What is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is part of a group of neuro-blockers (antagonists) of opiate receptors, which blocks the effects of narcotic medicines and alcohol. Naltrexone has been used to treat opioid dependence since 1984 and approved to treat alcohol use disorders (AUDs) since 1994.

Is Naltrexone a Cure?

No. Although naltrexone does not “cure” addiction the way an antibiotic cures an infection, when utilized as a component of comprehensive treatment with psychological and psychosocial therapy, it may increase the likelihood of sustained remission from problem substance abuse.

What are Naltrexone Implants?

Naltrexone implants treat addiction to alcohol or narcotic drugs by preventing the stimulating “feel good” response while reducing cravings for these drugs.  Naltrexone implants  are also used to prevent narcotic addiction relapse and provide protection against accidental overdose in the case of relapse. They are small pellets that are placed under the skin and gradually release medication over varying lengths of time, typically 3 months (10-12 weeks).  A physician must administer them.

How Long do I Need Treatment?

Many scientists claim that the duration of the treatment should last at least one year, because that is the amount of time it can take to change the brain’s addiction pathways. Naltrexone treatment should be part of a psychological and psychosocial program, and during treatment, additional forms of counseling and/or monitoring may be recommended. Although it has been used in Europe and Australia, the implantable version of naltrexone has not yet been approved by the FDA in the U.S. Doctors may be able to order Naltrexone implants through specialty pharmacies.

What are the Advantages of
Naltrexone Implants?

Naltrexone implants have several advantages over other popular medications available on the market.

  1. Never Miss a Dose.  If oral naltrexone is used, it’s effectiveness can be significantly limited if a patient misses a dose, or uses an incorrect dosage amount. With naltrexone implants, a patient does not need to schedule or measure their dosage.
  2. Reward Prevention. Naltrexone completely displaces opioid medications, therefore preventing the reward effect of opioids and alcohol with subsequent use.
  3. Curb Your Cravings. Patients using naltrexone implants typically have significantly reduced cravings, which occur quickly in the first 2-3 weeks of treatment and do not return after that in most cases. Although a small percentage of patients may have cravings, this usually occurs after discontinuing medication, and those who maintain naltrexone implant treatment usually have no cravings. Some experts maintain that combining naltrexone implants with a personal recovery program is especially effective.

What Naltrexone Implant Studies
Have Been Done?

In 2014, the Drug and Alcohol Review published a systematic review examining research results from 9 studies comparing naltrexone implant treatment to either oral naltrexone or to no treatment at all (a placebo).

The results across the 9 studies concluded naltrexone implants to be:

  • Significantly more effective than oral naltrexone
  • Significantly more effective than having no treatment at all.

Although the quality of the studies was basic and additional research is required to fully evaluate the effectiveness of naltrexone implants, the initial findings of the studies is encouraging. So far, the data suggests that naltrexone implants appear to improve addiction recovery success compared to both alternatives of taking naltrexone pills and attempting to quit an addiction without any medication help.

What are the Side Effects?

Side effects for oral naltrexone are generally mild and of short duration. They include nausea, headache, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and sleepiness.

One less common side effect is increased sensitivity to lower doses of opioids after the Naltrexone implant treatment is discontinued. This reduced tolerance is of particular concern toward the end of the dosing cycle after the Naltrexone implant was administered, or after a missed dose. It is important to inform your family members of the increased sensitivity to opioids and the possible risk of overdose.

What Should I Avoid While Using
Naltrexone Implants?

It is important not to use narcotic drugs or alcohol to overcome the effects of the medication while using Naltrexone implants, because doing so could result in dangerous effects, including coma and death. Ask your doctor before using any prescription or over-the-counter medicine to treat a cold, cough, diarrhea or pain, because some may contain narcotics or alcohol.

Can I Use Naltrexone During Pregnancy?

It is not known whether naltrexone implants will harm an unborn baby or a nursing baby. Patients who are pregnant, considering pregnancy or may become pregnant should consult their physician before starting naltrexone therapy. Women of childbearing age should be advised to use birth control while talking naltrexone.

What are the Risk Factors and Complications of Naltrexone Implants?

Although naltrexone implants have generally been reported as a safe method for reducing opioid use, some risks may occur. Complications from naltrexone implants may include any of the following:

  1. Implantation Site Complications
    According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, two of the patients who had a naltrexone implant placed had to have the implant removed due to infection at the implantation site. In addition, one patient reported pain at the surgical site and another reported diarrhea.
  2. Acute Hepatitis and Liver Failure
    Naltrexone implants are not recommended for patients with acute hepatitis or liver failure, and it’s use in patients with active liver disease must be carefully considered by a physician. Patients who experience symptoms of acute hepatitis while using naltrexone implants should discontinue its use immediately and seek medical attention.
  3. Withdrawal
    Before initiating naltrexone implants, patients must be fully withdrawn from all opioids, or complications may occur.  At Avalon Detox, we have created a unique protocol to help patients detox quickly and painlessly before Naltrexone implantation.  We are the only program in California currently offering this advanced treatment protocol allowing patients to achieve successful implantation without suffering through withdrawal first.
  4. Deliberate Overdose
    If a patient deliberately overdoses on opiates or alcohol due to the effects of the naltrexone implants, serious developments may occur such as coma and death.
  5. Opioid Sensitivity
    It is important that patients be informed that they may be more sensitive to lower does of opioids after naltrexone implant treatment is discontinued. The lowered tolerance is most common toward the end of the dosing cycle after the naltrexone implant was placed, or after a dose of naltrexone implant is missed. Patients should inform those closest to them of their increased sensitivity to opioids, as well as the risk of overdose.
  6. Pain
    If naltrexone implant patients require pain management and opioid therapy is used as part of anesthesia or analgesia, they should be continuously monitored in an anesthesia care setting.
  7. Depression and Suicidal Thoughts
    Patients who are alcohol and opioid dependent (including those using naltrexone implants), should be monitored for the development of depression or suicidal thoughts. A patient’s family members and caregivers should report any signs of depression or suicidal thoughts to the patient’s healthcare professional immediately.

What is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is part of a group of neuro-blockers (antagonists) of opiate receptors, which blocks the effects of narcotic medicines and alcohol. Naltrexone has been used to treat opioid dependence since 1984 and approved to treat alcohol use disorders (AUDs) since 1994.

Is Naltrexone a Cure?

No. Although naltrexone does not “cure” addiction the way an antibiotic cures an infection, when utilized as a component of comprehensive treatment with psychological and psychosocial therapy, it may increase the likelihood of sustained remission from problem substance abuse.

What are Naltrexone Implants?

Naltrexone implants treat addiction to alcohol or narcotic drugs by preventing the stimulating “feel good” response while reducing cravings for these drugs.  Naltrexone implants  are also used to prevent narcotic addiction relapse and provide protection against accidental overdose in the case of relapse. They are small pellets that are placed under the skin and gradually release medication over varying lengths of time, typically 3 months (10-12 weeks).  A physician must administer them.

How Long do I Need Treatment?

Many scientists claim that the duration of the treatment should last at least one year, because that is the amount of time it can take to change the brain’s addiction pathways. Naltrexone treatment should be part of a psychological and psychosocial program, and during treatment, additional forms of counseling and/or monitoring may be recommended. Although it has been used in Europe and Australia, the implantable version of naltrexone has not yet been approved by the FDA in the U.S. Doctors may be able to order Naltrexone implants through specialty pharmacies.

What are the Advantages of
Naltrexone Implants?

Naltrexone implants have several advantages over other popular medications available on the market.

  1. Never Miss a Dose.  If oral naltrexone is used, it’s effectiveness can be significantly limited if a patient misses a dose, or uses an incorrect dosage amount. With naltrexone implants, a patient does not need to schedule or measure their dosage.
  2. Reward Prevention. Naltrexone completely displaces opioid medications, therefore preventing the reward effect of opioids and alcohol with subsequent use.
  3. Curb Your Cravings. Patients using naltrexone implants typically have significantly reduced cravings, which occur quickly in the first 2-3 weeks of treatment and do not return after that in most cases. Although a small percentage of patients may have cravings, this usually occurs after discontinuing medication, and those who maintain naltrexone implant treatment usually have no cravings. Some experts maintain that combining naltrexone implants with a personal recovery program is especially effective.

What Naltrexone Implant Studies
Have Been Done?

In 2014, the Drug and Alcohol Review published a systematic review examining research results from 9 studies comparing naltrexone implant treatment to either oral naltrexone or to no treatment at all (a placebo).

The results across the 9 studies concluded naltrexone implants to be:

  • Significantly more effective than oral naltrexone
  • Significantly more effective than having no treatment at all.

Although the quality of the studies was basic and additional research is required to fully evaluate the effectiveness of naltrexone implants, the initial findings of the studies is encouraging. So far, the data suggests that naltrexone implants appear to improve addiction recovery success compared to both alternatives of taking naltrexone pills and attempting to quit an addiction without any medication help.

What are the Side Effects?

Side effects for oral naltrexone are generally mild and of short duration. They include nausea, headache, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and sleepiness.

One less common side effect is increased sensitivity to lower doses of opioids after the Naltrexone implant treatment is discontinued. This reduced tolerance is of particular concern toward the end of the dosing cycle after the Naltrexone implant was administered, or after a missed dose. It is important to inform your family members of the increased sensitivity to opioids and the possible risk of overdose.

What Should I Avoid While Using
Naltrexone Implants?

It is important not to use narcotic drugs or alcohol to overcome the effects of the medication while using Naltrexone implants, because doing so could result in dangerous effects, including coma and death. Ask your doctor before using any prescription or over-the-counter medicine to treat a cold, cough, diarrhea or pain, because some may contain narcotics or alcohol.

Can I Use Naltrexone During Pregnancy?

It is not known whether naltrexone implants will harm an unborn baby or a nursing baby. Patients who are pregnant, considering pregnancy or may become pregnant should consult their physician before starting naltrexone therapy. Women of childbearing age should be advised to use birth control while talking naltrexone.

What are the Risk Factors and Complications of Naltrexone Implants?

Although naltrexone implants have generally been reported as a safe method for reducing opioid use, some risks may occur. Complications from naltrexone implants may include any of the following:

  1. Implantation Site Complications
    According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, two of the patients who had a naltrexone implant placed had to have the implant removed due to infection at the implantation site. In addition, one patient reported pain at the surgical site and another reported diarrhea.
  2. Acute Hepatitis and Liver Failure
    Naltrexone implants are not recommended for patients with acute hepatitis or liver failure, and it’s use in patients with active liver disease must be carefully considered by a physician. Patients who experience symptoms of acute hepatitis while using naltrexone implants should discontinue its use immediately and seek medical attention.
  3. Withdrawal
    Before initiating naltrexone implants, patients must be fully withdrawn from all opioids, or complications may occur.  At Avalon Detox, we have created a unique protocol to help patients detox quickly and painlessly before Naltrexone implantation.  We are the only program in California currently offering this advanced treatment protocol allowing patients to achieve successful implantation without suffering through withdrawal first.
  4. Deliberate Overdose
    If a patient deliberately overdoses on opiates or alcohol due to the effects of the naltrexone implants, serious developments may occur such as coma and death.
  5. Opioid Sensitivity
    It is important that patients be informed that they may be more sensitive to lower does of opioids after naltrexone implant treatment is discontinued. The lowered tolerance is most common toward the end of the dosing cycle after the naltrexone implant was placed, or after a dose of naltrexone implant is missed. Patients should inform those closest to them of their increased sensitivity to opioids, as well as the risk of overdose.
  6. Pain
    If naltrexone implant patients require pain management and opioid therapy is used as part of anesthesia or analgesia, they should be continuously monitored in an anesthesia care setting.
  7. Depression and Suicidal Thoughts
    Patients who are alcohol and opioid dependent (including those using naltrexone implants), should be monitored for the development of depression or suicidal thoughts. A patient’s family members and caregivers should report any signs of depression or suicidal thoughts to the patient’s healthcare professional immediately.