2.1 million people struggle with opioid use disorder (OUD) annually. In addition, almost eight times as many people — 14.6 million Americans — live with alcohol use disorder (AUD). These numbers are worrying.

Brain imaging reveals that drug misuse can affect a person’s ability to make decisions and maintain relationships. So what starts as an occasional binge — or a coping mechanism — can take over someone’s life.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is an FDA-approved program that can help individuals with substance use disorders.

Here we discuss whether naltrexone — a part of MAT — is addictive. Read on to learn more. 

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) combines drugs with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance misuse.

Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work?

MAT is a proven treatment. Studies show that it enables up to 70% of individuals to overcome substance misuse.

It is effective in all age groups. Young adults report a 90% increase in their ability to refuse drugs. This is because of an increase in their relapse-prevention skills. As a result, 52% of treated users can abstain from drugs.

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Addictive?

Whether MAT is addictive depends on the medications used. For instance, FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder include:

Similarly, FDA-approved medications for alcohol use disorder include acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. Neither of these is addictive.

What is Naltrexone, and How Does it Work?

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist FDA-approved for use in alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opioid use disorder (OUD).

It works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain without stimulating them. This displaces opioids from their receptors and prevents the release of endorphins. In other words, naltrexone blocks the euphoric effects of opioids and alcohol — and reduces cravings for them.

Is Naltrexone Effective?

Naltrexone is a proven treatment for AUD and OUD. Studies show it can reduce heavy alcohol drinking days by 25%. While other research shows that naltrexone reduces cravings for alcohol and thus lowers the risk of relapse. 

Similarly, clinical trials show that naltrexone enables individuals with OUD to reduce opioid intake. On top of that, roughly 50% of trial participants could abstain completely. 

Naltrexone Uses

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How Long is Naltrexone Used?

Doctors usually prescribe naltrexone for 3-4 months in AUD. In contrast, a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) determines the duration of naltrexone treatment in OUD.

Can Naltrexone Be Used Long-Term?

Naltrexone is safe to use long-term.

A study on 38 OUD patients shows that long-term naltrexone is safe. Over the 2-year study duration, only 6 participants dropped out with side effects. These adverse effects were mild in 95% of cases.

Is Naltrexone Addictive?

Naltrexone is not addictive. This is because it is an opioid antagonist. Thus, it occupies opioid receptors WITHOUT activating them. As a result, naltrexone does not cause physical or psychological dependence and has no misuse potential.

Can Naltrexone Make You Feel High?

Naltrexone cannot produce the “high” associated with opioid or alcohol use. This is again because it only blocks opioid action and does not activate receptors.

Can Naltrexone Be Abruptly Stopped?

For the same reasons (outlined above), users can stop taking naltrexone abruptly without experiencing withdrawal.

Does Naltrexone Cause Withdrawal?

Naltrexone does not cause withdrawal. But it can precipitate it in users who already have opioids or alcohol in their system. This is because naltrexone displaces opioids and other endorphins from their receptors which can trigger withdrawal.

Medication-assisted Treatment (MAT) at Confidant Health

Our virtual clinic makes it easier than ever before for you to get the help you need to overcome your substance use disorder — that too, from the comfort of your home.

So get in touch with our experts today and take the vital first step in your recovery.