Naltrexone is one of the most common medications for alcohol use disorder. It boasts a high success rate and is ideal for people who want to cut back, or change their drinking behaviors.
Naltrexone is best for:
- Limiting alcohol cravings
- Treating physical addiction
- Changing habits over time
- Establishing moderation as an option
Is Naltrexone For You?
Naltrexone May Help If:
- You struggle with alcohol cravings
- You are interested in moderation
- You want to cut back gradually
- You have a family history of alcoholism
Naltrexone May Not Be the Best Choice If:
- You need to quit drinking immediately
- You have liver disease
- You are taking pain medication
How Does Naltrexone Work?
Naltrexone reduces your motivation to drink by blocking the reinforcement or reward of alcohol. It does this by limiting the endorphin rush many people get from drinking. Naltrexone was developed to treat opioid addiction, and although alcohol is not an opiate, the effect of naltrexone is similar.
The chemistry is as follows:
- Opiates like heroin and oxycodone (Oxycontin) imitate the effect of endorphins in your body
- Naltrexone blocks those opiates from having any effect on you
- Habitual drinkers experience a rush of endorphins when they drink (the other name for endorphin is actually “endogenous opiate,” meaning an opiate created by your own body)
- It turns out that naltrexone also blocks this self-generated opiate rush, making it effective for treating alcohol addiction
Naltrexone has been approved for treating opiate dependency since the 1980s, and has been approved by the FDA to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) since 1995. It now has a long track record as a safe and very effective medication and has helped many people quit or reduce their drinking.
In summary, naltrexone is best for people who have a habitual dependency on alcohol, drink compulsively, and have physical addiction symptoms. It may not be as effective for those who drink to manage emotional stress, or who struggle with mental illness. Additionally, although naltrexone can help you achieve abstinence, there are other medications which may do this more directly.
Naltrexone is the path to take if you want to cut back over time, want the option of moderation, and most importantly, want to reset your mental and physical reactions to the idea of alcohol. As Claudia Christian puts it, it can feel like a miracle to suddenly realize that you no longer care about whether or not you can drink. Naltrexone can bring about that shift in your psychology, and help you make a permanent change.
In short, we are working to revolutionize treatment for alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder.
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