins on opioid receptors, the patient will not experience alcohol in the same way. They will not have the same compulsion to keep drinking more. While they may still get drunk, the pleasure of drinking will be greatly reduced.

Alcohol is a dangerous drug.

Many people have the belief that alcohol is not as bad as street drugs because it is legal. Why would the government allow a drug as dangerous as cocaine or heroin to be sold in stores?

Yet, even cocaine and heroin were once sold in stores as well. Just because alcohol is legal and socially acceptable does not mean that it is not a drug.

In fact, alcohol is more damaging to the brain and body than other drugs that are illicit street drugs. If a person uses street drugs in a relatively safe manner, by going to a safe consumption site, for example, then the physical damage caused by those drugs is often far less than what alcohol is capable of.

People who drink heavily for years can develop liver disease or severe liver damage. They may get stomach pain, indicating gastritis, or even a possible bleeding ulcer.

Alcohol can cause permanent brain damage and also damage to the heart. Alcohol overdoses are often deadly, and can be made more dangerous when the person takes multiple drugs, causing drug interactions with alcohol.

If alcohol is so bad, why is there alcohol abuse?

Why would anyone want to risk alcohol dependency when the drug, alcohol, is so toxic to the human body? It is hard to say why alcohol is the drug of choice for society.

Maybe it is because it is relatively easy to produce and refine into a variety of products. There is a long history of thousands of years of people making and consuming alcoholic beverages.

In today’s world, pharmaceutical manufacturing is sophisticated, and it is possible to manufacture almost any drug imaginable at scale for a very low cost. Most drugs are cheaper than water when produced in large enough batches.

Additionally, marijuana, as many proponents are quick to point out, is a much safer drug than alcohol. Being a plant that grows readily in many regions of the US, it can be grown inexpensively. While cannabis is not completely harmless, it does not cause nearly as much damage to the human body as alcohol does.

Additionally, cannabis use is usually not associated with tragic events, such as domestic violence or motor vehicle accidents. Yet, the marijuana plant, with its buds rich in the drug, THC, is classified as a schedule I drug. This means that the government considers it to be a controlled substance with high abuse potential as well as a high addiction potential and no known medical use.

Is alcohol a controlled substance? It seems as if it should be. It is clearly a drug that has no health benefits whatsoever. I fact, the American Cancer Society has recently announced that there is no safe amount of alcohol that should be consumed regularly.

Alcohol is a drug that has no health benefits, and it is highly addictive with a high abuse potential. Yet, alcohol is not a controlled substance, it is simply a regulated substance. Like tobacco, one of the most addictive drugs on the planet, it is outside the realm of controlled drugs, such as cocaine, meth, or heroin.

If naltrexone hydrochloride, an opioid blocker, can reduce alcohol cravings and the enjoyment of alcohol, does that mean that alcohol is an opioid?

Alcohol is not an opioid. It is a potent drug that has many effects on the brain, causing the complex syndrome of intoxication that we know as “getting drunk.” People who get drunk and enjoy one or more of the many effects of alcohol may develop an alcohol addiction.

So, if alcohol is not an opioid, how is it that naltrexone treatment, a treatment that also works for treating opioid addiction, works effectively as an alcohol treatment as well? Why would blocking the receptors that an opiate drug would bind to help with alcohol cravings?

This is one of the most interesting things about the drug naltrexone and alcohol addiction treatment. While there are other drugs used for alcohol treatment, such as acamprosate for alcohol withdrawal, and others being investigated, naltrexone seems to be the medication that works best for helping people to reduce alcohol consumption.

Is naltrexone an opioid medication?

Some people, including doctors, believe that naltrexone must be an opioid because it binds to opioid receptors. However, naltrexone is not at all an opioid drug. As a pure opioid receptor blocker, naltrexone has no opioid-like effects at all.

There is no euphoria, analgesia, or drug dependence, as would be present with an opioid medicine. Naltrexone can be stopped at any time without fear of opioid withdrawal. There is no risk of opioid overdose from taking naltrexone by itself.

While naltrexone at normal dosages does not help with pain, low dose naltrexone may have pain-relieving properties. This has nothing to do with any opioid-like properties.

One thing that doctors must be aware of is that if a patient is already taking an opioid medication or opiate drug, naltrexone, it can cause significant withdrawal symptoms. The patient must stop taking any opioids and be opioid-free for at least a week before starting naltrexone.

The Vivitrol injection, a long-acting form of naltrexone, will also cause opioid withdrawal symptoms if taken by an opioid or opiate user. This is why a treatment provider will prescribe naltrexone tablets for a while before starting the Vivitrol injection.

Is it possible for a person to follow The Sinclair Method and still get drunk?

The Sinclair Method, or TSM, is a protocol for taking naltrexone to help a person reduce their alcohol intake. In many cases, people who follow TSM eventually stop drinking altogether. TSM is considered to be a harm reduction method.

The way that TSM works is that the patient takes their naltrexone 50 mg tablet one hour before consuming alcohol. Then, they are supposed to limit intake of alcohol to one drink, or in some cases up to two drinks.

Over time, the effects of blocking opioid receptors with naltrexone hydrochloride, in combination with alcohol intake lead to a lower overall interest in alcohol. It may be hard to imagine, but you will find yourself much less excited about the prospect of going out for a few drinks.

This is due to a phenomenon known as pharmacological extinction. Pharmacological extinction is the process of your brain unlearning the habit of drinking alcohol.

In the case of an alcohol addiction, the habit of drinking rises to a level above most bad habits. It is characterized by a frequent, or constant, obsession with alcohol. And, it involves a strong compulsion to keep drinking after the first drink.

When following The Sinclair Method, a person can drink and become intoxicated by the alcohol.

An observer, watching the person drink, would conclude that they are tipsy, or drunk, after consuming several alcoholic beverages. Yet, the intoxication experience will not be the same for the drinker. Imagine showing up to a rock concert and the bass guitar player calls in sick. The music still sounds mostly the same, but you can tell that something significant is missing.

The impaired reflexes and thinking are still there, as is the slurred speech and lack of inhibition. However, the pleasurable experience and sensation of having that first sip is not there.
Having another drink feels like going back to brushing your teeth a second or third time. You can do it if you are determined to do it, but why would you want to?

Still, even with the help of naltrexone and TSM, old habits are hard to break. When first getting started, people who follow The Sinclair Method do still sometimes get drunk.
Is getting drunk on naltrexone a sign of treatment failure?

When you first see your doctor about TSM, there is excitement about the possibilities. Rather than checking in to a treatment facility where you will be exposed to the same old addiction-shaming practices of focusing on character defects and personal shortcomings, you now see that you have a medical condition that has medical treatment.

Yet, after starting the program, if you then go out for drinks and find that stopping at the first drink is not as easy as you thought it would be, you wonder if this program can really work for you. While TSM does not always work for everyone, if you are able to tolerate the medication, and you notice that alcohol use does not excite you in the way that it normally does, there is an excellent chance that you can have success if you are determined to make it work for you.

While it would be better not to get drunk on naltrexone while practicing TSM, if it does happen, there is no need to despair. You can start fresh from where you are and start again.

What should I do if I keep having a second drink or more after I have taken Naltrexone?

In addition to renewing your resolve, talking to your doctor and TSM coach, you might also try some other things. If you are used to drinking a particular type of alcohol, try switching to something else that is less appealing to you. Many TSM patients who have found success claim that switching from vodka, rum, or other hard liquors, to beer helped them to limit their alcohol consumption to one drink.

Another possibility is to change where you are drinking or who you are drinking with. Certain venues may simply be toxic and reinforce the habit of excess drinking. Maybe it is time to give up certain bars or nightclubs.

If there is a friend or family member who encourages you to keep going with your drinking, because they enjoy seeing you get drunk, make it a point to not get drunk with that person. TSM may work best for you in a controlled environment.

Currently, there are actually some rehabs that are starting to implement TSM as part of their addiction treatment programs. Imagine a rehab that provides alcohol as part of the treatment.

Of course, in such a rehab, you will be given a carefully measured amount of a “medical” dose of an alcoholic beverage. Your progress will be measured by the medical staff.

In a TSM rehab, you will not be surrounded by toxic friends or a toxic alcohol establishment. You will be in a caring, compassionate, and clinical environment.

Is it possible to be allergic to alcohol?

While a person may be allergic to almost any drug, when you hear about an allergic reaction to alcohol, it is often in reference to an old joke that people tell in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. They say that they are allergic to alcohol because when they drink it, they break out in “spots.”

Of course, they are referring to spots such as bars and liquor stores, and not red spots all over their bodies. Making light of a deadly addiction can sometimes help to make it easier to talk about in a support meeting.

Alcoholics Anonymous has long been accepted as the standard of care for treating alcoholism. In modern times, this is unusual, allowing a spiritual-based peer support organization to have so much involvement in the treatment of a medical condition.

In fact, the situation is unique in the medical field. There is no other disease whose management involves working on spiritual practices with non-medical peers.

For example, people with arthritis do not go to group meetings to stand up and say, “I am an arthritic, just coming back.” Support groups are helpful for many chronic illnesses, but they are not a part of the medical treatment.

Yet, in traditional rehab, it is not unusual to be told, “the steps are the only way for you to be successful.” To be clear, the 12-steps of AA may be helpful to you, but they are not medical treatment, and there are always alternatives.

If I take naltrexone and then get drunk, what do I do next?

First, do not panic. Just because you may have had too much to drink after taking naltrexone, you can still try again. As stated earlier, there are adjustments that can be made to help improve your level of success.

If you are concerned about your drinking after starting treatment, call your doctor right away. It is important to address the issue as soon as possible.

The one thing that you should not do is give up on yourself. You are too important to give up now and give up on enjoying your new life where alcohol is no longer holding you back.