Naltrexone – Science Backed Medication For People Who Want To Drink Less Or Quit

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Learn Why Naltrexone Is Used For Alcoholism & Managing Dependence

Alcohol addiction can have devastating consequences on physical and mental health, relationships, and overall well-being, making it a challenge to overcome. The journey to recovery from alcohol use disorder can be incredibly challenging, but it’s a path paved with hope and promising treatments. Naltrexone provides hope in the battle against alcohol addiction. This medication, often used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, has shown remarkable potential in helping individuals regain control over their lives. Join us as we embark on a journey of understanding and discovery, shedding light on the promising possibilities that Naltrexone brings to the world of alcohol addiction treatment.

Why is naltrexone used to treat alcoholism?

Naltrexone is used to treat alcohol addiction since it minimizes alcohol cravings and blocks the positive effects of alcohol, thus reducing its appeal to individuals with alcohol use disorder. As part of a complete treatment plan, it is commonly combined with behavioral therapies to help prevent relapse.

How does naltrexone work in alcoholics?

Naltrexone works by blocking the effects of opioids in the brain, which can help to reduce the desire to drink alcohol and prevent relapse. By targeting the brain’s opioid receptors, naltrexone can be an effective tool in treating AUD. Here’s how it works:

  • Opioid Receptor Blockade: Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist that binds to and blocks opioid receptors in the brain. While it doesn’t directly affect alcohol itself, it modulates the brain’s response to alcohol consumption.
  • Reduction in Reward Response: Alcohol consumption can sometimes trigger the release of endorphins, which are natural feel-good chemicals in the brain. This leads to a pleasurable sensation and reinforces the desire to drink more. Blocking opioid receptors reduces the rewarding effects of alcohol, making it less satisfying and less likely to reinforce drinking behavior.
  • Craving Reduction: Naltrexone also helps reduce alcohol cravings. Interacting with the brain’s reward system can dampen the desire for alcohol, making it easier for individuals with alcoholism to resist the urge to drink.
  • Prevention of Binge Drinking: Some individuals with alcoholism have binge drinking episodes. Naltrexone can help reduce the intensity and frequency of these episodes by making alcohol less rewarding.
  • Complementary to Behavioral Therapies: Naltrexone is often used in conjunction with behavioral therapies. These therapies help individuals develop coping strategies, identify triggers, and make positive behavioral changes.

What does it feel like to drink while on naltrexone?

Taking Naltrexone does not prevent someone from becoming impaired while consuming alcohol. Even if someone on Naltrexone still feels intoxicated, they will not experience the same level of pleasure or satisfaction they once sought. The once euphoric and intoxicating experience they chase is now muted and dulled. The craving for their next drink may be less appealing. The loss of control they once felt during drinking will no longer exist. Naltrexone helps individuals stay in control of their drinking behavior. However, it is important to note that even when drinking with Naltrexone, you should not operate a  vehicle or make any significant judgments or life decisions. Naltrexone does not prevent someone from being drunk. It just prevents the euphoric side effects of alcohol.

Can you take Naltrexone for life?

The duration for which someone takes Naltrexone can vary depending on their circumstances and treatment goals. While it is possible to take Naltrexone for an extended period, including for life, the decision to do so should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider who can assess the specific needs and risks of the individual.

Here are some considerations:

  1. Maintenance Treatment: In some cases, individuals with a history of alcohol use disorder (AUD) may benefit from long-term maintenance treatment with Naltrexone. This can help prevent relapse and maintain sobriety or abstinence.
  2. Risk of Relapse: If someone is at a high risk of relapse, especially in the early stages of recovery, a healthcare provider may recommend long-term Naltrexone therapy to provide ongoing support in resisting cravings and maintaining sobriety.
  3. Individualized Treatment: The decision to use Naltrexone, the duration of treatment, and the need for ongoing therapy should be personalized to each individual’s circumstances. Factors such as the severity of addiction, past relapse history, and co-occurring mental health issues can all influence the treatment plan.
  4. Regular Monitoring: When taking Naltrexone for an extended period, regular monitoring by a healthcare provider is essential to assess its effectiveness, adjust the treatment plan if necessary, and manage any potential side effects.
  5. Treatment Goals: The ultimate goal of treatment is abstinence or a reduction in problematic substance use. If someone achieves and maintains their treatment goals, the need for Naltrexone or any other medication may change over time.

What are the side effects of taking Naltrexone for alcoholism? 

Naltrexone is generally considered safe when prescribed for alcoholism, but like any medication, it can have side effects. Common side effects of Naltrexone when used to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) may include:

  • Nausea: This is one of the most common side effects and may occur shortly after taking Naltrexone
  • Headaches: Some individuals may experience mild to moderate headaches
  • Vomiting:  This is rare and does not occur often.
  • Fatigue: Some people report feeling tired or mild drowsiness.
  • Reduced appetite: A reduced desire to eat or a decreased appetite.
  • Stomach pain: Abdominal discomfort or stomach pain may occur.
  • Muscle or joint pain: Muscle or joint aches can occur in rare cases.
  • Nervousness or Anxiety: Although rare, some individuals may experience increased anxiety or nervousness.
  • Insomnia:  Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep can be a side effect for some people.

It’s important to note that not everyone will experience these side effects, and many people tolerate Naltrexone well. If side effects do occur, they are often mild and temporary. If you are prescribed naltrexone and experience side effects that are bothersome or severe, it’s essential to contact your healthcare provider. They can help adjust your treatment plan or provide guidance on managing side effects.

What is the success rate of Naltrexone for alcohol?

The success rate of Naltrexone for alcohol use disorder varies among individuals. It depends on factors like the severity of the alcoholism, commitment to treatment, and the presence of co-occurring issues. Naltrexone can help reduce drinking frequency and cravings, especially when combined with therapy, but its effectiveness differs from person to person. Engagement in therapy and lifestyle changes also play crucial roles in treatment success. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, and working with a healthcare provider to create a treatment plan that meets your individual needs and monitors progress is essential. Success with Naltrexone may involve reduced drinking or sustained abstinence, depending on the person’s goals and response to treatment.

What are other effective treatments for alcohol dependence?

Several other effective treatments for alcohol dependence are available. Treatment plans are often individualized, and the choice of treatment depends on factors such as the severity of the disorder, the person’s preferences, and their response to different interventions. Here are some of the commonly used treatments for alcohol dependence:

  • Behavioral Therapy: Various forms of psychotherapy and counseling can effectively treat alcoholism. These therapies work by helping individuals identify and change problematic drinking patterns and develop positive coping strategies.
  • 12- Step Program: The 12-step program for alcoholism, widely practiced by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and similar groups, consists of a structured set of principles to guide individuals in their recovery from alcohol dependency. It begins with acknowledging powerlessness over alcohol and the need for a higher power’s help, followed by self-reflection, making amends for past wrongs, and committing to ongoing self-improvement. The program emphasizes accountability, spiritual growth, and helping others recover. While it has been effective for many, it’s important to remember that recovery approaches can vary, and individuals should choose the method that aligns with their beliefs and needs.
  • Medications: In addition to Naltrexone, other medications can be used to treat alcohol dependency including:
    • Acamprosate – Helps reduce alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
    • Disulfiram– Creates an unpleasant reaction when alcohol is consumed.
    • Topiramate – This was originally intended to treat convulsions but may be used to reduce alcohol cravings and consumption. 
  • Support Groups: Participating in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous may provide peer support, a sense of community and accountability.
  • Residential or Inpatient Treatment: For individuals with severe alcoholism  or a history of relapse, residential or inpatient treatment programs offer intensive, round-the-clock care and therapy.
  • Outpatient Treatment: Many people with alcoholism  benefit from outpatient treatment programs, which provide therapy, counseling, and medication management while allowing individuals to continue living at home.

The most effective alcoholism treatment often combines several approaches and is tailored to the individual’s unique needs and circumstances. Seeking help from a healthcare professional or addiction specialist is essential for evaluating the most appropriate treatment plan and providing ongoing support throughout recovery.

Why should you consider going to rehab for treating alcohol addiction?

Consider going to rehab for alcohol addiction because it offers a structured, supportive environment with professional supervision, detoxification, therapeutic support, community, education, holistic approaches, and aftercare planning. It provides a safe and accountable space for recovery, addresses the psychological aspects of addiction, involves family when necessary, and guides individuals in developing relapse prevention strategies. However, the decision should be based on an assessment by a healthcare provider, considering individual needs and circumstances, as outpatient treatment and support groups can also be effective options depending on the severity of the addiction and commitment to recovery.


Naltrexone is a valuable tool in the fight against alcohol addiction, offering the potential to reduce cravings and the pleasurable effects of alcohol. However, its suitability for you or a loved one should be discussed with a healthcare provider, as the path to recovery is highly individualized. Recovery entails medication, counseling, lifestyle changes, and a strong commitment to change. While Naltrexone can be a significant part of the solution, success ultimately depends on your willingness to seek help and dedication to recovery. With the proper support and a personalized treatment plan, recovery from alcohol addiction is achievable, promising a brighter, alcohol-free future.

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