Naltrexone Treatment Of Alcoholism
Medically Reviewed By Nicole Arzt | Last Edited: February 04, 2021 | 4 Sources
Naltrexone HCL, commonly used as an anti-craving drug for recovering alcoholics is also used in the alcoholism 'cure', the Sinclair Method
Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication that can support alcohol recovery. It comes in both a pill form or as an extended-release injectable. You must receive a prescription from a licensed practitioner to take this medication.
Naltrexone can be used in two ways to treat alcoholism:
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.
- 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.
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
Naltrexone can be taken in pill form orally and more recently it has been used in monthly injections, marketed under the brand name Vivitrol. Today, many treatment centers rely on naltrexone when assisting people in their recovery processes. It can support both alcohol and opioid addictions.
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.
How Does Alcoholism Naltrexone Treatment Work?
Naltrexone treatment of alcoholism reduces the craving for alcohol. In some cases, it can suppress the urge to drink altogether. 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.
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. Altering dopamine can have profound effects on your mood, impulse control, and cravings.
Unfortunately this drug doesn’t work in the same way for everyone, although it does have a very good success rate
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. Additionally, compliance can be an issue. If someone really wants to drink, they might just stop taking their naltrexone. This isn’t an option when they receive a Vivitrol injection, as the medication is already in their bloodstream.
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. There are no medications that have that ability! It also does not 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
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.
Dr. Sinclair developed this evidence-based treatment to help support recovering alcoholics. With this method, 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
Of course, like any other method, consistency is key. You must be willing to hold yourself accountable to the program and be honest with your intentions and habits.
Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl
Licensed Medical Health Professional
I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More
Naltrexone provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/naltrexone.
Naltrexone and liver disease provided by the US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657311/
Effect of extended-release naltrexone on striatal dopamine transporter availability, depression and anhedonia in heroin-dependent patients provided from the Us National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4480848/
What is the Sinclair Method provided by Sinclair Method: https://www.sinclairmethod.org/what-is-the-sinclair-method-2/.
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