Addiction to illicit substances is a growing problem in America. According to recent statistics, over 40 million Americans fit the clinical criteria for drug addiction. It has been estimated that drug abuse costs our nation over $400 billion annually. Addiction to prescription medications, especially opioid painkillers, is another alarming trend that is on the rise. Addiction maintenance therapy is a vital part of helping those affected by drug abuse overcome their addiction. Naltrexone therapy is one common treatment protocol used to help recovering addicts. What is Naltrexone therapy, how does it work, and what are the benefits involved in using it? The following information will address these important questions in more detail.
What is Naltrexone Therapy?
Naltrexone therapy is a common treatment used for those addicted to opiate drugs. Naltrexone is used for this purpose because it is a non-addictive and non-narcotic drug. However, it attaches to opiate receptors in the brain much in the same manner that opiate-based medications do. This helps the recovering addict to break their addiction to opiate medications without experiencing the devastating side effects that can accompany withdrawal from these substances. The use of Naltrexone will drastically reduce drug cravings, helping the individual to break the cycle of drug abuse.
Why is Naltrexone Therapy Important for Treating Opiate Addictions?
Addiction to opiate medications can be difficult to recover from due to the effects that withdrawing from these medications will create in the body. Withdrawing from opiate medications without assistance can result in serious physical side effects such as the following:
- Anxiety or irritation
- Abdominal cramping, nausea, or vomiting
- Muscle aches and pains
- Severe insomnia
It is always recommended that a person never attempt to detox from drugs at home. Instead, it’s critical to be monitored by a physician during detox. The use of a drug such as Naltrexone can help drastically reduce or eliminate these side effects, allowing the addict to more comfortably resist further opiate dependency.
Benefits of Naltrexone Therapy
Naltrexone is considered an opioid receptor antagonist. This means that the medication binds to the opioid receptors in the brain and blocks them. Therefore, if an individual does ingest an opiate medication after taking Naltrexone, there are no open receptors for the drug to bind to. This effectively prevents the pleasurable response the person would typically get following opiate use. The main benefit of Naltrexone therapy is that it can help break the cycle of drug abuse while preventing negative side effects of rapid withdrawal from these types of medications.
Methods of Using Naltrexone to Treat Addiction
Naltrexone can be taken in pill form, or it is also available as an implant or injection. Depending on the specific protocols of each treatment center, any manner of these methods may be used to dispense Naltrexone to those needing it. Injections are generally given once per month. Implants are very small devices placed just under the surface of the skin. They slowly release Naltrexone gradually over an eight week period, after which they must be removed and replaced with a new implant. Naltrexone pills are taken by mouth daily, as needed by the individual. Some preliminary research indicates that a persistent gradual release of the medication may work best to reduce cravings and help aid recovery.
Drug addiction is a common problem in America. The effects of drug abuse and addiction are far-reaching, causing much harm to millions of people. Drug abuse and addiction has the potential to destroy relationships, impact careers, and costs the economy billions of dollars annually. Through educational campaigns and proper treatment facilities, those suffering the effects of addiction can get their lives back on track. Naltrexone addiction therapy is one avenue by which drug addicts can be helped to overcome their addiction and gain control of their lives once again.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.