Throughout the years, opioid use disorder has been a severe public health problem in the U.S. More people have been misusing opioids, leading to serious health risks among users, including women misusing opioids during pregnancy. As studies have shown, exposure to stress can be linked to opioid misuse. People wishing to recover from addiction can seek treatment counseling, and some medication can be taken to prevent people from retaking opioids.
What is Naltrexone?
Naltrexone is a prescription drug known as an opiate antagonist. It is used to treat not only opioid use disorder (OUD) but also alcohol use disorder (AUD). Naltrexone is a medication that is able to block the sedative and euphoric effects of opioids and alcohol. It binds and blocks opioid receptors, suppressing craving for opioids and alcohol. As you would realize from performancemedicine.net Naltrexone is not addictive and won’t cause withdrawal symptoms.
When treating OUD, patients should wait at least a week before their last use before starting Naltrexone. Naltrexone should always be used as a part of a treatment plan. A more comprehensive treatment plan should always include counseling and other health therapies. When treated for AUD, you can take a daily pill. However, when treating opioid addiction, they can instead take an extended-release injectable.
What is opioid-induced stress?
The prevalence of OUD has been shown to be higher among patients with posttraumatic stress disorder. This includes veterans, as the number of veterans taking opioids tripled from 2003 to 2017, according to a study from the National Center for PTSD. However, another UCLA-led study has shown that patients likely to experience severe stress in the future are also at risk of developing PTSD.
Chronic opioid treatment can increase the susceptibility to developing anxiety disorders, and doctors are therefore advised to be cautious when prescribing drugs to those patients. On the other hand, when taking low-dose Naltrexone, the brain is tricked into releasing ‘opiate-like’ endorphins. Endorphins can help cope with stress, and therefore, a low dose of Naltrexone can potentially reduce stress.
Who can benefit from Naltrexone?
As a medication, Naltrexone can be beneficial for several groups of people. As it helps prevent people addicted to opiates from taking them again, this can be important to patients with OUD and AUD. Patients with opioid misuse should not take Naltrexone with other drugs or opioids while treated with Naltrexone. It reduces opioid cravings, making patients less likely to take the drugs. Furthermore, patients on naltrexone who relapse and use opioids again can have a lower drug tolerance. Therefore, retaking the same dose of opioids can be life-threatening.
Naltrexone, however, isn’t for every patient with opioid addiction, as those with a physical dependence on opioid drugs should not take Naltrexone. This also applies to patients who experience opioid withdrawal symptoms.
The same goes for AUD, as patients must not be dependent on alcohol and should wait until after the detox process to take Naltrexone. For them, the treatment takes three to four months. When included in a complete treatment program for opioid misuse, Naltrexone can be effective.
Side effects to be aware of
Even though Naltrexone isn’t addictive, there can be common side effects of taking the prescription drug. These are side effects like nausea, headache, muscle cramps and decreased appetite. Therefore, it is essential to have a comprehensive treatment plan in order to know what to do if patients experience those symptoms. Other more serious side effects can be connected to the injection. If the patient experiences intense pain or swelling at the injection site alongside severe allergic reactions, they are encouraged to contact health care professionals.
The Opioid Crisis
Over a 22-year period, beginning in 1999, more than half a million people died from an opioid overdose. The first wave started with an opioid prescription, the second with heroin overdoses, and the third wave began with an increase in fentanyl overdoses. In 2021, the number of people who died from a drug overdose was more than six times the number of overdose deaths in 1999. The opioid overdose epidemic is still ongoing, as the drug fentanyl is highly addictive but also affordable, which has led more people to misuse the drug.