What Is Naltrexone?
Known in the U.S. by the brand names Vivitrol and Revia, naltrexone is used in the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse. Naltrexone comes in either tablet form (Revia) or an intramuscular injection (Vivitrol). It works by blocking the “high” effect of alcohol and narcotics; since the person with the dependency can’t get the “reward” from using alcohol or drugs, he or she is less likely to continue using the target substance.
What Are Some Drawbacks to Using Naltrexone?
People who are physically dependent on narcotics may experience the symptoms of narcotics withdrawal while using naltrexone. One’s health care provider should immediately be notified of any withdrawal symptoms.
Vivitrol can cause damage to the liver. Patients using Vivitrol who notice dark or red urine, yellowing of the skin or eyes, or pain in the upper abdomen should consider this a medical emergency and see a health care provider immediately.
Naltrexone is known to interact with a large number of other medications. Although the patient and his or her health care provider may decide that the patient should continue to use naltrexone despite the medication interaction, complications from these interactions may be severe.
Most narcotic drugs are not recommended while one is taking naltrexone, so a person who is still using codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine, opium, oxycodone, or other narcotics should not use naltrexone unless directly supervised by a physician. Typically the patient has to wait 7-10 days between the last dose of narcotics and the first dose of naltrexone.
Who Should Not Use Naltrexone?
Anyone who’s under 18 years old should consult with a health care provider before using naltrexone. The medication has not been studied in pediatric patients, and all the potential effects on people under the age of 18 are not known.
Naltrexone has also not been studied in people who are pregnant or breast feeding. Those who are pregnant or breast feeding should avoid using naltrexone unless they are under the direct supervision of a physician.
Other conditions that may affect the way one’s body interacts with naltrexone include:
- Breathing or lung problems
- Depression or other mental illness
- Hemophilia or other bleeding problems
- Moderate to severe kidney disease
- Moderate to severe liver disease
- Thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count)
If you have any of these conditions, mention them to your health care provider before beginning to take naltrexone. Patients with a history of depression or other mental illnesses who take naltrexone may be more likely to have suicidal thoughts after taking this medication. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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