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Editor’s note: This post was originally posted on July 23, 2019, and has been updated on April 27th, 2022.

Every day, 130 people suffer an opiate-related death. Unless we learn about ways to treat addiction, the lives of the people we love won’t improve. 

That’s why Naltrexone is a topic worth discussing. This medication lowers dependence on drugs like opiates and alcohol. But, what is Naltrexone exactly? How does it work?

If you want to improve the lives of the people you love, it’s time to learn about curative efforts like Naltrexone. Read this guide to get the answers you’re looking for. 

What is Naltrexone

Naltrexone is a chemical antagonist used to block opioid receptors in the brain. This effect causes opiate users to no longer receive the effects of their drug habit.

Put simply, a typical Naltrexone dosage causes loved ones to crave opiates and alcohol less. The antagonist prevents most drugs in the opioid category, such as:

  • Codeine
  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Similar prescription drugs

Naltrexone is sometimes given using implants, injections, or patches. This life-saving medication has several delivery methods, but patients or guardians can decide the option that best suits a situation.

Naltrexone is a prescription drug. Medical professionals use it as part of medication-assisted treatment or MAT, which combines medication with social and behavioral therapy for those trying to overcome alcoholism and opioid addiction. It is an FDA-approved drug that can be administered in multiple ways, although not all the ways are necessarily FDA-approved. One can ingest it orally, have it injected, or use it in the form of implants and patches.

However, it is essential to mention that Naltrexone does not reverse the damage caused by opioids or alcohol abuse. Instead, it blocks the euphoria caused by opioids, which can lead to substance abuse. For this reason, Naltrexone is called an opioid receptor antagonist. Similarly, this life-saving drug can reduce the craving for a drink among those battling alcoholism. It can significantly reduce one’s desire for alcohol and prevent relapse.

In addition, Naltrexone is not addictive — according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

You can find out more about the history of Naltrexone here.


Interestingly, it was first approved in 1984 to treat opioid addiction by helping patients manage substance cravings and blocking the opioid receptor in the brain. Doctors soon realized that it has a similar effect on patients with alcohol addiction. In 1995, the FDA approved it for use against alcohol use disorder as well.

It’s now one of the go-to choices for both conditions as Naltrexone has no abuse or addiction potential. It produces no “high” or other effects that could be pleasurable or addictive.

Any side effects are mild and transient, making it a safe choice for most patients. There are also no withdrawal symptoms once the medication wears off or the treatment stops.

Naltrexone has been approved in pill form since 1984. Patients typically take a pill once a day, with or without food, although this varies depending on the patient’s needs.

It should be said, mental illness and behavior disorders sometimes arise from addictions, making Naltrexone a valid cure for both problems.

Historically, Naltrexone has shown the links between addictive behavior and opioid receptors can lose their strength with proper dosages and repeated treatments. Impulsive behavior disorders like kleptomania and pornography addiction both have similar origins to common opiate addiction. Naltrexone has been shown to help most of these issues.


There is not a singular cure for opiate addiction and alcoholism. Evidence tells us Naltrexone effectively blocks opiate receptors and makes it harder for the people you love to continue abusing drugs. However, it isn’t the only treatment your loved one will need.

Most opiate addicts and alcoholics will need a combination of medical and behavioral treatment. If you want the best results, choose a program that extends the treatment period until the addiction wears out.

How Does Naltrexone Affect The Body?

Before you learn about Naltrexone’s effects, it’s important to understand how opiate receptors work. For starters, opioids mimic neurotransmitters. This persuades receptors to allow the drug to excite reward centers in the brain.

The primary way opioids pleasure the brain is through dopamine flooding. This tactic involves opioid attachment and dopamine-triggering. Once this occurs enough times, the brain associates the opiate with a positive reward.

In a sense, an addict’s brain evolves to crave the same chemical it uses to control movement, breathing, and pain regulation.

Naltrexone’s goal is to block opioids from entering the brain. If it helps, Naltrexone must act as a shield, preventing the brain from confusing opioids with normal dopamine triggers.

Primary Effects

Once Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors in the brain, the brain enters a transitionary period. This results in changes in addictive behavior, and rejection of opiates, alcohol, and disordered actions.

This change might appear rapid to former drug users looking to change their lives. As a result, most Naltrexone treatment is followed by supervised detox.

Side Effects

As Naltrexone isn’t a responding drug, side effects aren’t potentially damaging. In other words, most side effects involve cognition and dopamine-related tasks.

All of these side effects involve areas of someone’s life that can be treated with behavioral therapy. That being the case, after your loved one receives Naltrexone treatment, you should sign them up for therapy. This lowers the chances of them returning to addictive behavior.

Low Dose Side Effects

Low Dose Naltrexone has proven anti-inflammatory effects. It’s possible to prescribe the medication in low doses for older or less healthy patients as well. In both of these cases, the side effects don’t cause risks to mental or physical health.

LDN treatment has nearly all the same effects as a traditional treatment. The only common differences in results lie in dreams. In some cases, patients experience vivid and strange dreams.

Low-dose naltrexone side effects can also present themselves in subtler forms as regular dose treatment.

Dosages and How-To

One of the best ways to deliver treatment is through the Naltrexone implant. Unlike other methods, an implant slowly releases the medication over a period of several months.

In theory, Naltrexone starts reducing addictive urges immediately. Why choose an implant? The slow-release method raises the chances of success. Moreover, long-term medication plans allow for Naltrexone to bind to the brain.

Another option is intermuscular injection.

In this case, a specialist injects the medication into a patient’s muscle. This causes a fast-acting solution. However, the effects of Naltrexone might wear off quicker.

Some patients might prefer tablet delivery methods. In this case, specialists prescribe tablets for valid patients. Still, some long-term addicts might lapse in their medication schedule.

Recovery Made Safe and Easy

Recovery doesn’t have to be a scary experience for anyone involved. You have people you love, people you want to keep strong. Answering the question, “what is Naltrexone” can take you one step closer to a better life for the ones you care most about.

After reading this post, you have a much better idea of what you need to do. You can help someone you love to take the next step towards a better life. What’s stopping you from moving forward?

Be the change you want in others. Don’t wait any longer. Start by learning about all the good Naltrexone has made in others’ lives today.

What are Naltrexone Side Effects?

Overcoming an addiction is never easy, but acknowledging you have a problem can be a substantial first step in the right direction. If you or a loved one is seeking treatment for an opioid or alcohol addiction, there is a good chance you have heard about Naltrexone. You may be wondering about the potential side effects of Naltrexone and whether taking it would be a good decision for your body? Of course, your concerns are valid. Before you start any treatment, it is important to understand how it can affect your physical and mental health.

To help you learn more about the possible side effects of Naltrexone, we have put together a guide that will answer some of your most pressing questions and help put you on a path to recovery.

Before we review the potential side effects, let’s quickly discuss Naltrexone and how it treats addiction.

Possible Physical Side Effects Of Naltrexone

Arguably, no drug is perfect. Although using Naltrexone for alcohol and opioid addiction treatment has shown encouraging results. However, one cannot deny that this medication does have some side effects.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, these are some of the most common Naltrexone side effects one may experience:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or joint pain

Possible Long-Term Side Effects of Naltrexone

Although Naltrexone is safe for long-term use, long term continued usage of this drug may result in the following side effects:

  • Arthritis
  • Liver damage
  • Respiratory infections

Please inform your doctor about these medical conditions before they become debilitating. Moreover, do not increase or decrease your Naltrexone dosage on your own.

What Are the Possible Psychological Side Effects Of Naltrexone?

Some people may also experience the following psychological side effects of this prescription medication.

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

Combined with the common withdrawal symptoms, dealing with Naltrexone side effects can get tricky for some. However, medical professionals do not recommend discontinuing the use of this medication without approval from the doctor.

If you are experiencing any of these side effects, it is advised to speak with your doctor about possibly adjusting the Naltrexone dosage.

Does Naltrexone Interact with Other Drugs?

Naltrexone has proven to be one of the most prominent medications in the fight against alcohol and opioid dependency among addicts. But much like other drugs, it can interact with different medications – including over-the-counter medicines.

Therefore, before you start your treatment, be sure to tell your doctor about any allergies you may have and share a list of drugs you are taking as well.

Here are some of the medications that can cause adverse effects when coupled with Naltrexone:

  • Diarrhea medications
  • Cough medications
  • Narcotic drugs

A Few Things to Keep In Mind While Using Naltrexone

As mentioned above, Naltrexone is usually administered in conjunction with behavioral therapy and counseling. If your doctor has prescribed you this drug, be sure to keep these things in mind while taking it.

  • Naltrexone can make you dizzy. Therefore, you should not drive or use any heavy machinery while taking this medication.
  • It is advised to stay away from activities that require you to be alert.
  • Do not hide your substance abuse from your doctor or pharmacist if you have a problem.
  • Your doctor and pharmacist must also know if you have any kidney or liver infections.
  • If you are using medical marijuana or have any chronic illnesses, make sure to share the details with your physician.
  • It may be a good idea to carry a medical ID stating you are taking Naltrexone. This can be extremely useful in emergency cases and allow medical professionals to give you appropriate treatment.
  • Naltrexone blocks the “high” feeling caused by opiate drugs, which leads some people to take large doses to overcome it. This can be very harmful. In fact, it may result in permanent damage or even death.
  • Once you stop using this medication, you may become more sensitive to lower doses of opioids. In other words, taking even a small amount of this substance can cause an overdose.
  • Your doctor should know if you are using Naltrexone, especially if you plan to undergo surgery or other medical treatment.

In a Nutshell

Roughly 50,000 people die from opioid-involved overdoses across the country every year.

Naltrexone has proven to be a promising medication in the fight against alcohol and opioid addiction. It is a non-addictive drug typically prescribed along with psychotherapy in the treatment of addiction. Yet, it also has possible physical and psychological side effects you should consider before taking it.

With this in mind, be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendation for Naltrexone usage. Also, make sure you understand all the possible side effects of Naltrexone before starting your treatment regime.

If you want to learn about overcoming addiction, please take a look at our comprehensive treatment plan. Also, feel free to get in touch with us to find a provider for your addiction assistance.

Naltrexone and Alcoholism

Opioid addiction steals all the headlines, but there’s another epidemic raging in America — alcoholism. In 2019, there were more than 95,000 alcohol-related deaths nationwide, making it the third most preventable cause of death.

As far as numbers are concerned, alcoholism is an even bigger problem in our society than opioid addiction.

If you’re doing research on effective treatments for alcoholism, you’ve undoubtedly come across the name “Naltrexone.” But what is Naltrexone, exactly, and how does it work? Aren’t you just swapping one addiction for another?

Most importantly, how effective is Naltrexone in the battle against alcoholism — and is it the right choice for you?

We’ll answer these questions and much more below, so keep reading for your in-depth guide to Naltrexone and alcoholism.

How Does Naltrexone Work?

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it counteracts the pleasurable effects of alcohol or opioid use. In other words, it has the ability to reduce or even eliminate cravings.

Does this mean that Naltrexone is a “cure” for alcoholism or other addictions?

No. Medical experts recognize that alcoholism is a complex, multi-faceted disease that impacts both physical and mental health. The best treatment plans are comprehensive, focusing on both the physical cravings and the behavioral and emotional aspects of the disease.

Doctors use Naltrexone to address the physical effects of alcoholism — namely, reducing cravings for alcohol. It works by binding to and blocking endorphin receptors, which reduces and suppresses cravings. This all-important first step is key in winning the battle against alcoholism, allowing the patient to focus on other aspects of the recovery process.

But Naltrexone goes a step further by also canceling out the euphoria associated with drinking alcohol. If the patient does drink alcohol while taking Naltrexone, they don’t receive that “reward” their body is looking for. This makes it easier to abstain from alcohol altogether (or to drink less if they do give in).

Are There Any Side Effects of Naltrexone?

Numerous studies show that most side effects of Naltrexone are generally mild.

Of course, many symptoms are associated with alcohol withdrawal in general. It’s impossible to say whether these side effects are from the medication or just part of the body’s natural detox process.

Either way, it’s common for doctors to check liver function while the patient is on Naltrexone. Because the medication gets processed through the liver, they need to ensure that the patient maintains a healthy liver function before and during treatment.

Naltrexone is generally safe for most patients, although it’s not suitable for pregnant women or anyone with severe kidney or liver problems. The patient will need to abstain from alcohol for a minimum of five days before they begin treatment.

It’s safe for patients to take most medications such as allergy pills or antibiotics while using Naltrexone. Non-opioid pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications are also generally safe to take. Patients will want to let their doctor know of any medications that they regularly take (including over-the-counter medications) to ensure there are no possible interactions or complications.

What Happens If I Take Naltrexone With Alcohol?

The good news is there are no known cases of severe reactions in patients who do succumb to drinking while taking Naltrexone.

While it does eliminate the pleasurable effects of alcohol, it does not eliminate the impairment effects. A patient who drinks to the point of intoxication will still experience its unpleasant symptoms — without the euphoric buzz that occurs first.

For most people, this strongly reduces the desire to drink.

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

As mentioned above, Naltrexone is just one piece of the puzzle in the battle to overcome alcoholism. It’s one component of a larger program known as Medication-Assisted Treatment or MAT.

As the name suggests, MAT includes the use of a medication like Naltrexone. It also includes a combination of behavioral therapies and counseling to enable the patient to overcome their addiction. This “whole patient” approach ensures a customized treatment plan that’s tailored to each patient’s unique needs.

Aside from the supervised use of Naltrexone, the other vital components of MAT are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and peer counseling. Let’s take a closer look at these other elements.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is an effective psychological treatment often referred to as “talk therapy.” It’s used to treat a wide variety of emotional and behavioral issues, from anxiety and eating disorders to marital problems and addictions.

How does CBT work? The goal is to help the patient to identify any disturbing or destructive thought patterns that lead to unwanted behaviors. For someone with alcoholism, this goal is to identify (and change) the situations or negative thoughts that lead to drinking.

CBT is based on these core principles:

  • Many psychological problems result from unhelpful or faulty ways of thinking
  • These same problems are based on learned patterns of unhealthy or dangerous behavior
  • Through therapy, people can learn to better cope with their problems and avoid unwanted behaviors

Unlike more analytical forms of talk therapy, CBT takes a very focused and structured approach. The goal is to empower the patient with the knowledge and skills they need to maintain sobriety after treatment ends.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Once the patient understands their faulty thoughts or emotional responses, they’ll work with the counselor to overcome them. In a way, CBT prepares the patient to become their own therapist so they can maintain a healthy lifestyle in the future.

Counselors may use a variety of techniques to help the patient identify and overcome their weaknesses. The first step is trying to change unwanted thinking patterns. Strategies to accomplish this include:

  • Learning new problem-solving skills to cope with challenging situations
  • Learning to recognize and reevaluate distorted thinking
  • Gaining deeper insight into other people’s motives and behaviors
  • Developing a greater sense of self-confidence and self-worth

Once the patient changes their thoughts, it’s time to translate those thoughts into new, helpful actions. To change unwanted behavioral patterns, the counselor may help the patient by:

  • Teaching them methods for relaxing their body and mind
  • Teaching them how to face their fears instead of trying to avoid them
  • Using role-playing to prepare them for tempting or problematic situations

During each session, the therapist helps the patient to develop coping skills they’ll need to avoid relapse after treatment ends. Rather than dwelling on the past or things that may have contributed to their addiction, the focus is on moving forward and maintaining sobriety.

As you can imagine, CBT can only be effective if the patient has a clear mind and can fully focus on the therapy. This is why Naltrexone goes hand-in-hand with CBT. It reduces physical cravings so the patient can better focus on the emotional and behavioral aspects of their addiction.

The Final Piece of the Puzzle: Ongoing Peer Support

During the recovery process, the patient needs to feel that they’re understood, accepted, and validated. This is what makes the final part of MAT — peer support — just as important as Naltrexone and CBT.

Partnering with others who have overcome their battle with alcoholism is invaluable to those at the beginning of their journey. Peer support allows both parties to share their experiences and develop goals and strategies they can use in the future.

The Beat Addiction Recovery Program offers 24/7 live peer support through a HIPAA-compliant app. Each patient is paired with a peer whose profile is similar to their own — age, gender, and substance of abuse (in this case, alcohol). The app offers phone, text, and video options, making it easy to integrate into the patient’s everyday routine.

Peer support is available for a minimum of six months. This ensures the patient has the support network they need once their initial MAT treatment ends and they’re navigating the “real world” on their own.

Depending on the patient’s needs, they might also seek the support of a traditional 12-step program such as AA. The more treatment and support options they take advantage of, the better equipped they’ll be to succeed in the future.

How Affective Is MAT Against Alcoholism?

Now that you know more about Naltrexone and its role in a Medication-Assisted Treatment program, let’s focus on the most important question: Does it work?

Extensive research shows that the combination of medication, counseling, and therapy can help even patients with severe alcoholism to recover. Statistics show that the longer a patient stays in treatment, the better their chances of avoiding relapse in the future. On the other hand, patients who don’t complete their full treatment program are much more likely to relapse.

Common outcomes for those who successfully complete MAT include:

  • Improved odds of maintaining sobriety
  • Improved chances of survival
  • Increased ability to gain and maintain employment
  • Decreased criminal activity or legal trouble (such as DUI convictions)
  • Improved birth outcomes in pregnant women
  • Reduced risk for developing alcohol-related diseases

In one study of people with both alcoholism and severe mental illness, the group who completed MAT showed significant improvements over the non-MAT group. Another study suggests that MAT can reduce the all-cause mortality rate for substance abuse patients by over 50%.

What makes MAT so effective? Research is still ongoing, but experts believe the root of its success lies in its whole-patient approach. Rather than only addressing the physical symptoms of cravings and withdrawals, MAT goes deeper to address any underlying mental and emotional problems as well.

For those in the early stages of recovery, MAT may be the perfect stepping stone to a fulfilling, addiction-free life. Naltrexone eases physical cravings while CBT and peer counseling help the patient overcome the contributing factors to their addiction. All of this combined could be (quite literally) just what the doctor ordered.

Naltrexone and Alcoholism: Is It the Answer for You?

As we’ve discussed, Naltrexone is a highly effective treatment method for overcoming alcoholism.

However, it’s not enough to take the medication on your own. It works best when combined with counseling, therapy, and other components that encompass Medication-Assisted Treatment programs.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, don’t wait any longer. The time to get help is right now, and it’s easier than ever to get the support you need.

Click here to learn more about what the Beat Addiction Recovery program can do for you. When you’re ready to find a provider in your area, contact us at or call us at 888-993-1099.

Naltrexone FAQs

Naltrexone is primarily used to treat Opioid Use Disorders (OUD) and Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD). This drug works by blocking out euphoric and sedative effects of heroin, morphine codeine, and alcohol.

This FDA-approved medicine is used for medication-assisted treatment (MAT); however, it is generally paired with other comprehensive treatment plans. These plans include counseling and other behavioral therapies for a whole-person approach.

Here are a few common questions asked by people regarding the drug Naltrexone, the treatment effects, withdrawal symptoms, and much more.

Is Naltrexone Effective?

As noticed in clinical trials, patients who received Naltrexone were more likely to abstain from the overuse of opioids and avoid relapse more than people treated with a placebo sugar pill.

How Does Naltrexone Help With Alcoholism?

Successful reports mention three key changes on this subject:

  • Reduced cravings, which is one of the main reasons users drink excessively
  • Helps people to abstain from the substance, in some cases entirely
  • When patients resulted to a drink, Naltrexone prevented most from having more

Is Naltrexone the Only Solution for Drug or Alcohol Abuse?

Similar to other treatment solutions, drugs for a disorder usually work best with a comprehensive treatment plan. Counseling from professional psychotherapists is recommended as well during the recovery process.

Will Something Serious Happen if I Drink While Taking This Medication?

No, the drug is only meant to reduce the desire to drink, and feelings of intoxication to an extent. There are no reported cases of a severe physical response from the drug on the body while drinking.

How Long Does the Pill Take to Show Its Effects?

The effects of blocking out opioids in the system usually take effect within a few days after dosing. According to doctors’ reports and feedback, Naltrexone has been shown to have worked very early on in the treatment process by helping patients refrain from substance abuse and avoiding relapse.

Who Should Avoid This Medication?

This medicine should not be taken by pregnant women, people with severe liver and kidney problems, and those who cannot abstain from alcohol five days prior to taking Naltrexone. For opioid users, they must stop their drug use seven days before they start this treatment plan.

What Medication Is Safe to Take With Naltrexone?

Naltrexone primarily works on opioid receptors, which are the key component of many pain-relieving medications on the market. Naltrexone may influence the effects of these medications on your body. Since the liver breaks down Naltrexone, other medicine that affects our liver function may potentially interfere with the naltrexone dose. Please ask your doctor for more information on this topic, as many variables exist depending on the medication(s).

However, Naltrexone is noticed to have little effect on antibiotics, non-opioid analgesics (like aspirin, ibuprofen), and allergy pills.

How Long Should I Stay on Naltrexone?

The recommended course is for three months, provided the treatment was effective. It’s the job of the medical care providers to record your improvements and to devise a future plan usually consisting of behavioral therapy or counseling to avoid a relapse.

Are There Any Side Effects of Naltrexone?

According to studies, only a small percentage of people experienced side effects such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Drowsiness

Most of these side effects were mild and of short duration. Around 5-10 percent of people were noted to have severe nausea that caused them to discontinue the drug. For the rest, the symptoms were typically mild. The functionality of the liver can be compromised when on Naltrexone. This is why regular blood tests are carried out before the treatment starts and during the process.

Do I Need to Take a Blood Test?

Yes. A blood test is needed before the onset of the treatment to check your liver function, to know whether it’s functioning normally or not. A blood test during the treatment will check for any adverse effects of the drug on the liver. Blood tests are done every month for three months to make sure everything is normal in the body. Your doctor may recommend continuous blood tests depending on the condition of your liver prior to starting the treatment plan.

Will I Get Sick if I Discontinue?

There is no physical dependence on this medication if stopped. Therefore, you may discontinue at any time without ill consequences. There may also be no rebound effect to resuming the use of opioids or alcohol when Naltrexone is discontinued.

Can I Get an Operation, or Use Pain Killers While Taking Naltrexone?

If you need to get operated on or take painkillers while on Naltrexone, inform your physician about it and carry your prescription card with you. Other opioid-free pain killers may be given to you as an alternative.

However, in case of elective surgery, stop taking this medicine 72 hours prior.

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