Naltrexone Treatment

Naltrexone is one of three medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Today, experts recognize MAT— a 21st century technique that goes far beyond old notions of addiction treatment — as one of the most effective ways of helping people affected by serious opioid problems (i.e., opioid use disorder). As providers of verified naltrexone treatment near you, Transformations Treatment Center makes this beneficial, cutting-edge option available to people from all walks of life.

How Does Naltrexone Work?

Naltrexone is an oral or injectable medication that attaches itself to the opioid receptor sites that form a natural part of the human nervous system. Under normal circumstances, these sites act as a pathway from the bloodstream to the brain and allow opioid drugs and medications to produce their mental and physical effects. However, when naltrexone binds to the receptors, it sets up a blockade that stops those addictive substances from reaching their intended target. The oral version of the medication lasts for 24 hours, while the extended-release injectable version lasts for a full month.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment is the accepted name for an opioid use disorder protocol that combines the use of any one of several medications with a variety of options for counseling or behavioral psychotherapy. Unlike methods used in the past that viewed people with opioid problems only as “addicts,” modern-day MAT takes the whole person into account. To provide as much assistance as possible, programs that rely on this approach also offer vocational training and a range of other secondary services that help boost the odds for successful recovery.

Figures compiled by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) show that enrollment in medication-assisted treatment leads to an approximately 50 percent reduction in the chances of dying from a cause related to uncontrolled opioid consumption. MAT also provides other key benefits, including:

  • Diminished odds of dropping out of substance treatment before completion
  • Diminished odds of relapsing during opioid treatment
  • Diminished odds of committing a crime in support of substance use
  • Diminished odds of developing prenatal or postnatal pregnancy issues stemming from opioid intake
  • Diminished odds of contracting HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis or other infections linked to opioid consumption

One of the most damaging myths associated with medication-assisted treatment is that participants merely exchange uncontrolled substance problems for doctor-sponsored addiction. This position bears no relation to the truth of effective care. First, naltrexone-based MAT does not involve treatment with an opioid medication. In addition, treatment that does involve opioids (either methadone or buprenorphine) will not support addiction. Quite the contrary, when used by trained professionals, this treatment helps correct the underlying conditions that make ongoing addiction a possibility. It provides no drug “high” and helps prevent the severe dysfunction that often marks the course of substance problems.

Naltrexone, MAT and Opioid Treatment Programs

Medication-assisted treatment that utilizes methadone or buprenorphine-based Suboxone must take place in a facility designated as an opioid treatment program (OTP). All such programs in the U.S. are accredited by organizations who report their findings to SAMHSA. Since naltrexone is not an opioid, it falls under less restrictive guidelines than other MAT options. In fact, any doctor in good standing can prescribe its use. However, when used to treat opioid use disorder, the medication should always form part of a larger plan that includes behavioral therapy or counseling.

How is Naltrexone Used in MAT?

As a rule, people undergoing treatment for opioid use disorder receive the extended-release form of naltrexone. Use of the medication begins no less than a week to 10 days after supervised opioid detox is completed. If naltrexone is prescribed before opioids leave the body, it can trigger the rapid onset of serious or severe withdrawal symptoms. In cases of relapse, use of the medication must end until opioid intake ceases and the affected person again goes through supervised detox. Naltrexone-based MAT provides a benefit by doing four things:

  • Preventing opioids from triggering sensations of euphoria inside the brain
  • Preventing opioids from triggering a sedating effect inside the brain
  • Reducing the severity of ongoing opioid cravings
  • Making clients less susceptible to the internal and external cues that tend to promote opioid consumption

The length of required treatment varies from person to person.

Naltrexone Warnings and Side Effects

People who take naltrexone and remain abstinent for any significant amount of time will experience a reduced tolerance to opioid drugs and medications. This means that, in the event of a relapse, doses of opioids that seemed safe or normal in the past may now produce a life-threatening overdose. Severe outcomes found in people who overdose after using the medication include collapse of the circulatory system and complete disruption of the ability to breathe. Doctors and other staff in naltrexone-based MAT programs limit the potential for relapse by providing regular monitoring  for each participant.

Naltrexone provides no high and does not pose a risk as a target of substance abuse. Still, it should not be used in combination with alcohol, street drugs, opioid medications or sedative tranquilizers. In addition, people who take the medication can develop a number of side effects, including painful joints or muscles, stomach distress, sleep disruption, vomiting, headaches, diarrhea and restlessness or agitation. Anyone taking the extended-release form of naltrexone has a chance of developing rashes or other skin changes at the injection site. In some cases, use of the medication can lead to the onset of liver damage or allergy-related pneumonia.

Certified naltrexone treatment near you can serve as a vital resource in recovery from all forms of opioid use disorder. At Transformations Treatment Center, our staff of certified professionals provides effective care for local residents, as well as for people who live much further away. For more information on how we can assist you, contact us today.

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