Naltrexone was approved by the FDA as a treatment for Alcohol Dependence in 1994. However, it was initially approved for the treatment of Opioid Dependence in 1984, due to the fact that the medication works by blocking the effects of opioids. This includes naturally occurring opiates in the brain known as Endorphin. When alcohol is consumed, normally these endorphins are released, which causes the drinker to experience please. When these receptors are blocked, the experience of enjoyment is less when alcohol is consumed.
Evidence has demonstrated that when Naltrexone is combined with counseling and other therapeutic interventions, it can decrease
- The amount of alcohol consumed during one occasion (i.e. binges).
- The number of days spent drinking
- Drinking that results in negative consequences
Naltrexone does not make you sick when you combine it with alcohol, the way Antabuse (disulfiram) does. It does not alter the metabolism or absorption of alcohol in any way, nor does it prevent patients from becoming intoxicated if they drink alcohol.
Because Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors, opiate pain medications such as Morphine, Oxycodone, Percocet, and Vicodin will not be effective. If treatment with opioids is necessary, the naltrexone will need to be stopped for 2 to 3 days prior to starting the opiods. Patients should wait 5-10 days after taking Naltrexone before starting an opiate.
Naltrexone does not affect over-the-counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen (Advil), Acetaminophen (Tylenol), or aspirin.