There’s been a lot of debate lately on how to fight against the opioid epidemic that is currently ravaging the country, and there are a lot of differing opinions including the use of Naltrexone. It seems the whole country is weighing in on their opinions. Many communities around the eastern side of the United States are spending hundreds of thousands each year on Narcan, and a news story was just released about how many areas in Ohio are opting out of resuscitating overdose victims who are recurring cases.
So what can be done to help alleviate both the number of overdoses, as well as the use of expensive, but life-saving, Narcan? A lot of people think that Naltrexone is the answer.
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What is Naltrexone?
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Also known as Vivitrol, Revia, and Depade, the main purpose of the drug is to treat opioid use and alcohol use disorders. Administered in either a once-daily pill (Revia and Depade) or as a once a month injection (Vivitrol), the point is to curb cravings for opioids and alcohol. It is prescribed by a doctor, and there is no abuse or diversion potential that could come from Naltrexone.
How Does Naltrexone Work?
As opposed to drugs such as buprenorphine and methadone, Naltrexone actually blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of opioid drugs. The other medications actually activate the opioid receptors in that body that only suppress cravings. Whereas Naltrexone both reduces cravings, as well as blocking any of the sought after side effects if a person were to use opiates.
Long story short, attempting to get high on opiates while on Naltrexone would be a waste of time and money. Not to mention, Naltrexone is not addictive or able to be abused, unlike methadone, suboxone, and buprenorphine.
On TOP OF THAT, it even blocks the feelings of euphoria that come along with drinking, so it helps with alcohol use disorder to boot.
How Else Can it Help Addicts?
Besides the fact that it is safely administered by a doctor, has no addictive agents, and wards off cravings, the main factor of its importance to addicts, is that it can save lives.
- Did you know that the CDC reported over 64,000 overdose deaths from opioids in the United States in 2016?
- Did you know that every 25 minutes, a baby is born in the United States with a dependence to opiates from mothers who were addicted during pregnancy?
- The government has released info stating that drug deaths related to synthetic opioids had risen 540 percent in only three years.
- Many insurance companies limit the access of their insured to pain medications with a lower risk of addiction while giving easy access to highly addictive opioids?
Naltrexone can help addicts by giving them time to be able to remain clean from opiates or alcohol and to start healing. It does this without creating another addiction, unlike other methods of quitting that people use, like methadone, suboxone, and kratom, that can be extremely addictive. It is very common for people who suffer from addiction to replace their drug of choice with another drug, so the fact that Naltrexone has no capability to be abused is a huge win for people who want to get clean.
Why We Need It
It is pretty obvious that the pharmaceutical companies don’t really give a damn about handing out highly addictive and potentially deadly opioid medications, despite the rising death toll from accidental overdoses and people switching to harder drugs once they’ve become addicted.
With even the people that are making the medicines to help us being against us, it’s no wonder why so many people in the US, even senior citizens, and suburban parents, are struggling with opioid dependence and addiction.
So what we need, especially for people who can neither afford substance abuse treatment or are simply unable to go, is more ready access of Naltrexone for those who want to and are ready to stop using opiates.
Luckily, with the announcement of the opioid epidemic being a national health emergency, funding has been granted to go towards greater access to Medication Assisted Treatment programs that offer Naltrexone to people who are struggling with opioid or even alcohol addiction.
In the fight against alcoholism, The Sinclair Method was created around Naltrexone being used to help people slowly stop drinking. It works largely by Pavlovian conditioning:
- When people drink, the brain releases endorphins that tell them they like it
- Naltrexone blocks those endorphins from occurring after a drink
- Over time, the person does not enjoy or crave the act of drinking any more
- In one study, 80% of the population (of all Alcoholics) were able to abstain from alcohol
A message board was created online so people who were prescribed Naltrexone could track and discuss their side effects with others, and there are thousands of positive reviews from people suffering from opioid dependence, alcoholism, and even obsessive-compulsive disorder. Here are a few:
“I have been on revia for 1 year for an opiate addiction. It has worked great for the cravings. The side effects have mostly subsided. In the beginning stomach cramps, nausea, hard to eat (appetite is still not great), but overall it has prevented me from any relapses in a yr.”
“my fiance was an opiate addict for 3 yrs and he went to rehab and gave him revia. he had withdrawal for the first few days and he toughed it out… now he has been clean for a yr and has made so much improvement! he’s the man i fell in love with again.”
So, as with any drug, there will be side effects, and they are largely similar to those withdrawal symptoms that come from any opioid or alcohol withdrawal process, but the benefit is that these people don’t have to struggle with chronic relapsing, and they can get their lives back on track.
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Deborah Tayloe is a freelance writer specializing in health and sciences. Deborah earned a B.S.Ed. in Secondary Education/English, accompanied by a Spanish minor. Her writing expertise allows her to craft engaging, impactful articles to help people be well.
In addition, she holds a fully accredited Certificate of Natural Medicine and is a certified Herbalist. Through her understanding of complementary medicine, Deborah helps medical professionals give people the information they need to embrace natural approaches to wellness.
When she’s not working, Deborah trains for 5K races and advocates for animal rights.