Naltrexone Treatment Of Alcoholism

Alcoholism Natrexone Treatment
Naltrexone Treatment
Naltrexone Hydrochloride



Naltrexone Treatment Of Alcoholism
Naltrexone HCL, commonly used as an anti-craving drug for recovering alcoholics is also used in the alcoholism 'cure', the Sinclair Method




Naltrexone can be used in two ways to treat alcoholism:

  • The first is the 'legitimate' way. Naltrexone is used by those who have given up the drink completely and want to control their cravings for alcohol.
  • The second is the 'unapproved' way, naltrexone is used by those still drinking but who want to control the amount they drink. This is called the Sinclair method.

Read on for more on the licensed use of naltrexone. If you are interested in the Sinclair Method then skip to the end, or alternatively follow the link above.

Naltrexone has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of alcohol dependency since April 2006. The drug's full name is naltrexone hydrochloride which is sold under the brand names Revia and Depade.

Naltrexone can be taken in pill form orally and more recently it has been used in monthly injections, marketed under the brand name Vivitrol.


Naltrexone Treatment Of Alcoholism
Who Can or Cannot Take Naltrexone Hydrochloride?

  • Anyone who has been free of alcohol for 7 to 10 days can take naltrexone but it is dangerous to take it if you are still drinking (unless you are using it as part of the Sinclair Method)
  • Pregnant and breast-feeding women should not undergo naltrexone treatment of alcoholism
  • People with a liver complaint should not take it, nalmefene is a possible alternative
  • If you have an allergy to naltrexone then obviously you should seek alternative medication, such as nalmefene


Doctors will check the functioning of a patient’s liver to determine whether alcoholic liver disease is present before prescribing naltrexone hydrochloride.

Also they will usually only prescribe it as part of a complete psychosocial treatment program, which might include counseling, or being a member of alcoholism support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.


Naltrexone Hydrochloride
How Does Alcoholism Naltrexone Treatment Work?

Naltrexone treatment of alcoholism reduces the craving for alcohol. No one actually knows exactly how it works, but it is believed that it affects the neural pathways in the brain where the neurotransmitter dopamine is located.

Dopamine is a neurochemical which is involved in many brain activities including movement and emotions. It may modulate endorphin levels, so altering perceptions of pain and pleasure.

Unfortunately this drug doesn’t work in the same way for everyone, although it does have a very good success rate.


Naltrexone Treatment
Naltrexone or Vivitrol?

Naltrexone is taken orally in pill form once a day, usually, whereas Vivitrol has been approved by the FDA as an intramuscular injection specifically for the treatment of drug addicts rather than alcoholics.

The usual form of naltrexone treatment of alcoholism is the pill form of the drug, however, it is possible to have the injectable form prescribed.(For a discussion on the pros and cons of the different form of naltrexone, read Vivitrol)

This means of course that a person has to take the drug every day, which is why some medical practitioners wish to oversee the patient taking the drug so that they are sure that it has been taken. If someone takes too much of the drug it could damage the liver.


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Naltrexone Dosage

The pills are usually prescribed for 12 weeks as it is in the initial stages of the alcoholism detox process that the alcoholic is most likely to have a relapse.

The naltrexone dosage is dependent on your doctor's diagnosis and discretion, however it is usually 50 mg and in less severe cases, 25mg. After this period the medication may be stopped as the cravings lessen after a period of complete abstinence.



Naltrexone hydrochloride doesn’t stop someone drinking alcohol, and neither does it treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. What it does is to stop an alcoholic actively wanting a drink, so its main function is to help an alcoholic remain abstinent. It helps the person increase his/her willpower and resist the urge to fall off the wagon.

It is normally used as part of a holistic program of treatment so that the alcoholic can seek support from others if he/she feels the need to drink, also naltrexone treatment of alcoholism does not work for everybody.


Naltrexone Treatment
The Sinclair Method

Naltrexone, in the tablet form NOT the injectable form, is also used in the 'controversial' Sinclair method.

The Sinclair Method is a form of alcoholism treatment that does not require the alcoholic to go through alcohol withdrawal and quit drinking. In short, this method involves taking naltrexone one hour before drinking alcohol.

In this way your brain blocks the opioid receptors and you will not get the 'buzz' that you normally associate with drink.

As time goes by your brain will unlearn its dependency on alcohol. For an in-depth discussion on this, read the Sinclair Method.





If you found this page helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:



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Deborah Morrow, M.S. Addiction Psychology, is the director of treatment programs for The Alcoholism Guide website. In her practice, Deborah provides on-line coaching and support for those dependent on alcohol or who require other services such as relapse prevention or court mandated services. (Read More)



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