Is there any concern over naltrexone side effects?
As an opioid antagonist, there are some side effects to consider. Nausea and diarrhea are common side effects. Dizziness is another symptom that has been reported by patients. If a patient is currently taking opioids or opiate drugs, naltrexone will cause them to experience withdrawal symptoms. Besides nausea and diarrhea, there is also the possibility of headaches, loss of appetite, and irritability. Rarely, allergic reactions are also possible. Fortunately, for most patients, side effects are not common. If you do experience side effects or any concerning symptom, notify your healthcare provider. And, let your doctor know if you have a history of liver disease.
What about the Vivitrol shot? Does it have the same naltrexone side effects?
Vivitrol is an extended-release injection that lasts for an entire month. It is approved for addiction treatment for opioid addiction as well as alcohol addiction. Not only does Vivitrol have the same possible naltrexone side effects, but there is also the additional problem that once Vivitrol is given, the patient now has an entire month of medication in their system. One way to avoid problems is for the healthcare provider to prescribe the tablet form first to make sure that the patient has no problems, such as opioid withdrawal, an allergic reaction, or medication side effects, before giving the shot.
Do the tablets work as well as the shot?
The shot, known by the brand name Vivitrol, works well because it is a medication that lasts all month long. There is no problem with a patient forgetting to take it or refusing to take it, mid-month. On the other hand, tablets do work well. For a person who is motivated to stay clean, the tablets can work at least as well as the injection.
How does Naltrexone compare to Suboxone?
Naltrexone compares favorably to Suboxone and other buprenorphine medications in medication-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence and opioid dependence. Both medications are known to have about a 50% success rate with regard to opioid use disorder treatment. While this may not sound that great, compared to the alternative of not using medication, 50% is excellent. Non-medical therapy is known to have about a 1-10% success rate. Both drugs require the patient to first go through a period of withdrawal symptoms before starting treatment.
Is Naltrexone an opioid or a narcotic?
No, it is an opioid blocker. It is not controlled and it is not at all addicting. People who get fully involved in the Narcotics Anonymous program will be pleased to know that there is no issue with that program and naltrexone. Yet, they do have an official position against Suboxone-type medications. I believe that they are wrong about this and I hope that they change this position in the future.
Naltrexone sounds great. Why not use it instead of Suboxone all the time
One important issue is that it can take 1-2 weeks to clear all of the opioids out of your system to be ready to start Naltrexone. This can be a very difficult task. For some people, it is nearly impossible. Suboxone, on the other hand, can usually be started within 24 hours. Also, Suboxone does happen to work better for many people. One place where Naltrexone is an excellent choice is in residential treatment programs and detox programs. If a patient is under medical supervision and detoxed off of opioids, this is an excellent opportunity to choose naltrexone as the treatment of choice.
Who can prescribe naltrexone?
There are no specific restrictions on prescribing this safe opioid antagonist. Any licensed prescriber can prescribe it. In fact, it may eventually become an over-the-counter drug for treating alcohol dependence. However, I recommend that patients seeking treatment for opioid addiction with naltrexone see a doctor who has extensive experience in treating opioid addiction.