Naltrexone is a prescription medication used in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorder. It works by blocking the euphoric effects associated with substance misuse and reducing drug and alcohol cravings. While naltrexone is beneficial as a form of medication assisted treatment for opioid and alcohol misuse, some people may eventually decide that it’s time to stop taking their medication. In this case, naltrexone withdrawal may become a concern. Below, we explain what you can expect when stopping naltrexone. 

Naltrexone Overview 

Naltrexone is a prescription medication used in the treatment of substance use disorders. It is approved for treating both alcohol and opioid misuse and dependence. Many people wonder if naltrexone is an opioid drug, so you may be surprised to learn that naltrexone is actually an opioid antagonist. This means that naltrexone is not an opioid, and it will block the effects of opioid drugs.

When a person has an opioid or alcohol use disorder, naltrexone can help them during their recovery by acting as an opioid blocker. When opioid receptors are blocked, a person will not experience euphoric feelings when using opioids or alcohol. This discourages substance misuse and also helps to relieve cravings. 

Naltrexone is available as a pill to treat alcohol use disorder. There is also an injectable version of the medication that can be used to treat both alcohol and opioid use disorder. A naltrexone pill must be taken daily, whereas the injectable form is given once per month, since its effects are long-lasting. 

Naltrexone Withdrawal Symptoms And Side Effects 

If you’ve been taking naltrexone and feel that you are ready to stop using this medication, you likely have questions about naltrexone withdrawal side effects. Maybe you’re worried about stopping naltrexone cold turkey, or you wonder if naltrexone withdrawal will be severe. 

The truth is that naltrexone is not an opioid drug like Suboxone, which is also used in medication assisted treatment. It therefore will not cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it. So, can you just stop taking naltrexone without consulting with a doctor? It’s probably not a good idea. While stopping naltrexone cold turkey will not cause withdrawal side effects, it is important to work with your doctor to determine whether you are stable enough in recovery to stop using the medication.

Your doctor and other members of your treatment team, such as counselors or therapists, can help you to develop a plan for stopping naltrexone. They can educate you about what to expect when you stop using naltrexone and help you to develop a plan for coping with triggers or cravings while no longer taking naltrexone. 

Naltrexone Withdrawal Timeline

People who are stopping naltrexone may ask about the naltrexone withdrawal timeline, because they want to know what to expect when they stop taking their medication. In reality, there is no naltrexone withdrawal timeline, because this drug is not an opioid, and does not result in physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms. 

People who ask, “Is naltrexone an opioid?” may mistakenly believe that naltrexone is an opioid drug that will lead to withdrawal symptoms when a person stops taking it. Since naltrexone is not an opioid, there is no naltrexone withdrawal.

However, some people may experience opioid withdrawal if they take naltrexone too soon after stopping the use of opioid drugs. Patients who are dependent upon opioids may experience precipitated withdrawal symptoms if they take naltrexone while still actively using opioids. For this reason, a person needs to undergo opioid detox and be opioid-free for 7 to 10 days before beginning naloxone. 

There is some confusion surrounding naltrexone withdrawal symptoms, but most people are actually thinking about the opioid withdrawal side effects that occur when a person begins taking naltrexone too soon. Withdrawal signs and symptoms that may suggest a person is experiencing precipitated withdrawal include:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Agitation

  • Stomach pain

  • Diarrhea

  • Bone and muscle pain 

  • Elevated heart rate 

The above are not symptoms of naltrexone withdrawal. Instead, they suggest that taking naltrexone has led to opioid withdrawal side effects. 

Naltrexone FAQs

If you’re concerned about naltrexone withdrawal, the answers to the following questions about naltrexone can also be useful.

Can I Skip A Day Of Naltrexone?

While skipping a day of your medication will not lead to naltrexone withdrawal side effects, you should not intentionally skip a dose of naltrexone. It is important to take it exactly as prescribed so that you get the full benefit of the medication. Oral naltrexone is taken daily, because the medication has a half-life of just 4 hours. This means that half of the medication is cleared from your body in this amount of time. 

Since it has a short half-life, naltrexone is taken daily to maintain consistent levels of the medication in your body. This allows the naltrexone to do its job of blocking the euphoric effects of opioids and reducing your risk of relapse. If you repeatedly skip doses, you may find that naltrexone does not work as intended.  

If you accidentally miss a dose and it is almost time for your next dose, you generally do not need to make up the missed dose, nor should you “double up” the next dose. Instead, take your next dose at the usual time. If you have questions about a missed dose, talk with your doctor about the best course of action. 

Can Naltrexone Be Abruptly Stopped?

There is no harm in stopping naltrexone cold turkey if you and your doctor have decided that you’re ready to stop taking the medication. Stopping naltrexone does not cause withdrawal side effects, and naltrexone detox is not necessary. That being said, if you decide to abruptly stop the medication, it’s important to first have a conversation with your doctor. 

Sometimes, people want to stop taking naltrexone abruptly because of unpleasant side effects like

Is It Safe To Detox And Withdraw From Naltrexone Without Professional Help?

Naltrexone does not cause withdrawal symptoms, so there is no need to seek a professional detox program or receive medical support while coming off of naltrexone. While this is the case, you should first consult with your doctor before stopping your medication. A doctor can talk with you about the risks and benefits of stopping naltrexone, and help you to develop a plan for continuing with your recovery after you stop taking the medication. 

If you quit naltrexone cold turkey, you don’t need to worry about withdrawal side effects, but you should stay in touch with your doctor and your treatment team. Be sure to communicate with them about any triggers, cravings, or relapse warning signs you experience after stopping naltrexone, so they can make adjustments to your treatment plan and offer support, as needed. 

Consult With Confidant’s Online Doctors About Naloxone Treatment

If you’re looking for online medication assisted treatment services, Confidant Health offers a solution. Consult with our doctors to learn the answers to all of your questions about naltrexone. We also offer an online Suboxone clinic for those who require a different approach than naltrexone treatment. 

Download our app today, on either the Apple Store or the Google Play Store, to begin your virtual treatment.