- What is Naltrexone Therapy and why is it important for alcoholism?
- What is the Naltrexone implant?
- Why use the Naltrexone Implant instead of the oral Tablets?
- Are there any risks and side effects?
- How long should I be on Naltrexone therapy?
- Why do you recommend other medicines along with Naltrexone Implants?
What is Naltrexone Therapy and why is it important for alcoholism?
The ultimate goal of recovery from alcoholism is abstinence and learning how to be happy. We believe that the cornerstones of a recovery program include 12 step support groups and professional counseling. There are now also a number of medicines that can assist in achieving and maintaining abstinence. Naltrexone is probably the most powerful of these medicines. Naltrexone is a drug that attaches to the opiate receptors in the brain and blocks them. Part of the pleasurable effect from alcohol happens through these opiate receptors. When these receptors are blocked, people get fewer cravings for alcohol and less pleasure if they do drink any alcohol. It becomes much easier for them to stay abstinent and continue with their recovery program.
What is the Naltrexone implant?
This is a special formulation of Naltrexone, which is designed to release slowly over a 6-12 week period. It is placed under the patientâ€™s skin and so it is effective and does not allow the patient to forget or skip their medicine. We highly recommend it because it is so effective. A licensed pharmacist compounds the implants for us. While the Naltrexone implant has not yet been submitted to the FDA for approval, the medications it contains are fully approved by the FDA and the compounding process is fully approved by the FDA
Why use the Naltrexone Implant instead of the oral Tablets?
The simple answer is that the implants just work better. When patients get a steady dose of the Naltrexone every day for a prolonged period of time they have a much better outcome. They have fewer cravings. They are more likely to be abstinent. They are more likely to stay with their treatment and support groups. It may be physical, because patients have a more steady blood level and they donâ€™t forget their medicine. It may be partly psychological, because once they receive the implant they just feel more relaxed and more committed to staying with their recovery program.
Are there any risks and side effects?
As with any medicines, there are some risks and potential problems. If Naltrexone therapy is begun when the patient is dependent on narcotics, including narcotic pain medicines, then there could be a painful withdrawal period, so your doctor will ask you about that. If you are involved in a situation, such as a car accident, where narcotic medicines are normally used then the narcotics would have no effect. In this situation doctors can remove the implant or provide non-narcotic pain medicines and sedatives. There are some risks associated with the Naltrexone pellet such as the small risk of infection or inflammation. If patients abuse narcotics they can have an overdose, especially after any period of abstinence. Patients need to be careful after being on Naltrexone because the Naltrexone forces their brain to be abstinent. After the implant wears off the risk of overdose can be high if patients abuse narcotics.
How long should I be on Naltrexone therapy?
We strongly believe that patients should be on Naltrexone therapy for at least six to twelve months. This provides a long enough period for patientsâ€™ brains to heal and for patients to start making the necessary changes in their lives. Recent research has shown that it takes at least 12 months for the brain to fully heal and we know that it takes at least this amount of time for people to learn about alcoholism and recovery, build up a support system, and fully integrate all of the recovery changes into their lives.
Why do you recommend other medicines along with Naltrexone Implants?
There are number of medicines other than Naltrexone that help decrease cravings for alcohol and help patients stay in recovery. Two other medicines we have been having good success with are Topamax (Topiramate) and Campral (Acamprosate). These medicines both work in different ways to Naltrexone. By combining the medicines we are able to have the best effect for our patients. It is a common practice in medicine to combine drugs together to achieve what is called a synergistic effect. This means that the effect of combined medicines is much greater than the individual drugs. We see this with AIDS treatment when combinations of drugs are able to achieve results far greater than the individual drugs used alone. We want the best possible help for our patients. At this time we are able to achieve this with Naltrexone Implants along with either Topamax or Campral.