Naltrexone is an opioid treatment medication that works very differently than either methadone or buprenorphine.
Naltrexone functions as an opioid blocker that interferes with the euphoric effects of opiates. Unlike methadone, naltrexone does not eliminate opioid withdrawal. So it is typically only begun following a successful period of opioid detoxification.
Naltrexone is taken as a pill or as a time-released injectable. It blocks the feeling of getting high thus deterring a person from continuing in active drug use with opioids. If there’s no pay off for using, why do it?
Some individuals who don’t necessarily require methadone or buprenorphine can effectively utilize naltrexone as a component of their recovery program. Vivitrol is the time-released, branded version of naltrexone that is taken once monthly as an injection. With Vivitrol, the naltrexone remains active in the bloodstream for 30 days and blocks the effects of heroin or other opiate use. This reinforces one’s focus on recovery choices and can reduce opioid cravings.
Patients receiving naltrexone may develop a lowered tolerance to opioids over time, and should remain aware of the risk of opioid overdose should they relapse. The medication is also used in the treatment of alcohol dependency and has been shown to reduce the euphoric effects of alcohol consumption.
Naltrexone is not to be confused with Naloxone. Naloxone is the opioid overdose reversal medication that has recently been in the news for saving thousands of lives across the country.
The national budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year includes a request for $13 billion in funding for opioid treatment and related services. This linked Newsweek article states that $3 billion would be allocated in 2018 and another $10 billion in 2019.
Many opioid treatment programs across the country are currently able to add patient slots when additional funding is made available. The opioid crisis has flooded many clinics that are already at maximum census due to limited State and Medicaid funding.
A number of private pay clinics have opened in recent years as the need for medication-assisted treatment increased. If a substantial allocation of government funds becomes available, opioid treatment services will finally come into sharp national focus as scores of people finally obtain the help they need to stabilize and to recover.
In treating opioid addiction, research has shown that traditional abstinence-based programs which do not utilize medication assistance have a failure rate of 90%. Medication-assistance is a critical factor in helping opioid addicted people move into sustained recovery. The proposed $13 billion earmarked for opioid treatment services can make a huge difference all across the U.S. Methadone or buprenorphine (suboxone) coupled with counseling and drug testing comprise the gold standard of care in treating opioid addiction.
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