Naltrexone blocks opioids from acting on the brain, so it takes away the reward of getting high on the problem drug. This feature makes naltrexone a good choice for preventing relapse (falling back into problem drug use). Naltrexone may not stop drug cravings. If it does not help with cravings, your doctor or substance abuse treatment provider will help you find other ways to reduce them.
First up is an extended release injectable form of the drug Naltrexone, known by the name Vivitrol. According the Food and Drug Administration, Vivitrol is a prescription injectable medication used to prevent relapse to opioid dependence, after opioid detoxification.
One of the reasons Vivitrol is so exciting, is because the extended release formulation only requires an intramuscular injection to be administered once per month. Compared to the daily dosing required by other opiate substitution therapies such as Methadone and Suboxone, this could be a very appealing option to many addicts.
Amazingly, opiate addiction is not the only type addiction that Vivitrol can be used to treat. The FDA has also approved the drug for the treatment of alcohol dependence.
However, like all drugs, there are some important aspects and side effects to consider before starting treatment.
Patients must not have any opioids in their system when they start taking Vivitrol; otherwise, they may experience withdrawal symptoms from the opioids. Also, patients may be more sensitive to opioids while taking Vivitrol at the time their next scheduled dose is due. If they miss a dose or after treatment with Vivitrol has ended, patients can accidentally overdose if they restart opioid use.
Another Naltrexone based option showing promise, however not yet approved by the FDA, is the Naltrexone Implant. The implant itself is a small pellet, which is then inserted into the lower abdominal wall under local anesthetic. Lasting 3-6 months, the implant releases a controlled amount of Naltrexone into the body; avoiding the need for a daily pill or even a once monthly injection.
One of the major advantages of these new versions of Naltrexone over the daily pill form is patient compliance. Rather than risk missed doses, extended release injections or implants completely remove the possibility of human error. They also reduce the chances of patient noncompliance or cessation of treatment.
However, unlike Methadone and to some extent Suboxone, Naltrexone has no opiate agonist effects and no physical dependence, therefore it has no positive mood altering effects or physical dependence - allowing patients the opportunity to simply walk away from treatment whenever they see fit.
Calling it quits on a whim isn't so a easy when the treatment includes extended release intramuscular injections or implants of Naltrexone!
While these new treatment options tend to stir up excitement at the renewed possibility of recovery and sobriety amongst those left with little options, it is still important to discuss any medications or treatments with your Doctor or Physician to determine which option is best suited for you.